From South County to Antarctica –  A Voyage for Science Students

From South County to Antarctica – A Voyage for Science Students

By Cristina Medina Dirksen, CFMC Communications Coordinator 

Denise Hardoy will literally go to the ends of the earth for her students.

The San Antonio Elementary School science teacher is headed to Antarctica in October 2019 to conduct hands-on climate change research. She’s only one of five educators from around the world selected and will share her daily activities live with her Lockwood students.

“What I really want to do is bring real science to my students and this opportunity will certainly do that,” said Hardoy, who teaches about 40 middle school students in the very southern reaches of Monterey County. In the entire K-8 school, 130 students attend the rural school.

Her five-week expedition will be based out of McMurdo Field Station, Antarctica and will be taking day trips to field sites located on the sea ice around McMurdo Sound. She leaves October 10, flying from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand, then on to Christchurch, New Zealand. A C-130 will fly her to McMurdo Station.

I encourage my students to think globally. If they see me heading to the far outpost of the world, they will know they are connected to our world, even being from a very small community we are all connected.” – Denise Hardoy

Bringing the World to Local Students

Students will be following what she’s doing through the daily dispatch on-line and Skype check ins. Her first posts can be seen here.

The venture is part of PolarTREC, dubbed “STEM at the Poles” where educators spend up to six weeks taking part in field research, working alongside scientists. PolarTREC is funded through awards from the National Science Foundation and administered by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS).

Hardoy has been paired up with UC Davis researcher Ann Todgham. The two will trek from McMurdo Station to a research tent on Ross Island where they will study the impacts of climate change on the embryonic development of arctic fish.

Southern Monterey County Foundation Grant Inspires Support

“Applying was a leap of faith, not exactly on my bucket list of things to do, but definitely an adventure,” said Hardoy, who said a grant from the Southern Monterey County Foundation (SMCF) gave her confidence to apply for bigger opportunities like this one for her students. The SMCF grant helped pay for iPads that students used to for data collection, analyzing data and using apps for geotagging locations.

“I want to change what their vision of science is – it’s not a mad scientist with crazy hair,” said Hardoy, whose been teaching for 16 years.

My students’ worlds are small in what they see every day. We live close to the ocean, yet many haven’t been there. With my expedition, it’s a chance for them to see that possibilities can become realities.”

In preparing for the trip, Hardoy has shared her heavy boots and some of the extreme cold weather clothing with students and spoken at schools throughout Monterey County. She wants them to also have a hands-on experience.

“They’ve worn the bunny boots that feel like five pounds. The jacket is huge and I’ve got layers upon layers of layers of clothing. They understand the extreme climate. They’ve been part of the preparation,” she said, adding that her official cold weather gear will be issued while in Christchurch. She will be required to wear it every time she leaves the station.

“My husband has banned me from saying ‘I’m cold’ until I get back, you don’t even know what cold is!” she joked.

Denise’s husband, Michel Hardoy, serves on the board of the Southern Monterey County Foundation.

Photos/Denise Hardoy: Denise Hardoy’s middle school science students; Polar TREC teacher Denise Hardoy, Dr. Anne Todgham(Lead Scientist), Grad Students Amanda Frazier and Andrew Naslund, and Post Doc student Milica Mandic; the Antarctic Hardoy will study, scientific name is Trematomus Pennellii; A student tries on extreme weather gear. 

Cristina Medina Dirksen is the Communications Coordinator at the Community Foundation for Monterey County, where she oversees social media, website support, blogs and content creation and development for CFMC publications. She can be reached at (831) 375-9712 x110.