Dr. Claudia Schroder-Adams is professor of Earth Sciences at Carleton University in Ottawa. She is joining the 2013 Antarctic Expedition to engage students in exploring the geological history of Antarctica and its changing ecosystems.
Dr. Schroder-Adams is one of 17 educators and specialists across a number of fields including science, art, history and politics. This is what she had to say about the course she is teaching, the unique geological and ecological history of Antarctica and what she hopes students will take away from the expedition…
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the course you are teaching on expedition?
The course is called ‘Paleogeographic and paleobiological evolution of the Antarctic Peninsula’. The area we will visit is glaciated and has an ecosystem that is strongly connected to the modern cold habitat depending entirely for its food source on the surrounding sea. That was not always the case. Antarctica has gone through major paleogeographic and paleoclimatic changes over geological time and ecosystems have responded to those changes. During warmer periods Antarctica was characterized by a rich terrestrial ecosystem as evidenced for example by fossils. We hope to visit some localities where the past habitats are exposed and we can study them.
Q: How is the Antarctic environment incorporated into the learning experience?
Any locality on and around Antarctica holds some geological, oceanographic or geomorphological secrets. When on board ship, we can talk about the big picture. On land, we will study glacier processes, exposed rock formations attesting to the break-up history of the supercontinent Pangea, volcanic activity, etc. We also hope to gain some video footage of the seafloor in shallow water settings and see what creatures might live there in connection with different substrates.
Q: What do you hope students will take away from your course?
I hope students will dream big for their lives, learn to follow their goals in order to have an exciting life. I also hope that some will develop a deep interest in polar regions, the role they play in the health of our planet and to develop a lifelong curiosity in natural history, which is such a rewarding companion in life.
Q: As you have been on expedition before, what impacts have you witnessed in youth who participate on expedition.
The experience has left some deep memories and changes will be subtle, different for each person.
Q: How did you connect with Students on Ice? And what is it that interests you about an SOI expedition?
I connected with Students on Ice over my own children. When I heard about he program I felt it was a great opportunity I wanted to give to my two daughters and consequently send them on a trip with SOI to the Arctic. They came back highly inspired. As a geologist I know that teaching in the field is always most effective. Over the years I have guided many field courses and one to Antarctica meant a great challenge to me.
Q: What is your favourite expedition experience so far?
During our last journey our first stop was Seymour Island, a geological stop. We walked with 50 students, 43 of them not geologists, through a lot of mud to see the most southern Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary, that gives evidence to the last extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous Period. Until this point, students never thought about this time span. That night on the boat at supper, the whole group was buzzing about earth sciences, the discipline I love, this event in Earth’s history and the extinction. That was delightful for me.
Learn more about the 2013 Antarctic Expedition and follow the journey every day between December 26, 2013 and January 10, 2014 for the latest expedition blogs, photos and videos!