The University of Manitoba may be a centre of excellence for Arctic research, but master's student Joana Correia is a polar opposite -- she's joining a research expedition to Antarctica.

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This article was published 13/11/2015 (2209 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The University of Manitoba may be a centre of excellence for Arctic research, but master's student Joana Correia is a polar opposite -- she's joining a research expedition to Antarctica.

The Australian-led Homeward Bound expedition in December 2016 is an ambitious project to bring together 78 young female scientists from around the world to connect, network and become leaders who will in turn promote women and girls in science, Correia explained.

"They started two years ago. It is an initiative to have more women in science promote their leadership role," she said. "They want to have this trip as a way for us to have this amazing experience."

The focus will be on climate change, but each scientist will bring her own ideas to the 20-day expedition, conducted by boat from the southern tip of Argentina.

It's the impetus to a 10-year project the Australian organizers hope will eventually connect 1,000 young female scientists around the globe, 25-year-old Correia said.

Global collaboration on environmental issues?

Look that up in the dictionary, and you'll find Correia's photo.

Born in Toronto and raised in Portugal, Correia is a dual citizen who went to the U of M to enrol in the Natural Resources Institute on the recommendation of a Belgian friend, after earning her undergraduate degree in marine biology in Ireland.

Between degrees, Correia worked on a Canadian-led endangered species project conducted in Portugal called Project Sea Horse. Given this was during the Harper years, the Canadian scientists were from a non-governmental organization based in B.C.

"It's a conservation project -- almost all sea horses are on the endangered species list," she said.

Correia laughed the U of M may not be the first place people might think a marine biologist would come for grad school, but her research is applicable to any small-scale fishery, freshwater or sea, she said.

"I'm doing my thesis on the governance of the octopus fishery" in Portugal, she said. "I do have background also in anthropology and sociology.

"When you think about the fishery on a global scale, freshwater or marine -- I've learned to learn more from the fishers than from the science itself," said Correia.

What she's studied in Portugal, and what she learns in Antarctica, could be applied to native fisheries in northern Manitoba, said Correia, still uncertain if she'll pursue a PhD.

"There are definitely some conditions in northern Manitoba you don't want to see," and the best way to start finding solutions is to listen to the indigenous fisher with first-hand experience, she said.

Correia will be staying in Winnipeg after university -- her sisters, both Portuguese citizens, live here with her.

Her 20-year-old sister is a political science student at the U of M and her 13-year-old sister is a French milieu student at Collége Churchill.

"We have very passionate talks about the environment" around the dinner table, Correia said. "You can't do anything without political action -- it's very frustrating."

Correia has joined the parent advisory council at Collége Churchill and hopes to interest the school in working jointly with her on promoting science for girls in the school and getting the students involved in her Antarctic trip and her research.

Meanwhile, Correia is looking for research grants and any help she can get to cover half the cost of going to Antarctica.

"We're focusing on different projects we can collaborate on. Antarctica is one of the best areas to have (measuring) instruments -- there's no radio interference."

And, it goes without saying, Winnipeg is a great place to find a coat that will stand up to Antarctica.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca