Conservationist thrilled and chilled about Antarctica mission
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