Trek Magazine - - Bitter Pill -

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.

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