Danielle Skropeta, Tam Stutchbury, Diana King, Sharon Robinson all pose together, wearing red Homeward Bound jackets. Danielle, Tam and Sharon stand behind Diana, who is in a wheelchair. Photo: Michael Gray

Four incredible UOW scientists join Homeward Bound voyages to Antarctica

Four incredible UOW scientists join Homeward Bound voyages to Antarctica

Global leadership initiative aims to elevate women with STEMM backgrounds to fight for the health of our planet

Four outstanding University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers are bound for the wilds of Antarctica as part of a prestigious global initiative that aims to motivate and celebrate women with backgrounds in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM).

Distinguished Professor Sharon Robinson, Professor Danielle Skropeta, Dr Tamantha Stutchbury, and Dr Diana King have been selected to join Homeward Bound voyages to Antarctica this month, in a 19-day trip that brings together close to 200 women leaders from 25 countries.

Dr Stutchbury is on Homeward Bound 5 (HB5), which set sail on November 3 with 88 participants on board The Ushuaia, while Professor Skropeta and Dr King will leave on November 12 in Homeward Bound 6 (HB6), with 100 women on board The Island Sky

Professor Sharon Robinson, who is the Dean of Researcher Development at UOW and Deputy-Director (Science Implementation) of the Australian Research Council's Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future (SAEF) program, is also a Faculty member of the Homeward Bound program and Science Lead of The Island Sky expedition.

The Antarctica voyage is the final step in the year-long Homeward Bound program, a global leadership initiative which aims to improve the skills, visibility, and influence of women in STEMM. The program is focused on fostering a new generation of outstanding leaders and providing innovative, collaborative solutions to the wicked problems plaguing our world, including climate change, sustainability, and health.

The UOW researchers were all scheduled to embark in previous years but their original voyages were thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ahead of this extraordinary journey, the women have undergone an immersive 12-month virtual leadership program.

Professor Danielle Skropeta is Associate Dean (Higher Degree Research) in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health; Dr Stutchbury, who has a PhD in biochemistry, is Director of iAccelerate; and Dr Diana King has a PhD in Antarctic research and is Deputy Program Manager of SAEF.

Dr Stutchbury said she was delighted to finally meet the amazing women who have been part of her Homeward Bound experience.

“I truly had lost hope of this day ever coming. While the Homeward Bound Program and community are much more than the three-week intensive trip in Antarctica, I would have been heartbroken to never meet and share this adventure with the other women. COVID has made us all view the world differently, become more resilient and also more adaptable to change so I believe the HB5 cohort who are voyaging on The Ushuaia will have an experience like no other cohort before us.

“I have already gained so much from being part of Homeward Bound and can already see the changes it has made to me both professionally and personally since I was accepted in 2019. I want to come away cementing the skills I have learnt and ready to continue to face and grow the challenges of what comes next.”

Danielle Skropeta, Tam Stutchbury, Diana King, Sharon Robinson all pose together, wearing red Homeward Bound jackets. Danielle, Tam and Sharon stand behind Diana, who is in a wheelchair. Photo: Michael Gray (Clockwise) Dr Stutchbury, Professor Robinson, Professor Skropeta and Dr King. 

Dr King is excited to learn from her fellow scientists and to travel to Antarctica for the first time.

“I have worked in Antarctic science since 2009 but have never been able to go to Antarctica due to my disability. I am really looking forward to the whole experience of being in Antarctica. Throughout my whole career I have helped to plan and prepare for many Antarctic trips, but to be going this time is special to me. I am so grateful to Sharon, SAEF and Homeward Bound for giving me this opportunity and finding a way to accommodate my disability and enable me to participate in the program and voyage.”

Now in its eighth year, Homeward Bound is building a coalition of 1000 outstanding women with science backgrounds leading the fight against climate change. Antarctica is on the frontline of the warming planet, with rising sea and air temperatures melting ice and wreaking havoc on the delicate and vital flora and fauna that call the southern-most continent home.

STEMM fields play a critical part in resolving the most concerning global issues. Too often, female voices are missing from global leadership. Only one in 10 senior leaders are woman, when women comprise 60 per cent of university graduates. Homeward Bound believes a different model of leadership will lead to a healthier planet and a sustainable future,” Dr King said.

Dr Stutchbury said nurturing and encouraging women to take on leadership opportunities was fundamental to the health of society and to the health of the planet.

“We need more women leaders and we need more leaders with a science background, so the commitment of Homeward Bound to support women with STEMM background to be leaders is essential. We can no longer accept the status quo, we need people from different backgrounds, who ask different questions and lead in different ways to have equal representation across all sectors,” she said.

Professor David Currow, UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Sustainable Futures), congratulated the cohort and wished them well on their Antarctic voyages.

“What an amazing opportunity and a reflection of Professor Robinson, Professor Skropeta, Dr Stutchbury and Dr King’s depth of talent, skills, and knowledge. They are true STEMM superstars. We are proud they are part of UOW and will be leading the fight for the future of our planet,” Professor Currow said.