Global Engineering Engagement plans embedded course with travel to Antarctica

June 29, 2022

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Penn State News. It highlights a new embedded course with travel to Antarctica developed by the Center for Global Engineering in partnership with the College of Agricultural Sciences.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Center for Global Engineering Engagement, Ag Sciences Global and the Environmental Resource Management program in the College of Agricultural Sciences have partnered to develop a new embedded course that will give Penn State students an opportunity to explore Antarctica.

The course, Antarctica: Human Impacts on a Fragile Environment, will be offered in fall 2023. Penn State faculty are working with American Universities International Programs along with the State University of New York-Brockport and Virginia Tech, both of which have previously offered the course. This is the first time Penn State has offered an embedded course with travel to Antarctica. 

“We are excited to offer the opportunity to investigate the impacts of climate change and scientific discoveries in Antarctica to undergraduate students,” said Robert Shannon, program coordinator for the Environmental Resource Management Program. “Antarctica is a true wild area with the potential to transform those who experience the vast white landscape. Chance encounters with whales, penguins and seabirds will be magnificent to see.”

Shannon, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, said the course will provide a broad overview of the continent’s human and natural history. Special attention will be given to Antarctica’s physical and ecological system, human activity in the region, sustainable tourism and the use of fragile polar resources.

During the pre-trip course, students will attend weekly lectures, write two short essays, complete a midterm project and final essay exam and submit an annotate bibliography of their field course readings.

During winter break, the students experience a two-week field excursion, by plane and ship, to Antarctica, where they will explore sites such as the Beagle Channel, which is inhabited by black-browed albatrosses, Magellanic penguins, skuas, different varieties of seagulls and Alakush ducks.

The ship will continue on to the Antarctic Peninsula, where students can view icebergs and land at various points, including coves, inlets, islands and bays. Wildlife is abundant during this season: penguins, seals, whales and orcas are likely to appear during the excursion.

If weather permits, the ship will travel around Cape Horn, the rocky headland on Hornos Island in southern Chili’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage, where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet.

Course participants will be encouraged to join the Sustainable and Accessible Study Abroad initiative, which helps students to incorporate sustainable practices into their study abroad experiences by supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“For students and faculty who are participating in international travel, we want to provide resources about how they can reduce their carbon footprint and minimize their environmental impact when traveling,” said Ketja Lingenfelter, assistant director for student global engagement in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “We are pleased to add Antarctica to our growing portfolio of global learning opportunities.”

Examples of putting the idea of SASA into practice include ERM students collaborating with State College Borough on a rain garden maintenance project. The collaboration also included planting and maintenance at Walnut Springs. Faculty and students are looking forward to partnering with Centre County agencies again this fall on community projects to offset carbon for study abroad.

While planning for the course continues, students interested in learning more can contact Angela Rothrock, Center for Global Engineering Engagement associate director, at arb184@psu.edu, Tammy Shannon, Environmental Resource Management academic advising coordinator, at tmb5352@psu.edu, or Lingenfelter at ketja@psu.edu. More information about the study abroad program is available online.

 

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“Antarctica is a true wild area with the potential to transform those who experience the vast white landscape."

— Robert Shannon, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, College of Agricultural Sciences