An Antarctic expedition

Manistee native takes on voyage to Antarctica

MANISTEE — For most people, voyaging to another country means taking a vacation at a tropical destination, but Dr. Jill (Skiera) Lynn recently embarked on a three-week journey to a frozen continent located at the southern most part of the globe — Antarctica.

Lynn, of Sault St. Marie, was selected as one of 77 women from around the world to participate in the Homeward Bound Project for 2018, voyaging across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. The program is a leadership initiative for women with STEMM backgrounds (science, technology, engineering, medicine and math).

A Manistee native, Lynn is the daughter of Bob and Ruth Skiera, long-time residents of the area.

“I saw it advertised on my Facebook news-feed; I thought it seemed like a wonderful opportunity and experience to meet women in like minded fields from all over the world,” said Lynn. “I felt very honored (to be chosen). I was one of four veterinarians who joined the group.”

During the trip, which spanned from Feb.18 to March 11, Lynn had to leave behind her family and business, the Harmony Mobile Veterinary Clinic, to travel to a remote location, completing research with a team of women.

Lynn was selected as part of the second cohort for the Homeward Bound Project — the first was in 2016.

Dr. Jill Lynn

Dr. Jill Lynn

“I am always taking on leadership roles,” said Lynn. “I haven’t really done anything recently specific to leadership, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to take the three weeks and dedicate it to that experience in remote area Antarctic where there aren’t any distractions.

“We had no communications for the three weeks on the ship. I checked on my husband and dogs twice, but other than that there was very limited communication.”

Before she could set sail, Lynn had to complete a lengthy application process including videos and essays, and take on a series of trainings. She said the honor to join the expedition meant focusing on her leadership skills, influencing other young women around the globe.

“I had to take a couple days to think it over before I went,” said Lynn. “Everything worked out beyond my expectations. Part of the mission was to empower women to have a seat at the table and take on more leadership roles in their professions.

“While women are earning advanced degrees, there is lower representation of women in higher levels of leadership within their organizations. We need to change that as we all can contribute to make a difference in our world.”

For Lynn, this was the sixth continent she has visited, mostly due to her experience with serving in the United States Army Reserve, as a captain in the veterinary corps.

The group departed from Ushuaia, Argentina, and set off to sea in a 260 foot vessel originally used for weather services.

When the team reached Antarctica, most of the stay was on the ship completing coursework and projects, but Lynn was able to experience 16 shore landings, and visit research stations.

“We also visited six research stations: Camara, Carlini (Argentinian), Great Wall (China), Palmer (U.S.), Port Lockroy and Rothera (U.K.), as well as historic sites protected by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust,” she said.

Lynn completed research with a group of women on water scarcity during the trip. Honing in on her personal experiences, Lynn also had three minutes to present a topic related to her career field.

The group was able to dive into many other scientific research topics, as well.

“We learned about the scientific research taking place, for example, how the glacial melting is affecting the species of animals that inhabit the Antarctic regions,” said Lynn. “We presented information to the rest of the group, and handed out other information to share with other colleagues.”

While the weather was far from warm, Lynn said adapting was not difficult, as many of the ares were similar to winters in Sault St. Marie, with temperatures in the lower teens and 20s.

“When we arrived at the tip of the Antarctic peninsula it was more warm and sunny, rather than snowy,” said Lynn. “When we moved down south toward the south part of the peninsula, we had more severe weather with snow and ice. I was already acclimated to the weather, in a way.”

Lynn’s trip was met with plenty of experiences with Antarctic wildlife, including crabeater seals — which ironically do not eat crabs — that were jumping off the ice into the sea, feeding on krill and floating on glaciers.

At one point, a crabeater seal had a thrilling chase with a Adelie penguin.

“During dinner time, our entire group got up from our tables to watch a lone crabeater seal chase a lone Adelie penguin,” she said. “Our hearts raced as we envisioned this penguin being eaten before our eyes.”

To Lynn’s surprise, the penguin got away.

“Our Antarctic biologist experts reminded us that crabeater seals do not eat penguins,” she said. “The social crabeater seal was likely happy to see another living creature and wanted to be near it.”

Another experience Lynn treasured was interaction with curious penguin chicks, that were quick to say hello.

The group had to follow guidelines of the Antarctic Treaty that prohibits direct contact with any wildlife on the continent.

“Whenever you were having a rough day, watching the penguins playing outside could not help but to bring a smile to your face,” she said. “The chicks were so curious, came over and pecked at our boots.”

While Lynn now is back to her practice, she said many people have shown an interest in her journey. Lynn said her work does not stop with Antarctica.

“I have been invited to present at libraries and other community organizations,” she said. “I look forward to sharing my photos, as well as the messages of this experience; (and) applying some of the strategies learned in this program, both in my practice and my military career, to take on new roles, (and) perhaps to do things in veterinary medicine I never imagined I would do.”

 

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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