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Antarctic journey will teach biology professor about more than science

“There is a gap between science and society, one that cannot be bridged just by doing more science,” says Associate Professor of Biology Heidi Steltzer. “Leadership is needed. This project is an opportunity to understand myself better and learn leadership skills to determine a role I can take in bridging this gap.”

The project Steltzer is referring to is Homeward Bound, an international program tasked with strengthening the societal role of women with science backgrounds. With the tagline “Mother Nature needs her daughters,” the organization aims to provide leadership training for a thousand female scientists over the next 10 years to enhance the influence and impact of these women in science and policy.

Steltzer is one of the first group of 76 women chosen from around the world to participate in the program. A year-long curriculum develops participants’ leadership, strategic, and scientific capabilities with a focus on climate, biological, and earth system research, then culminates in an expedition to Antarctica.

The 20-day Antarctic voyage sets sail from Ushuaia, Argentina, on December 2. A documentary film will be made of the journey. Steltzer is joining the trip as part of a sabbatical that has included research in Crested Butte, Colorado, and in Greenland working on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to provide training about climate change to middle and high school teachers.

“While onboard the boat in the Antarctic, we will receive training to develop our visions for connecting environmental science to society and learn the skills to achieve the vision,” Steltzer says. “This is the type of leadership training often provided in business programs, but less often provided to scientists, and rarely focused on women in science.”

Still, the goal of the Homeward Bound training and experience is more global than personal, Steltzer adds.

“Native American wisdom says we are borrowing the earth from our children,” Steltzer says. “We have a responsibility to ensure the changes we expect will occur and those we don’t expect will not alter the health and well-being of those future generations.”

Follow Steltzer's journey on Facebook.
Read Forbes' coverage of the expedition, "Meet The All-Woman Team Heading To Antarctica This Year"