Research Division

Crowd funding call to help young IMAS scientists join unique Antarctic leadership voyage

Two young IMAS scientists are at the centre of an Australian-led global initiative to help more women become leaders in science.

PhD student Nicole Hellessey and aquaculture researcher Molly Christensen are among just 78 women chosen from thousands of applicants worldwide to join a unique voyage to the Antarctic next summer to discuss leadership and major challenges such as sustainability and climate change.

Sailing from Argentina in December, it will be the first of a number of voyages planned over the next decade by the Homeward Bound project (

Homeward Bound aims to build a 1,000-strong global collaboration of women in science by bringing some of them together for a shared learning experience in a region where the impacts of climate change are profound.

But, as with any Antarctic voyage, the trip will be expensive and Nicole and Molly have turned to crowd funding to help cover their ship costs.

Nicole aims to raise a further $10,000 through her crowd-funding page, while Molly, who has until July to pay her $15,000 instalment, welcomes donation through‚Äč.

Nicole, who is researching how climate change is affecting Antarctic krill, said she looked forward to learning from some of the world's leading female scientists.

"They've got a selection of different women, from young early career researchers who are doing Masters and PhDs like myself right through to people who have been in the industry for 30 years.

"We'll be looking at the influence of women as scientists in leadership positions in climate change, and we'll be trying to get the discussion going of why there aren't more women in leadership roles in climate panels and as policy makers," Nicole said.

Molly said she expected a berth on board a Homeward Bound voyage to become even more sought-after as word spread about the value of the experience to women pursuing a career in science.

"I definitely think each year selection is going to get tougher because it's going to get bigger and bigger, and it's a privilege - an absolute honour - to be accepted onto the voyage.  I'm interested in aquaculture research, which in itself is a small discipline, it's not large all over the world, and to have young women in particular in aquaculture research is not common.  I think people are really interested in how they can develop more women into that field."

IMAS Ecology and Biodiversity Centre's Deputy Head Dr Mary-Anne Lea, a key member of the Homeward Bound science faculty and co-founder of the Women in Polar Science Network, said a donation to help Nicole and Molly go on the voyage would also support the broader goal of promoting women leaders in science.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for Nicole and Molly, but $15,000 is a lot of money if you're a PhD student or a young researcher, so any donation to help them reach their target, no matter how small, can make a difference."

Published on: 22 Apr 2016 2:15pm