“This is Lucy,” Dr Danielle Medek begins. “She lives in New Zealand, and is a physicist working with nanoscale measurement standards.”
“And this is Deborah. She researches albatross populations for the British Antarctic Survey. She likes to do yoga and is also a ballerina, so that’s why she’s wearing a tutu.”
In Dr Medek’s hands are two little crocheted penguins, her own wool creations.
Meet Lucy and Deborah.
As well as being penguins, they represent two of the 78 leading scientists who are preparing to travel together by boat to Antarctica for the launch of a leadership program for women in science.
“I’m making a penguin for each of the scientists who will be on the boat,” Dr Medek explains. “And then I’m profiling them on my website, and trying to communicate what each woman does, and mentioning their hobbies to engage young people.”
Dr Medek will need to make a penguin for herself too, as she will also be on the voyage, called Homeward Bound.
“Maybe I will be a Gentoo penguin,” she says. “They’re known as evil geniuses.”
Dr Medek hasn’t been selected for the program because of her crochet skills, but because of her contribution to work on climate change and human health.
The ANU Medical School alumnus is currently a Junior Doctor at The Canberra Hospital, where she’s pursuing her career objective—which is more genius than evil genius—to promote climate change awareness.
“Initially I started in botany, doing a PhD looking at frost tolerance in plants on Macquarie Island, halfway to Antarctica.
“While I was there I was actually inspired to be a doctor.
“People weren’t really taking notice of obscure plants in obscure locations so it was very hard to push the message of climate change.
“People’s health is going to be particularly affected by climate change and that’s when people are going to start taking note, so I decided to become a doctor, and gain the skills to bring that message to people.”
The Homeward Bound voyage, Dr Medek, says will help her even more.
“It’s a long-term project, focused on getting 1,000 women, over ten voyages and ten years, empowered to have the skills to become leaders in science, and in public policy to do with climate change.”
And after many hours crocheting their penguin alter-egos, Dr Medek says she’s just “really looking forward to developing connections with these amazing women.”
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Dr Medek’s penguins are available to own through donation to her Antarctica voyage at The Academy of Lady-Penguin Scientists.