Con­ser­va­tion­ist thrilled and chilled about Antarc­tica mis­sion

The National - News - - NEWS EMIRATES - HAY­LEY SKIRKA

A con­ser­va­tion­ist will travel to Antarc­tica on a four-week re­search sab­bat­i­cal with Airbnb and Ocean Con­ser­vancy.

Rasha El Saleh, a 25-year-old Pales­tinian from Dubai, is one of five peo­ple se­lected from 140,000 ap­pli­cants for the mis­sion to dis­cover more about mi­croplas­tics on the con­ti­nent.

Join­ing Ms El Saleh on the trip will be keen en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists from Hawaii, Ari­zona, Nor­way and In­dia, and the team will be led by sci­en­tist Kirstie Jones-Wil­liams.

“I was over­whelmed with the level of in­ter­est and qual­ity of ap­pli­ca­tions, and I’m re­ally ex­cited for our mes­sage and ex­pe­di­tion to be shared by our vol­un­teers on this global plat­form,” said Ms Jones-Wil­liams.

Ms El Saleh is the youngest vol­un­teer se­lected for the trip.

Raised in Abu Dhabi, she works for Con­nect with Na­ture in Dubai, a youth con­ser­va­tion move­ment run by Emi­rates Na­ture-WWF and the En­vi­ron­ment Agency Abu Dhabi. “I saw that ap­pli­ca­tions for the trip had opened and I re­ally wrote my heart out,” she told The Na­tional.

Hav­ing re­cently com­pleted a five-day zero waste chal­lenge that demon­strated to her the dif­fer­ence every per­son can make to the en­vi­ron­ment, she was con­fi­dent about her ap­pli­ca­tion.

“I thought I had a good chance but I did not know that there would be any­thing like 140,000 ap­pli­ca­tions,” she said. “Now that I know that and still got this place, it’s crazy.

“I’m so happy. Go­ing there also gives me the chance to rep­re­sent the re­gion and to show the world what we are do­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Ms El Saleh’s jour­ney be­gins on Novem­ber 17, when she flies to Chile to meet the rest of the team. The group will travel to Antarc­tica to spend 10 days col­lect­ing snow sam­ples, vis­it­ing the South Pole and car­ry­ing out re­search.

“My fit­ness lev­els are on track as I do mar­tial arts daily,” she said. I need to try to do some more con­di­tion­ing be­fore I go.”

The change from Dubai’s 35°C in win­ter to Antarc­tica’s sum­mer highs of -6°C, may be the big­gest is­sue Ms El Saleh needs to pre­pare for. “I’m a desert girl and I travel, but I try to avoid cold places so this is go­ing to be a big change,” she said.

Af­ter car­ry­ing out re­search across some of the world’s least ex­plored land, the group will re­turn to Chile to work with Ocean Con­ser­vancy.

Ms El Saleh is ex­pected to re­turn to the UAE in mid De­cem­ber, when she will be­gin “work­ing to ed­u­cate peo­ple about what we can do lo­cally to re­duce our mi­croplas­tic pol­lu­tion”.

Rasha El Saleh was se­lected from 140,000 ap­pli­cants for a place on the re­search mis­sion

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