Professor Chris Turney

NFSA Connects with Antarctic adventurer
 Imelda Cooney

Adventure, travel and a desire to learn – these are the reasons to pursue a career in science, according to Chris Turney, and he should know.

Chris is a Professor of Earth Sciences, an explorer and writer who has been to Antarctica three times. He is leading the Australian Antarctic Expedition 2013–2014, which will follow Douglas Mawson’s 1912 route and document the changes in the environment from that time.

We were lucky to catch him just prior to his upcoming expedition. He took time on 13 and 14 November 2013 to engage with over 1000 primary and high school students across Australia to help them understand the conditions endured by adventurers a century ago.

Over four sessions Chris sparked the interest of students who have been studying Antarctica to offer his personal experience of the environment, the history of the expeditions and to explain why scientists, in general, continue to explore a part of our planet that is so remote and hostile.

Universally, people are fascinated by adventure – adults and children alike. So the question that a primary student asked about ‘going to the toilet in Antarctica’ quickly prompted another question from an adult about the disposal of the human waste. Questions ranged from wanting to know about basic human needs, physical fitness preparations, what changes in the environment he expects to find, through to a high school student wondering what Chris would advise the current government about global warming.

There is huge interest in this team of more than 30 scientists and their activities in Antarctica. It’s not just from the science fraternity but also the media (ABC’s Lateline, the BBC, The Guardian) as well as Google. On his journey Chris will participate in a number of Google Hangouts where users across the world can have video chats with him and his team from various locations along their route to Antarctica. Chris has also embraced social media with great enthusiasm; he wants as many people as possible to be able to share his journey.

Once again the NFSA Connects program has helped enhance students’ learning, as one Year 9 student from Queensland wrote: ‘The speaker was very captivating because he has first-hand knowledge of Antarctica. We would like to see more video conferences in the future because it’s more helpful and interactive than reading a text book and is more entertaining and makes us want to learn.’

Download Chris' Powerpoint presentation


Watch highlights from the NFSA Connects session: