Antarctica. The White Continent. The South Pole. It’s almost 2 million square miles larger than the United States. For three weeks late in 2019, Terri Jump, a volunteer boat captain/naturalist at The Conservancy of Southwest Florida — shown here hiking glaciers at Neko Harbor — joined 98 other women of science from 33 countries (11 Americans) in a Homeward Bound expedition to Antarctica, part of a year-long study of climate change. She shares her experience on the cold, isolated, harsh but pristine continent inside on pages A12-13.
— Eric Strachan, Florida Weekly
I’m Captain Terri, a volunteer boat captain and naturalist for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. I am passionate about saving the Everglades. There’s only one Everglades in the world and it is disappearing.
This past November-December, I participated in the largest expedition ever to Antarctica — an all-women expedition. There were 99 women in science from 33 countries (11 Americans/ 12 global faculty) selected as part of the international fellowship program Homeward Bound. The vision is to develop a network of 1,000 STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, medicine) women in leadership to sustain the planet.
After more than a year of virtual study, the program culminated with a three-week Antarctica expedition. Antarctica took us far away (off the grid) from our work and families to learn and engage together. It is one of the fastest warming locations on Earth — despite its modest human footprint.
Here you have this place that has such raw, pristine, spectacular beauty that words can’t describe, and yet, I felt a deep sadness. Just like the Everglades and the Gulf, it’s struggling with warmer temperatures, rising seas, water issues, loss of wildlife habitats, over-fishing, potential extinction of species, pollution, plastic contamination, etc.
The expedition to Antarctica was far more than a remarkable travel journey. It connected me to my deep purpose as a volunteer boat captain/ naturalist with the Conservancy. It was a reminder of the fragility of our environment and how easily we can destroy nature when we don’t protect it. While scientific research and facts are critical, I believe it is when we connect our hearts to nature, we will want to save it. I have learned that when we care about something, we will protect and advocate for it.
In our own backyards of Southwest Florida, we have an urgent need to preserve our water, our land and our wildlife. Many of us have experienced the devastating “red tide” at the beach and seen photos of the dead carcasses of dolphins and sea turtles washed up on our shores. Additionally, we have a severe water shortage, unclean water, increased salinity and rising tides — impacting fish, marine life, wildlife, sawgrass, tourism and importantly, our health. The increased development in our rural areas threatens endangered species, like the Florida panther. Over 1 million acres of rural lands are proposed for development. The controversial Vanderbilt Beach marina project (One Naples) has galvanized North Naples, with many in opposition to more high-rises, congestion and development. Can we find a sensible balance between a growing population and conserving the natural treasures of our beloved Southwest Florida before it is gone?
Mother Nature is calling all of us to care and love her more. Here are a few suggestions to help: reduce single use plastics (and styrofoam); use Florida-friendly landscaping practices, learn more about Southwest Florida’s environmental issues, visit the Everglades, contact your representatives to share your concerns and join the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. www.conservancy.org. Oh yes, and come on my boat tour when the Conservancy opens again! ¦