Alison Davies, a Met Office meteorologist, is one of 76 women scientists from across the world chosen for a challenging expedition to Antarctica. Working at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, Alison is one of only four women from the UK to be chosen for The Homeward Bound expedition – a project to promote women with a science background into positions of leadership.
Alison said: “To say that I am excited by the expedition is an understatement! I realise that I am incredibly lucky to travel to a continent that I have dreamt of visiting since I was a child watching Antarctica documentaries on television. As scientists we will all have a chance to take part in some amazing research. However, studying Antarctica and the advancement of polar science is only one of the aims of Homeward Bound. By utilising the challenging environment of Antarctica, a key objective is also to focus on women in leadership roles and explore how having women at the leadership table might give humanity a more sustainable future.”
At 24, Alison is at the start of her meteorological career and she will be one of the youngest participants within the project. She added: “This expedition will give me a much better understanding of climate change issues as well as giving me an international network of contacts among women with interests in this field. I also hope the expedition will give me longer-term benefits for my leadership capabilities that will improve my performance as I progress in my career at the Met Office. I am ambitious, but I realise that reaching a senior position needs a range of skills and experience and I think this expedition will equip me with a unique set of skills and experiences.
“Working with so many successful and inspiring fellow female scientists will be an experience to remember and draw upon for the rest of my life.”
The expedition takes place during December. Setting sail from Ushuaia in Argentina, the team will spend three weeks exploring the Antarctica Peninsula by boat while learning about leadership skills and the scientific significance of the continent. The expedition leaders hope to visit bases belonging to many different nationalities on the Peninsula to gather differing views on climate science. Alison added: “We will also explore some rarely-visited areas and ones where some of the first intrepid explorers such as Shackleton landed.”
The Homeward Bound idea originated in Australia, where it has been developed by Fabian Dattner, social entrepreneur, leadership expert and activist for women. As well as Dr Jess Melbourne Thomas, co-founder of Women in Polar Science and a marine ecological-modeller working in the Australian Institute of Marine and Antarctic Science and the Australian Antarctic Division.
Fabian Dattner said: “The Homeward Bound project is not only focusing on the astonishing expedition to the Antarctic but will be a ten-year outreach initiative that promotes women with a science background into positions of leadership affecting policy around the sustainability of our planet.”
Felicity Liggins is the Met Office STEM outreach manager. Commenting on the opportunities created by the Homeward Bound project for encouraging women to work in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), she said: “It’s 2016 and in the UK women still make up only 21 per cent of the workforce in occupations related to science, technology, engineering and maths. To help us improve this, it’s vital that girls at school and women throughout their careers see that leadership roles are open to them.
“Role models can really help in this, and the Homeward Bound project is a great opportunity for early career scientists like Alison to gain new skills, networks and confidence, eventually becoming role models themselves and providing inspiration to the next generation.”
As a major STEM employer, the Met Office aims to increase understanding of the real-world applications of these subjects.