Homeward Bound: Bianca's Endeavour to Antarctica

By Bianca Das

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Kia Ora and hello!

My name is Bianca Das, I’m from Raumati South, New Zealand. I am of Bengali, Irish and English heritage, and was raised with a strong understanding of 'Kaitiakitanga' or land guardianship in Te Reo Maori. My diverse background and strong connection to the land inspired me to build a career around improving global food security and helping farmers protect the environment.

Home: A view of Kapiti Island from the Hadfield's homestead.

I am currently pursuing my PhD in increasing phosphorus efficiency in subtropical cropping systems under a changing climate on a joint project between The University of Queensland and the CSIRO in Queensland, Australia.

Previously I worked as a soil scientist and research technician in agricultural systems modelling on a variety of local and global challenges such as: quantifying N2O emissions from dairy soils, improving infiltration of saline-sodic soils and reducing nitrogen losses in sugarcane systems. I have a BSc. (Hons I) from Lincoln University (NZ), an MPhil from The University of Queensland and am currently pursuing a PhD in soil phosphorous cycling.

Research example: Sustainable agriculture is required to reduce the flow of soil and nutrients out to the Great Barrier Reef " Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

In my spare time, I volunteer as a Events Coordinator and state representative for Queensland for Researchers for Agriculture in International Development (RAID). I also volunteer for OzHarvest to rescue quality excess food from landfill and redistribute to charities. OzHarvest also promotes conscious consumption through education programs, NEST and Nourish.

What's the problem?

But there's a problem with how our research makes it through to mainstream media, influences politicians, decision makers and the general public.

Current and future generations are now facing two BIG PROBLEMS:

  1. Lack of diversity and quality in leadership and people in power. Especially, a lack of trust of people in power. e.g. 2018 EDELMan Trust Barometer
  2. Snowballing of 'wicked' environmental problems (climate change, reef destruction plastic overload, agricultural pollution, loss of biodiversity, wild fires).

Example of a wicked problem: human induced climate change

Climate Change involves an interaction between complex feedback systems, which is difficult for scientists to measure and communicate to the public. Source: Steffen et al., 2018

What I'm doing about it:

On the The Homeward Bound Programme I will be using the increased media coverage and visibility I get to shine the light on two main areas I care about:

1. Empowering women in leadership of STEMM diciplines
2. Improve science communication in sustainable agriculture and 'wicked' environmental problems.

Science communication in action: collecting a Podzol from near Haast, New Zealand for display in the Haast Visitor Centre.

"On a more personal level, I am doing Homeward Bound to challenge myself to develop as a leader, gain visibility for my research, make valuable networks and learn effective science communication skills. I want this development to translate towards communicating my research with stronger impact."

What is Homeward Bound?

Homeward Bound is a year-long leadership programme for Women in STEMM that culminates with a 3-week intensive training course on a ship in Antarctica. The initiative of Homeward Bound is to equip 1000 women over 10-years with the global leadership tools to influence policy, decision making and science communication for the future health of the planet. In 2018, the voyage reached 750 million people worldwide.

Why Women?

Despite making up 45% of the global workforce, women are globally underrepresented in leadership positions. This is despite women comprising 57% of recent college graduates. By providing these women with leadership and strategic skills, a sound understanding of the science, and a strong purposefully developed network, we will enhance their ability to impact policy and decision-making for a sustainable future.

HB participants at Argentinian Carlini Base. Photo credit: Kit Jackson

Why Antarctica?

Regions of Antarctica are showing the fastest responses to some of the global sustainability problems we currently face. Antarctica offers an unparalleled opportunity to observe first hand the influence of human activities on the environment and provide critical insights into the global-scale change required. This iconic environment has captured the imagination of leaders in the past and the expedition experience of the Antarctic component of the Homeward Bound program creates strong bonds between participants.

Why Now?

If not now, when? The sustainability of our planet is in crisis and so is the state of leadership in our world. Homeward Bound aims to contribute to both these global issues.

Homeward bound was founded by Fabian Dattner Watch Fabian speak here

You can join me on my journey

The total value of the program is AUD $43,000 per person. The Dattner Grant Pty Ltd, partner of the program covers part of those expenses contributions to bring the cost down to $23,000. Another $5,000 is needed for travel to Argentina (where our voyage begins), for equipment, insurance and clothing I'll need in Antarctica.

Through a lot of hard work, I've secured $10,000 in sponsorship from my employer CSIRO and $3000 from the University of Queensland. I am also joining forces with the other women in the programme to seek other funding.

To secure my spot in the group, I need your help to raise $15,000 by May 2019 to take part in this incredible initiative. You can help by donating, but also by sharing my campaign amongst your networks and raising awareness of the Homeward Bound initiative.

For those of you able to help me get to Antarctica – a heartfelt thank you.

Nga mihi nui,


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Sampling a 'Red Vertosol' soil for mineral properties in Toowoomba, QLD.

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Team Members

Bianca Das

Dianne Daniels

Jake O'Brien

Jessica Das

Karine Das