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Byron Shire
January 28, 2021

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Dr Elisabeth Deschaseaux from Southern Cross University. Photo supplied.

Aslan Shand

The climate crisis and equity are the two issues that are the focus of the Homeward Bound program that is bringing together 100 women from the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) this year.

The program is now in its fourth year and runs over 12 months, culminating with a three-week workshop in Antarctica to brainstorm ‘climate change and equity’ says marine scientist Dr Elisabeth Deschaseaux from Southern Cross Uuniversity. At the end of ten years the program seeks to build a network of 1,000 women working together to create innovative change.

Originally from France, Dr Deschaseaux has called Byron Shire home for nearly ten years. She works with a molecule called dimethyl sulfide (DMS), which mainly derives from certain types of marine algae and coral, and which contributes to the formation of cooling low-level clouds when emitted to the atmosphere.

‘My research aims to understand how climate-change-associated stressors will affect DMS production in coral reef ecosystems, which are under threat,’ said Dr Deschaseaux.

‘What I have found so far is that certain species of Acropora coral tend to produce more DMS under elevated temperature, which suggests that coral reef ecosystems might exert a feedback on temperature increase. However, the question remains whether coral reef ecosystems will have time to adapt to the rate at which the climate is currently changing.’

Dr Elisabeth Deschaseaux hopes to build a network of 1,000 women working together to create innovative change. Photo supplied.

Plastic releases methane

To get to Antarctica and fully participate in the program Dr Deschaseaux now needs to raise US$17,000.

‘My motivation for joining the program was to learn how to conduct more applied science to actively fight against climate change and marine pollution,’ she told The Echo.

‘My secret goal is that I would like to start an association that would help diminish plastic pollution in the ocean.

‘The enormous plastic pollution that we are facing is also a driver for climate change as most plastics release methane, a greenhouse gas with much greater warming properties than CO2. Reducing plastic pollution and cleaning up our ocean is part of counter-balancing global warming.

‘This program also has a special focus on equity as it aims to counterbalance the low representation of women in leadership roles, which I believe is necessary.’

Every step helps

Working in the field of climate change Dr Deschaseaux says that it is important to ‘Be hopeful and work together towards making a difference. There is no small contribution. The world has everything in its hands to stop our climate from changing at this rate. All we need to do is start today, from small personal changes in our everyday lives to influencing our politics towards implementing global changes.’

If you can help Dr Deschaseaux raise the funds she needs, donate at: www.chuffed.org/project/women-for-climate-actions.

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