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Dr Sarah Charnaud is Antarctica-bound

Burnet Institute

04 December, 2016

IMAGE: Life on board ship; Dr Sarah Charnaud

Burnet postdoctoral researcher Dr Sarah Charnaud has left the southern tip of Argentina on the largest ever all-female expedition to Antarctica with a team of women scientists.

The Homeward Bound expedition comprises 76 women with backgrounds in science, including Dr Charnaud, and will spend 20 days at sea in a project aimed at increasing the representation of women in top science jobs across the globe.

The expedition left the Argentinian port of Ushuaia on Friday. It is the brainchild of Australian entrepreneur Fabian Dattner, who hopes to train 1000 female scientists in leadership over 10 years.

IMAGE: The Homeward Bound expeditioners attend a briefing en route to Antarctica

Dr Charnaud, a malaria parasitologist chosen to participate in the voyage this year from close to 1000 applicants, tweeted on Friday that she had ‘Just arrived at the end of the world in Ushuaia, Argentina. Meeting the delightful, funny, slightly crazy but super cool other ladies all going together.’

Contact is expected to be intermittent but reports from the first days at sea were that a smooth crossing of Drake’s passage, between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica, had facilitated some early leadership development.

Dr Charnaud has raised money through a crowdfunding campaign and thanked her supporters.

“It means the world to me and will keep me going through some very tough introspective painful self evaluating times, I imagine,” she wrote on her blog at crowdfunder GoFundMe.

The trip also hopes to build networks to tackle climate change. The expeditioners from around the world include astronomers, engineers, physicists, science communicators, Antarctic and Arctic specialists, doctors and social scientists.

Homeward Bound’s Fabian Dattner has told journalists that she and co-founder, Dr. Jessica Melbourne-Thomas decided to set up the initiative after hearing a group of polar scientists joking that candidates had to have a beard to land a leadership role in Antarctic science.

“The message of Homeward Bound is to bring together this intelligent, capable group of women who are not seen, not recognised, and in large part somewhat sidelined,” Ms Dattner has said.

Dr Charnaud works with Burnet’s Malaria Laboratory and Malaria Epidemiology Group.

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