ABC NEWS: Meet some of the women who are fighting against climate change
Updated: Oct 24, 2021
Women all over the world are playing integral roles in the fight against warming temperatures. For Earth Day 2021, ABC News is highlight three scientists and one activist who are leading the charge against climate change.
ABC News, by Julia Jacobo
22 April 2021
Photo: Lianna Nixon
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Women are often a minority in science, but they are working to change that.
Allison Fong, 39, is a trained biological oceanographer and sea ice ecologist for the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, has spent more than 300 days in the Arctic since 2015.
Fong studies the bacteria small phytoplankton that are important for controlling carbon and the cycle of exchange of carbon between the ocean, ice and the atmosphere, she told ABC News.
For the past few years, Fong has taken part in an expedition called Mosaic, in which researchers took the German icebreaker RV Polarstern and froze it into the Arctic sea ice. The scientists then let it drift across the central Arctic Ocean for one year in an effort to understand how the climate in the Arctic is changing.
"It's changing faster than any other place on Earth," Fong said. "We're losing sea ice at an exponential rate compared to years before, and that has an impact -- not just on what's happening in polar regions. but also what's happening in temperate, mid-latitude areas."
The ice in the Arctic is becoming thinner, and the proportion of very thick ice to thin ice is lessening as well, Fong said. The thin ice is more susceptible to breaking, and when it breaks, there is less white surface area to reflect the radiative heat from the sun, and more dark, blue water to absorb the heat, which warms the ocean surface even more, Fong said. This means longer periods of less ice and a later start of new ice formation.
Fong believes the work she is doing is critical because her research is helping to build knowledge to address the climate crisis, especially with how what are considered to be natural cycles are now perturbed by human activity.
Photo: Lianna Nixon Dr. Allison Fong uses a saw to section off ice core samples in a tent in the Arctic.
"So, if you're going to try to act to change things for the better, if you're going to try to modify how we behave within the ecosystem as a species on Earth, then we need to know what's happening to the environment," Fong said.
Her love for the ocean originated after growing up in close proximity to the beach on Rhode Island.
"It became clear that my love for science could be coupled with my love for being by the ocean, in the ocean, learning about the ocean," she said.
While ocean sciences have traditionally been a male-dominated field, Fong said she is encouraged by the fact that women are becoming a more important entity to the enterprise of science. She believes that excluding women from the conversation is ignoring the "volume of brain power" by 50%.
"When you're trying to be successful, you would never have your chances of that success by cutting people by cutting half of the half of your chances out," she said.
Fong also believes that an important part of his role is to engage people to be curious about the planet, which in turn will empower them to act. So, she makes a point to reach out to high school students or whoever is willing to listen and talk about why it is so important to highlight regions that seem so disconnected from their daily lives.
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