Having spent a considerable amount of her life exploring the mountains as a cyclist, skier, runner, and mountaineer, Joanna
Young, BSc’08, BA’08, is no stranger to cold places. Her love of nature led her north, where she is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, studying the effects of climate change on the loss of glacial mass. She is also program lead for a unique mountaineering and science education program for young women called Girls on Ice Alaska.
Her most recent adventure, however, took her to one of the coldest places on Earth: Antarctica. She was there as part of the inaugural edition of Homeward Bound, an ambitious 10-year initiative that hopes to provide training for 1,000 female science leaders with the goal of increasing the number of women in positions that can influence policy change for a more sustainable future. In its first year, 76 scientists from around the world spent almost three weeks travelling the rugged Antarctic coastline, discussing climate change and making frequent stops to explore the continent’s natural features and animal inhabitants.
“Antarctica strikes me as one of the last really wild and remote places,” Young says, “but even if not visibly so, it’s still being impacted by humans. Being [there] opened my eyes to the truly global scale of the negative impacts of human-induced climate change, despite how distant and uncharted the continent may seem.”
While confronting the reality of a changing world was difficult, Young feels that her experience on the expedition was a positive one. “I learned that in challenging times, there is enormous value in maintaining relentless optimism. I stepped off the ship with a better sense of my own personal motivators, and an ability to assess whether the projects I take on truly align with those.” True to Homeward Bound’s mandate, the program also made a significant impact on Young’s approach to leadership: “In my future work, I will be more intentional about bolstering, valuing, and listening to fellow colleagues, knowing that these behaviours are what contribute to a productive team who is invested what they do.”
Young’s trip was funded by the Alaska Climate Science Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Resilience and Adaptation Program.