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It will be an expedition with a difference – one that offers an opportunity to learn leadership and sustainable solutions, with the icy isolation of Antarctica as the backdrop.
Two students from Masdar Institute of Science and Technology will not only explore the Antarctic Peninsula, but experience ‘Leadership on the Edge’, Sir Robert Swan’s personal leadership and sustainability program, during their journey as part the International Antarctic Expedition (IAE) 2012 team.
Reem Al Junaibi and Maitha Al Kaabi recently joined Sir Robert Swan at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) 2012 in Abu Dhabi in their pledge to support initiatives that will maintain the continent’s current status even after the Antarctica Treaty expires in the year 2041. The inclusion of the two students was announced at the YFEL stand after Sir Robert’s address, which urged the youth to help save Antarctica that holds 70% of the entire world’s fresh water.
The ‘Leadership on the Edge’ program challenges those individuals who are compelled to make a difference by deepening their awareness of themselves in relation to the world. In doing so, they adopt new ways of seeing, thinking and interacting that result in sustainable solutions. The IAE 2012 expedition aims to create ambassadors for education, the environment and sustainability across the globe.
Dr Lamya Fawwaz, Executive Director of Public Affairs, Masdar Institute, said: “The students chosen to be part of the International Antarctic Expedition team will be fortunate to experience the real life benefits of sustainability and renewable energy. Their research at Masdar Institute will benefit them and help contribute to the objectives of this exploration trip. We are confident their experience on the icy continent will encourage them to be more active campaigners of measures to curb global warming and environmental degradation. We are thankful to theUAE’s wise leadership for supporting us in all our sustainable initiatives.”
The two students were selected out of seven applicants, based on a 400-word essay that explained their reasons for joining the expedition and its relevance to the student’s ongoing research activities at Masdar Institute. Excellent physical health was another pre-requisite for the selection. A graduate student of Engineering Systems Management, Reem’s research focuses on the effect of having mixed sources of energy, specifically renewable, with its intermittent behavior on the electric grid, while Maitha is conducting her research in the preparation of materials for application in water treatment processes. Maitha is a graduate student and research assistant at Masdar Institute’s Water and Environmental Engineering, Green Composites and Bio-fuels Lab.
Al Junaibi will be applying the planning and forecasting tools she learned from Masdar Institute in Antarctica to help improve the reliability of renewable energy. She feels the different operational methods that are used in large cities can be applied at a micro-scale, and if properly managed, renewable energy can become a reliable source of energy.
Reem Al Junaibi said: “This trip to Antarctica is a great opportunity for me to gauge the advantages of sustainability and renewable energy and judge for myself how clean technologies can be tapped. I believe it will greatly benefit me academically. Currently, I am learning how variable renewable energy could be depending on the weather conditions, and how such reliability issues could be solved. In Antarctica, the most essential issue is reliability of the electricity provided by renewable energy and that is what I am looking at.
“I aim to further my understanding in climate change, to be able to analyze the issues of renewable energy in such an extremely cold environment, share my knowledge and inspire people when I return. I am looking forward to the journey to Antarctica and I thank Masdar Institute for selecting me to be part of this great voyage.”
Maitha Al Kaabi said: “I feel privileged to be included in the International Antarctica Expedition (IAE) 2012 team and I am grateful to Masdar Institute for giving me an opportunity to be part of this international group. This expedition to Antarctica would allow me to see the process of temperature induced salt precipitation, a key principle in my research, in a natural environment. Masdar Institute has provided me with the expertise in water treatment and desalination. I will share this knowledge with my partners during the Antarctica trip and look forward to benefiting from their knowledge as well.”
Guest experts with IAE 2012 team on the environment, climate change, sustainable development, and outdoor leadership will host presentations, debates, and lessons in the dynamic classroom of the Antarctica, giving team members a broad, practical base to start the process of change.
During their 16-day journey, Reem Al Junaibi and Maitha Al Kaabi will participate in the ‘2041 Education Base (E-Base) Goes Live’ mission by utilizing the knowledge they gained at Masdar Institute. The E-Base, powered solely by renewable energy, is intended to educate young people on the importance of preserving Antarctica, to promote the use of renewable energy, and to raise the awareness of global warming.
The 2041’s mission is to inform, engage and inspire the next generation of leaders to take responsibility, to be sustainable, and to know that now is the time for action in policy development, business generation and future technologies.
The journey is scheduled to commence on 27 February from Argentina’s Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Tucked into the Beagle Channel and surrounded by peaks and glaciers, Ushuaia is the ideal place for the students to begin the voyage and learn the need for sustainability and preservation of nature.
The IAE 2012 team members will stay two nights in a hotel high up on the mountain above the city of Ushuaia, where team leaders will check the clothing and equipment required for the Antarctic journey. The ‘Leadership on the Edge’ program begins on Day-2 with a ‘meet and greet’ session and team introductions. A hike up the Martial Glacier on the mountain behind the town is scheduled for Day 3 and team work will be reviewed upon return from the trek.
On Day 4, the team will go on board the Sea Spirit, and a safety briefing on the deck of the ship is scheduled after dinner. On Day 5-6, the team will cross Cape Horn, the most southerly point of the Americas that was circumnavigated by Sir Francis Drake in 1580. The Drake Passage will also be the time for a selection of multimedia lectures about Antarctica’s wildlife, geology, history and geography. The expedition team members will also receive International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) guidelines for approaching wildlife, while discussions will begin on the importance of renewable energy and its vital role in the preservation of Antarctica. Day-6 will see the team nearing the tip of the Peninsula, with the ocean taking on a whole new perspective, surrounded by the surreal presence of floating ice sculptures.
Day 7-12 will begin with landing on the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The team will cruise along spectacular ice shelves or following whales feeding near the surface. The distinct advantage of being on a small vessel will offer everyone an opportunity to experience these special close encounters with the environment. During the six days, the team will schedule visits, weather permitting, to several islands including the dome-shaped Cuverville Island that is home to approximately 40,000-strong large Gentoo rookeries (penguins).
Neko Harbor with its calving glaciers and statuesque icebergs will be one of the locations for a visit and a strong reminder of the goal of respecting and protecting the beautiful continent for future generations. Another possible location will be the Paradise Harbor, which offers breath-taking mountain reflections into clear, unspoiled waters and is surrounded by glaciers that dramatically calve into the sea. The team will also get an opportunity to sail through the extremely steep-sided Lemaire Channel with near vertical peaks on either side.
An overnight camping expedition on the Antarctic ice, subject to weather conditions, will enable team members to experience the Antarctic night.
Day 13 will see the IAE 2012 team reach King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands of the Peninsula. It is also the location of the 2041 E-Base. They will enter the Drake Passage towards the end of the day. Day 14-15 will see the Sea Spirit sail back towards Argentina, with an on-board program wrap-up. They will disembark on Day 16 at Ushuaia in Argentina.
When Reem Al Junaibi and Maitha Al Kaabi will return home to the UAE, they will have learned how renewable energy sources work under extreme weather conditions in Antarctica, understood the process of temperature-induced salt precipitation and shared knowledge with the expedition team members, engendering international cooperation in order to solve global environmental issues.
Established in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change.