In little more than a month, California State University, Northridge marine biologist Kerry Nickols will board a ship with 80 women from 27 different countries and embark on an expedition to Antarctica to explore how they can work together to battle climate change.
In the process, Nickols said, the women hope to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape the planet.
“This trip is about building our leadership skills, but there will also be a lot of discussion about what we do, and how to do it better,” Nickols said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to pick the brains of some of the smartest people in the world about my research, and to learn about theirs. This is an opportunity to network, share ideas and learn how to work together and become better leaders so we can have an impact on policy.”
Nickols is in the third cohort of a program called Homeward Bound, a global leadership initiative for women in science, technology, mathematics and medicine, STEMM fields. The program aims to build an international network of 1,000 women in those fields to influence policy and decision making as it shapes the planet over a 10-year period.
“The program offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect with 79 other women from around the globe who are all passionate about creating positive and immediate change in their communities,” Nickols said. “For example, one of the faculty on the trip is Christiana Figueres, who led the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is a great opportunity to work with and learn from women who are truly making a difference.”
Nickols and her colleagues set off for Antarctica on Dec. 31. They will spend the next 21 days networking, building leadership skills and finding ways that they can support each other’s research as well as their individual efforts to advance in their respective fields.
Wi-Fi on the ship will be spotty, at best. Instead, the women will spend their time in academic and leadership workshops, including discussions on how to navigate in what are still male-dominated fields. The women also are encouraged to use the time without outside distractions to focus on prioritizing the goals they hope to achieve in their respective fields, and to network with their fellow passengers on how to achieve those goals.
Nickols noted that all the women on the expedition, whether they are medical doctors or marine biologists like herself, are concerned about the impact climate change is having on the world.
“Antarctica, which is seeing significant changes due to global warming, will provide us firsthand the influence human activities are having on the environment,” she said. “It is the perfect backdrop to discuss our research and to inspire us to come up with tangible ways that we can do more.”
Nickols’ research focuses on marine protected areas and how they are impacted by climate change. As part of her research, she has explored ocean habitats from California to the Caribbean and Antarctica.
Among her goals, she said, “is to educate students, the public and policy makers about the oceans to deepen our connection to the planet and understand the threats we face so that we can move forward with tractable solutions to environmental problems.”