The Texas Tech’s Climate Science Center hosted a 'Science By the Glass' lecture at Local Bar and Grill. Natasja van Gestel, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, spoke about her "123 Days in Antarctica."
The goal of Van Gestel’s scientific project in Antarctica was to learn more about the carbon cycle in young ecosystems that are rapidly warming, she said.
Van Gestel conducted research on plant colonization and ecosystems as well as climate change.
“Our study area behind the Palmer Research Station was covered by a glacier, but record warming rates caused the glacier to retreat hundreds of meters, thereby exposing soils once again which provides new opportunities for plants and microbes,” she said.
One of the main challenges of working in Antarctica was, surprisingly, not the cold, she said. It was the inability to predict the weather.
“However, it is related to the weather," she said. "For a few days, my weather app has predicted that it would be a pretty sunny day, then it predicted a cloudy day with some precipitation, then it predicted snow/rain most of the day."
Most mornings in Antarctica were filled with magnificent sunrise and a clear view of the moon each night, she said.
She learned the importance of communication, not only for planning the fieldwork, but also for survival, she said.
“While boating in Antarctica, we always brought a radio to communicate with Palmer Station to let them know where we were, where we were going, and how many people are were on the boat to ensure everyone's safety,” she said.
The purpose of the event and the Science by the Glass series is to bring academia outside of a university setting, Valerie Gardner, a graduate student in environmental engineering from San Antonio, said.
Gardner serves as an intern for the Climate Science Center and puts together logistics, plans the events and brings people together, she said
“The purpose of this event was to provide a high level lecture but in a casual setting, where people can eat and drink food," she said. "It brings the academia outside of the university."
Gardner is an advocate of spreading awareness and education about climate change and making people more aware of the earth, she said.
Janie McNutt, former professor at Tech and founder of SolarTech Energy Solutions and creator of the solar oven Solar Chef, came out to hear Van Gestel speak because of her concerns for the planet.
“For many years I’ve believed that people need to be aware, even if they don't believe in climate change, that our planet is being ruined,” she said. “We need to have a vision of where we’re going instead of just doing things haphazardly.”
If everyone could get together and have a collective vision on how to conserve and save the planet, then everyone would benefit from it, she said.
“Regardless of your religion or political beliefs, we should all be caretakers of this planet,” McNutt said. “In relation to Van Gestel’s lecture, I do believe there is a great deal of differences in the poles of the world, which I was interested in learning about."