Julia Battern, professor of wildlife biology and ecology at Mankato East High School, will embark on a learning expedition to Antarctica in mid-March.
During her two-week experience on the frozen continent, she will reflect with an international group of teachers, scientists and representatives of energy companies.
The opportunity is just what she needs to effectively share her passion for environmental education, Battern said.
Much of his time will be spent attending seminars aboard a ship moored in the waters of a peninsula. The party will venture off her decks for short research tours.
Her love of outdoor adventure has often taken her to the wilderness of Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota, but so far never to a remote location thousands of miles from her home.
“I know I have to pack things to help me stay warm and stay dry. Being a Minnesotan, I have most of the basics,” Battern said.
His trip is sponsored by Energy forward. She won the energy company’s 2021 competition which selected a Mankato-based community educator and a Mankato-based Onward employee to participate in an Antarctic experiment.
Expedition Host, Foundation 2041is on a mission to engage businesses and communities in climate science, personal leadership and the promotion of sustainable practices.
In 1959 a treaty was signed which included a moratorium on mining or exploitation in Antarctica. This treaty must be reviewed in 2041.
Onward Energy’s Michael Innes, the company’s local plant operations manager, will also be on the trip in March. He sees the expedition as a chance to transfer information and will share how his company is working to reduce emissions and provide clean energy.
“My role will be to collaborate with others. We will communicate about what we can do together to slow this change,” Innes said, referring to global warming.
A naval veteran, he may prove to be the most seaworthy of the entrants; however, he never sailed near icebergs.
“My time was spent in the Persian Gulf,” Innes said.
Innes recently received notice of changes to the trip’s itinerary, prompted by news of a new strain of coronavirus.
“The foundation had to make some changes,” he said. “We will have to be sequestered in Argentina for a while before going to Antarctica.”
His company plans to provide expedition updates on its website throughout the trip. Onward Energy will also cover the expenses of the substitute teacher who will replace Battern during her absence.
Not only will the girls’ basketball teacher and coach be out of her class, but she’ll be spending time away from her husband and their 3-year-old, who knows what a penguin is but has no no idea how far his mother has traveled. .
“We try to explain it by showing him a three-dimensional globe,” Battern said.
Before leaving on the trip, Battern also plans to offer a basic physics lesson to a 5-year-old neighbor who shares his concerns.
“He thinks I’m going to spend too much time upside down.”
Battern has described in emails how she looks forward to building new relationships with fellow expedition participants and looking forward to gaining a more holistic perspective on climate change impacts and solutions.
After returning home, she will share her experiences with the Mankato community.
“The ultimate goal of this voyage and of the 2041 Foundation is the preservation of Antarctica,” Battern wrote.
The founder of the 2041 Foundation, polar explorer Robert Swan, was the first person to walk unaided to the North and South Poles.
“My role in all of this is to bring this Antarctica story to the Mankato community, while sparking conversations about what sustainability and conservation look like in our own lives and in southern Minnesota,” said Battery. “It may seem surprising that the decisions we make in Minnesota can have significant impacts thousands of miles away, but that’s exactly the history and the science we’re trying to bring to light.”
She said the timing for this opportunity was perfect. “…We are currently in the process of implementing new Minnesota Science Standards (K-12). These standards place a strong emphasis on understanding Earth systems and promote environmental awareness…My aim is to build interdisciplinary units around this experience which can become part of our scientific program.
Kris Sack of St. Peter will also be stationed in Antarctica in March. She recently began her third year as a Flight Operations Specialist at McMurdo Research Station. Although she and Battern have not met, they no doubt share an interest in tackling the effects of climate change on Antarctica.
“As a teacher, Ms. Battern is an ideal ambassador. His experiences will help foster a sense of global responsibility and adventure in the generations who will be most affected by the expiration of the Antarctic Treaty. This may be his first adventure with ‘The Ice’ but I doubt it will be his last,” Sack said in an email message from McMurdo.