Women Scientists To Lead 3 Expeditions To Antarctica

By G. Wayne Miller
The Providence Journal, R.I.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A grant from the National Science Foundation to promote hiring and retention of women in the STEM has done wonders for the success of female scientists in Rhode Island. Three females will lead expeditions this year, thanks in part to the funding.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN

Three University of Rhode Island scientists, all women, will lead expeditions to Antarctica this academic year. The university cites their missions as the latest evidence of success in its effort “to recruit more women to science faculty positions and create a welcoming environment for them.”

And for that, the school says, credit is partly due to an Advance grant from the National Science Foundation to promote hiring and retention of women in the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The three Antarctic expeditions will be for research into the biology of diatoms, the microscopic algae that are essential to the ocean’s role in regulating global climate — and in synthesizing some of the oxygen that people breathe. All of the expeditions will be supported by the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, an ice-capable ship chartered by the National Science Foundation.

Bethany Jenkins, associate professor of cell and molecular biology in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences and a Graduate School of Oceanography teacher, is heading a 37-day expedition that leaves Punta Arenas, Chile, on Wednesday. Her 13-member team includes three URI doctoral students and Quincy, Mass., high-school teacher Cara Pekarcik.

“I’m super excited that this scientific expedition is being led by three female scientists in partnership with a local teacher,” Jenkins said. “This is an opportunity for us to serve as role models for the next generation and to show that the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Antarctic Program support broad participation in polar research.”

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