Senior at Austin’s Ann Richards School to join Antarctic expedition


She’s trading in her cowboy boots for snowshoes.

Lucia Hruby, a senior at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, next month will embark on an 11-day trip to Antarctica to learn about polar science. The 17-year-old Texan is one of four U.S. students chosen from among 250 applicants for the Joint Antarctic School Expedition, an educational science program of the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Chilean Antarctic Institute.

Hruby (the H is silent) will join students from California, New York and North Carolina as well as a group of Chilean students for the expedition Dec. 9-20. The program aims to develop the students’ awareness of global scientific issues while building relationships in the next generation of scientists from the two countries.

“What I am most excited about is just to see how things have changed, how global warming has changed the Antarctic compared to how I imagine,” Hruby said. “I’m also excited to partner with the Chilean students and to make long-lasting connections with them.”

This is the third time U.S. students have joined the expedition. The first was in 2014.

Students were chosen from their responses on seven short-answer essays, including their interest in science, their Spanish background (to communicate with the Chilean students), different school projects they’ve participated in and why they wanted to join the expedition.

Growing up, Hruby spent summers with her maternal grandmother in Saltillo, Coahuila, where the immersion built upon her vocabulary. Last summer, she traveled to the Dominican Republic as a volunteer Spanish interpreter for a medical clinic that provides health care to a small village.

Hruby and her counterpart in New York will give a presentation to the Chileans in Spanish on the effect global warming has had on permafrost, permanently frozen soil.

For the past four years in school, Hruby has been studying different areas of engineering. She’s learned how to build a greenhouse, and has worked with circuits and computer-aided design software. However, she said the school offers few classes in environmental science, “something that has always interested me,” so the Antarctic trip will help fill that gap. She said the trip will help her determine whether she wants to study environmental science in college, as well as see firsthand what research is underway.

Among other activities, Hruby and the other students will study animal behavior, such as that of seals and penguins, at Elefanteras beach and on the Ardley Peninsula; tour international science facilities; and collect data on vegetation surveys at the margin of Collins Glacier, where mosses and algae could be found in the ice.

Hruby will miss all of her finals and might need to make up the school days on weekends, but she said her teachers and school are supportive of her adventure.

The average temperature in Antarctica in December (summer there) is in the low 30s, a tad brisk for Hruby. “It’s their summertime right now, but I was born and raised in Austin, so I’m a little worried about the cold.” She’s attempting to break in a new pair of hiking boots around the house and will have long underwear and heavy jackets in tow.


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