The lab from which Hilary McManus, Ph.D., operates is about to change – and grow – exponentially. An associate professor of biological sciences on the Heights, McManus is accustomed to working in a neat, climate-controlled space in the College’s Coyne Science Center. But as of next February, her new lab, at least temporarily, will be the world’s southernmost continent, Antarctica.
This mysterious landmass is widely regarded as the coldest, windiest and iciest place on Earth, as well as one of its most beautiful. It is also thought that Antarctica has a tremendous amount to teach us about the ecology of the planet as a whole, and how human activity is impacting it. McManus will travel there as part of a groundbreaking leadership and science initiative known as Homeward Bound. Its aim over the next decade is to equip 1,000 women with science backgrounds to lead, influence and contribute to policy and decision-making as it informs the future of the planet.
“This is a program with an extraordinary global focus,” said McManus, who teaches courses in botany, evolution and environmental issues. “ I am looking forward to working with female scientists from around the globe and at various stages of their careers to strategize on how best to educate and inform policies about climate change.”
McManus will be part of just the second group of women to participate in Homeward Bound. Her colleagues in the program come from 13 different countries and include veterinarians, chemists and marine ecologists. They have already begun working together remotely and learning more about each other, and will continue meeting monthly via video-conference over the next year. In February 2018, they will finally meet face-to-face in Ushuaia, Argentina. Following a week of training they will spend three weeks aboard a ship in the Southern Ocean, where they will take part in a cutting-edge science education program incorporating the most current research about the state and functioning of the planet. They will also build leadership capabilities and learn to form future collaborations to promote a more sustainable future.
Homeward Bound’s founders selected Antarctica because regions of the continent are showing some of the fastest responses to climate change anywhere on the planet. In addition, organizers of the program say the study of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean provides researchers with critical insights into the impact of human activity on the environment.
As an educator, McManus has long encouraged her students to take an active role in addressing climate and environmental issues. This experience will give her the opportunity to model that behavior for them.
“I hope to become an effective ambassador for change and a sustainable future.”