Meet Melissa Cristina Márquez a wildlife educator and marine scientist whose research focuses on the habitat use and media portrayal of Chondrichthyan (sharks, stingrays, skates, and chimaeras). She voyaged to Antarctica as part of HB4 and shares her experience.  Read more…

Dr Deborah O'Connell member of HB3 faculty in Antarctica

Melissa Cristina Márquez from #TeamHB4. Credit: Supplied

Can you describe how you applied the leadership skills that you developed as part of the Homeward Bound initiative?

Homeward Bound really taught me how to network better, as well as become a better speaker, a more empathetic speaker to different points of view around the world, and also it just made me more aware of what’s happening in Antarctica. So, I’ve definitely used quite a lot of the skills that I’ve gotten from Homeward Bound in my everyday life.

Which three words would you use to best describe your experience with the Homeward Bound leadership initiative?

I think I would say, empowering, efficient and eye opening.

What were your biggest takeaways from the program?

I think probably the biggest takeaway that I’ve had is the community. Granted, the leadership skills that we got were absolutely incredible, but the community that we’ve built in Homeward Bound, especially in our cohort, I think is really special. We talk to each other every day. Not every single person, but the community. We share the highs, we share the lows, and I think that’s really, really special, and not something that you see around the world. So, you know, the leadership, and the social media skills and the networking skills are all vastly important, but I think the community is the best thing that you get out of Homeward Bound, because you never know how that community is going to help you with all of those things.

HB3 Dr Deborah O'Connell in a faculty session onboard the HB3 voyage

Photo: Melissa on her Antarctica Voyage with Homeward Bound in 2019. Credit: Supplied

What are some of your favourite memories from the voyage?

I think all of us gathering around the boat to see the ‘sunsets’, because the sun never actually sets, this was really special. And the memories around that was something that I hold close to my heart because we had some really good conversations. I got close to a lot of people there. Yeah, it’s that time spent just enjoying nature is probably my fondest memory.

The sun must be pretty amazing.

Yeah, it’s pretty disorienting. There were a few nights that a few of us stayed up a little bit too late. We’re like, oh, you know, it’s probably only like 9pm. And we look and it’s three o’clock in the morning.

Is there any advice you have for current participants in the leadership program traveling to Antarctica in November?

I think my biggest suggestion would be for the leadership portion of the group, take your time with the leadership component. I’ve got a few friends who are in this upcoming voyage. You go through a lot of material, but also, there’s a lot of sessions and you can feel quite vulnerable. So, take your time with it pace yourself. It is definitely a shedding of your old self and rebirth into your new self and that can be a lot for a lot of people.

Just take it easy and bring some familiarities and comfort from home. I brought along pictures of my loved ones and a stuffed animal that one of my friends had given me and some letters from family. So, take advantage of being in this really immersive group,  take your time. As for the Antarctica aspect of it, ask people who’ve been there before, what they brought and what helped them.

But also, just enjoy it. Not many people get to go to Antarctica. And with how things are, we don’t really know how Antarctica is going to look in the next couple of years. So, enjoy it and hopefully seeing her inspires you to fight for her just as it’s inspired many of us to fight for her.

Half Moon Island HB1 supplied

Photo:  Post Polar Plunge, #TeamHB4. Credit: Supplied

Who and how do you keep in contact with the women you met and worked with during the voyage and the leadership program?

We’ve got quite a few different people that we keep in contact with, our group is quite tight. We have our own group chat, the Latin American group has their own chat, and I still keep in contact with them. The US sector of the group also has their own chat, and I’m a part of that. So yeah, I still keep in contact with quite a lot of people from my group. You make some really lifelong friends through Homeward Bound.

Read more about Melissa

Read more about the HB4 voyage

Interview by Rochelle Xie & Carissa Tran