A Donegal woman has been selected in a small elite group of young people worldwide to take part in an expedition to Antarctica to preserve the continent’s unique landscape and wildlife as well as learning how to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Eimear Carlin from Milltown, Raphoe, is the only Irish representative on the ‘2041 Antarctic Youth Ambassador Programme’ and has been formally invited by Robert Swan OBE to take part in the three-week International Antarctic Expedition (IAE), which begins next February.

Swan was the first person to walk to both the North and South poles, in 1986 and 1989 respectively, and is now a renowned environmental leader who takes a select group of current and future environmental experts to Antarctica. His aim is to inspire the next generation of leaders to continue his work.

Human activities in Antarctica are governed by an international agreement, the 1959 Antarctic Treaty. This ensures that Antarctica is used for peaceful purposes only and that the environment is protected. Currently there is a cessation that bans drilling or mining in Antarctica, called the Environmental Protocol, established in 1991. This document can be reviewed after the 50-year anniversary in 2041.

Ms Carlin, who has just completed a postgraduate diploma in Development Studies from Kimmage Development Studies Centre in Dublin, moved to Inuvik in the Canadian Arctic in 2004, and spent four years working the Canadian Forestry Sector. She worked mostly in reforestation, and personally planted over 600,000 trees.

“I became very interested in the environmental challenges faced by the Polar Regions and how changes in the Polar ecosystem can impact on the rest of the world,” she said. “From living within the Arctic Circle I am used to working in extreme weather conditions, experiencing 24 hour darkness and temperatures in the -40s. 

“I have travelled extensively throughout the North West Territories, witnessing the annual caribou migration. In 2006 I travelled to Northern and Arctic Finland to photograph brown bear migrations into Russia.”

The expedition will also see Ms Carlin complete Swan’s ‘Leadership on the Edge’ programme, the goal of which is to develop the skills of future business and environmental leaders. This will be held at the first ever Education Base established in Antarctica by Robert Swan at Bellinghausen Station.

Ms Carlin has pledged to raise €19,607 to take part in the expedition, which takes place from February 28 to March 14, and has written to President Michael D Higgins to seek his support. She will be taking part in a voxpop session at the Ernest Shackleton School in Athy Co. Kildare on October 28th and will be hosting a climate change Café Scientifique Fundraiser in the Alliance Francaise Dublin on November 22nd.

She has also started personal fundraising, most notably by a roller-skating trek around Ireland covering 800km, which is the equivalent distance of the Drake Passage, the sea of water that connects the south-western Atlantic and the south-eastern Pacific, between the southern tip of South America in Chile and South Shetlands Islands of Antarctica over the next four months.

This project will culminate in a Fundraiser Gala Evening in Dublin on the last weekend of January. Upon her return in March, Ms Carlin will then undertake the second leg of the journey, around the schools of the country to educate.

“I am aiming to start an initiative in schools across Ireland to get 2041 young people to create their own climate change projects, whether it is planting a tree or being responsible for turning off all lights, checking taps etc in their home before bedtime,” she said. “Simple acts can make a huge change. In doing so, kids will get to be Mini Climate Ambassadors in their own right.  It’s about instilling a more sustainable attitude to energy and resource use from an early age.”

“Throughout 2013, I will be travelling around Ireland visiting schools and businesses promoting the Antarctic and sustainable practices that can help combat the effects of climate change.”

You can support Eimear by visiting her blog here.

Eimear Carlin from Milltown, Raphoe, is the only Irish representative on the ‘2041 Antarctic Youth Ambassador Programme’Eimear Carlin