SOI Educator Q&A with Paul Brett of the Marine Institute

Paul Brett is a remote sensing and GIS specialist, he’s both an instructor and the chair of the ocean mapping program at Memorial University’s Marine Institute, one of SOI’s key partners. Although he’s worked and travelled extensively in the Canadian Arctic, this will be his first visit to Antarctica.


How did you get involved with Students on Ice?

I have been interested in the Arctic and Antarctic most of my adult life, reading everything I can about Arctic exploration. I met up with Justin Dearing (a former student of mine) just after his first trip to the Antarctica, and I asked him how do I get involved… And it all started from there.

Photo provided by Paul Brett

Photo provided by Paul Brett


Tell us a bit about your work with the Marine Institute?

At the MI, I currently work as an instructor and chair of the ocean mapping program. I teach GIS and Remote Sensing, as well as other mapping courses across many programs. I have been also doing a lot of work in Nunavut completing a coastal resource inventory thorough out the Arctic.

Will this be your first visit to Antarctica? And if so, what are you most excited about?

This will be my first visit to Antarctica. It has been a lifelong dream to mine to visit. I am most excited about visiting Elephant Island actually, the Shackleton story* was what first got me interested in polar exploration.

Point Wild, Elephant Island, during the SOI Antarctic 2009 expedition. Photo (c) Olivia Rempel

Point Wild, Elephant Island, during the SOI Antarctic 2009 expedition. Photo (c) Olivia Rempel


*Note: Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition members landed on Elephant Island in lifeboats after they lost their ship to the shifting ice in the early 1900s. Part of the expedition survived there for many months while Shackleton and a few select men went to seek help, and miraculously, everyone made it home alive. During almost every expedition, SOI visits Elephant Island.


What makes the Southern Ocean interesting to you?

The power of the Southern Ocean has always been something that interested me, winds and waves that travel around the globe with no continent to slow them down means there are awesome examples of each there… each band of latitude has a name to indicated the perils of seafarers who venture there, the roaring forties, the furious fifties, and the screaming sixties…

What do you hope the students will learn from you on this expedition?


Photo provided by Paul Brett

I hope I can at the minimum teach the students to respect the oceans they are studying, and that we know very little about them. In fact many say we know more about the surface of the moon and Mars than we know about the ocean. The sheer size and depth of the ocean and our current exploration techniques mean we have a lot of work to do!


Is there something you hope to learn more about?

There is so much I would like to learn ore about! But the geography of region will be of great interest. How fast is the ice changing, what are the glaciers looking like, and how does wildlife survive in such an inhospitable location.


Anything else you’d like to add?

The only thing I would like to add is that this opportunity will be an amazing opportunity for all involved. Students, staff, teachers, and the mariners who will get us there and back,  I expect we will all learn from one another!!


Follow the 2014 Antarctic Expedition!


The Students on Ice Antarctic Expedition is taking place December 26th, 2014 to January 8th, 2015. To learn more and follow the expedition through photos, videos and student journals visit the expedition website and follow journey updates on Facebook and Twitter.



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