Last Tuesday Minnesota State University, Mankato hosted the Educators on Ice event with Julia Battern, a local high school teacher, who was invited to speak about her recent trip to Antarctica and share her experiences with the audience. The event was a part of Earth Week on campus. Attendees gathered in the Centennial Student Union to partake in conversations centered around climate change and to discuss its inherent impacts.
Onward Energy, an energy company investing in solar, wind, and natural gas energy, sponsored Battern’s entire trip. On March 17, Battern ventured on a 12-day expedition with the 2041 Foundation to Antarctica and was accompanied by 150 individuals from all over the globe.
“Before going I realized I hadn’t taken any time to think about Antarctica and so I didn’t know much about this place, I didn’t even know its shape,” added Battern. “After a more refined search I started learning and that’s where it all began. I learned a lot about this place in the last few months and I’m excited to share my story with you.”
This was Battern’s first trip to the Antarctic peninsula. The primary goal of the trip was for visitors to get a better understanding of why the protection and preservation of Antarctica matters through their visit and to take that understanding and insight back with them to enlighten others and spread the word.
Every day Battern alongside the other team members visited multiple locations within Antarctica and explored the landscape and the wildlife. During the event, Battern also documented her trip and showed footage of endless landscapes draped in ice sheets.
“One of the first things I remember seeing in Antarctica were the very dramatic landscapes. This is because 70% of the Earth’s freshwater is actually stored in the form of ice on Antarctica,” added Battern when describing the landscape.
Battern also showed pictures of the wildlife she had encountered during her time there. The pictures included shots of penguins and seals swimming in the cold waters.
“Twice a day we would get on these zodiac cruises, which was my favorite part of the trip, and yes we could see wildlife from the ship but to be there and see the land really up close and be right next to some of the animals was really cool,” recounted Battern.
While on the topic of landscapes and wildlife, Battern also spoke about how climate change is impacting these areas and the consequences it will have on the future of life here in Antarctica.
“There is a steep decrease in sea ice extent and thickness that’s been studied really carefully from 1980 to 2021. In terms of warming, certain parts of Antarctica are being affected differently,” said Battern.
Battern also explained the importance of ice in maintaining ecosystems in Antarctica.
“A key take away here is that life in Antarctica is adapted to the cold and the ice that’s there and there’s a dependency between the cold and the life there too”.
Lastly, Battern concluded the event by sharing a few actions that everyone can take on their part and contribute towards the preservation of Antarctica.
“When we think about what we can do in Minnesota to help preserve Antarctica we can do things to reduce our emissions to slow the warming and keep those cold places cold,” said Battern. “Those animals are adapted to the cold there so if we can slow the rate at which life is changing for them is the goal to ensure their long-term survival.”
Write to Hafsa Peerzada at Syedahafsa.Peerzada@mnsu.edu