A video call to the South Pole: Students talk with researchers in the coldest place on Earth

Located at the geographic South Pole on the Antarctic plateau, the Global Monitoring Laboratory’s (GML) South Pole Observatory resides in one of the most remote locations in the world. With limited and restricted access, it can be difficult for anyone in the United States to imagine what life is like as a researcher in the South Pole.

Two people, one in a NOAA Corps uniform and one in a penguin costume, sit in front of a laptop in a conference room.
LTJG Timothy Holland and Joseph Samaniego, Ph.D., have a virtual chat with students about their life and work in the South Pole. (Josiah Horneman/NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory)

To answer the questions like, “What is working in the South Pole like?” and “How many penguins do researchers see every day?” GML hosted multiple webinars in 2021 to provide a window into their unique environment.

Serving in his 13-month “on-the-ice” experience at the South Pole, GML Technician LTJG Timothy Holland had a 30-minute virtual chat with 60 first and fourth grade students of the Holy Family-Saint Mary’s Catholic School in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he talked about multiple topics including the South Pole’s location, his job there, and where he sees penguins. In addition, LTJG Holland along with Joseph Samaniego, Ph.D., a physical scientist at GML’s South Pole Observatory, participated in NOAA’s “Ask a Scientist” video series to answer questions from students about life in the South Pole. Building on the success of these outreach events, GML’s South Pole Observatory did another event in the spring with elementary through high school students at the Commonwealth Charter Academy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Samaniego discussed the research conducted at the South Pole as well as the challenges of working in an extreme environment, all while dressed up as a penguin!

GML’s South Pole Observatory plans to continue reaching out to students across the country through technicians and scientists, like LTJG Holland and Samaniego, to educate and inspire them to pursue science careers, even at the South Pole!