Adventure to Antarctica, Aggie in the Homeward Bound Program

    Posted on Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019
    There would not be anything more exciting than receiving a postcard from my dear friend in Antarctica as my Christmas gift! Xiao Shen ( who graduated from Texas A&M University in 2017 has been selected in the 4th cohort of women joining the Homeward Bound Program, and she will represent Team USA along with other amazing 19 members (! Homeward Bound is a groundbreaking global leadership and empowerment initiative for women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine). Over 10 years, Homeward Bound aims to equip a team of women scientists 1000-strong with increased leadership capabilities, experience in promoting visibility in both academia and industry, and a skillset to influence the policy and decision-making which shapes our planet. The program includes a year-long leadership program and culminates in a life-changing expedition to one of the most ecologically sensitive and inspiring areas on Earth: Antarctica.
    Xiao Shen completed her master thesis in Water Management & Hydrological Sciences (WMHS), she studied how Chlorophyll-a concentrations were affected by discharge and climate conditions in Galveston Bay, Texas. Since changes of freshwater quantity & quality, population growth, land use, and climate change, transition zones between rivers and ocean face increasing pressure for sustainably ecological health. Based on her analyses, a chla prediction model is developed which could offer seasonal forecasts of chla then support decision-making in Galveston Bay.
    I witnessed how determined she had been to confront all the difficulties and manage to participate in ORISE research in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-Atlantic Ecological Division (AED), as a costal watershed data analyst and researcher. Xiao has been my role model especially in taking our international advantages, and I would keep recording her appealing stories using her own words below:
    Kaiyi: what is your mission in your EPA project and volunteering experiences? What do you think of female leadership and the development challenges?
    Xiao: Be grateful that I have learned and worked in environmental area for TEN years, through which I am growing up as one of the Nature Mother's daughters with passion, empathy and rationality. My Mission: I want to devote myself to protect the river environment in the rest of my life. I believe water scarcity is the crucial environmental challenge human is facing. More efforts are needed in research and management to save the water resource for our generation. Meanwhile, women have the responsibility and ability to be a leader to cope with climate change and environmental pollution crisis. However, 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. Empower citizen with scientific knowledge and technical skills to protect our environment. In my spare time, I volunteer for Greenseed Project as a WebGIS lecturer to provide professional training for Chinese Environmental NGOers, helping them to better contribute their efforts in environmental protection. 
    Kaiyi: How did you know this project and what is your initial goal for applying?
    Xiao: I heard of this program from a friend. She is the program cohort 2 member and went to Antarctica at the end of 2017. I was attracted by this program, because: (1) 100 female leaders in STEM background from different countries and cultures will get together and talk about what we can do to save the planet. This is the powerful network and I’m sure I will greatly inspired by other excellent female scientists and their experience. (2) Leadership training. I can feel my own limitation and less confidence to pursuit my career. Leadership training, personal coaching and scientific communication practice will be great opportunities for me to improve my leadership abilities. It also will be the great challenge to force myself getting out of my comfort zone. 
    Kaiyi: What have you determined to work on for personal outcomes or deliverables for the project?
    Xiao: (1) Initiate women and young people education program to empower women to be an effective leader in environmental protection. (2) Keep dairy on my experience in Homeward Bound and Antarctica to share and inspire others, and I am working on more various forms for this part. (3) Do the investigation and document in the trip. (4) I’m planning to send my first 100 or more supporters postcards with Antarctic postmarks.
    So proud of Xiao’s passion and rationality for contributing her knowledge to protecting our environment, and developing her professional career path enthusiastically! Please contact Xiao ( if you are interested or have any concerns. I would really appreciate your support to this aggie’s adventure!
    Xiao, Keep Safe, Good Luck and Gig’Em!

    ---Kaiyi Zhang
    Kaiyi Zhang is a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health

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