The largest-ever coalition of female scientists aims to elevate the female voice in science, as well as calling for a Marine Protected Area in the Antarctic Peninsula.
Over the past few decades, the Western Antarctic Peninsula has become among the fastest-warming places on the planet. Its diverse ecosystem houses a number of threatened species - whales like minkes and humpbacks, penguin colonies from the Adélie, Gentoo, and chinstrap species. There are also a number of skuas, petrels, krills, and more animals in the peninsula's food cycle.
As the sea ice continues to recede, so does the habitat for these species, pushing them to the brink of extinction.
Homeward Bound for Antarctica
A new commentary piece submitted in the journal Nature outlines the threats of climate change and anthropogenic activities in the peninsula, and how to work around these problems. The proposal was submitted by an all-female coalition of scientists who made the expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula - all of the members of Homeward Bound, a global STEMM initiative. There are more than 280 co-signatories in the written material, women from various fields in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine.
One of them, Dr. Carolyn Hogg from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney in Australia, was among those who participated in the expedition. A news release from the university notes how she witnessed the condition of the area, learning about the conservation and governance of Antarctica.
The global initiative "aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet." Human history of exploration and studies about Antarctica has mostly been led by men, with female scientists remaining a minority in its remote research stations.
"Now, more than ever, a broad range of perspectives is essential in global decision-making, if we are to mitigate the many threats our planet faces," Dr. Hogg said in the news release.
One of the proposals submitted by Homeward Bound is the ratification of a Marine Protected Area in the Peninsula. Dr. Hogg shared that this is set to be discussed on October 19, during a meeting of multiple governments that will collectively manage the resources in the area.
HBHQ is incredibly proud of the work of #HB4 women, launching the @Antarctica_NOW initiative today with a paper in @nature calling for a Marine Protected Area for the beautiful West Antarctic Peninsula. Congratulations to everyone involved. https://t.co/vZaMzGIGo8#womeninSTEMM pic.twitter.com/g2b2OPKGOL — Homeward Bound (@HomewardBound16) October 19, 2020
Krills: The Bedrock of the Antarctic Ecosystem
Among the threatened species in the Antarctic Peninsula are the krills - small crustaceans that feed on phytoplankton and serve as a food source for many other animals. The waters surrounding the peninsula houses up to 70 percent of the Antarctic krills. Their population faces continuous threats from the effects of global warming and commercial fishing. The University of Sydney report details the fishing industry posting the third-largest krill catch in history last 2019: a haul of about 400,000 tons of krills used for fishmeal and dietary supplements.
"Even relatively small krill catches can be harmful if they occur in a particular region, at a sensitive time for the species that live there," explained Dr. Cassandra Brooks from the University of Colorado Boulder and a co-author of the commentary. She explained that a Marine Protected Area would protect the ecosystem and the animals that live in it.
Check out more news and information on Antarctica in Science Times.