A NEW Beith ecologist will head to Antarctica as part of a program to tackle a dearth of women leaders in scientific fields, while also improving the future of the planet.
Justine Murray will take her place alongside a host of other inspirational women on the trip next year.
The expedition will be the high point of the 12-month Homeward Bound leadership program which is already underway.
The program for women from science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine backgrounds aims to give participants leadership skills to help better the planet.
Participants will gather in Argentina before boarding the boat to the Antarctic.
There they will see first-hand the fragile and complex ecosystem which is under real threat from climate change.
"Being so remote, in such an extreme and stunning environment instils a legacy mindset, empowering the women participants to dream bigger and return home with a sense of urgency and a hope for the future," she said.
It will not be a sightseeing trip.
"This is no luxury cruise," Dr Murray said.
"It is meant to challenge you.
"We will address our demons. You can't be a leader if you have your own issues."
Dr Murray is part of the sixth phase of the program. It will eventually take in 1000 women.
The 100 women in the latest intake were selected from about 400 entrants, Dr Murray said.
Hopefuls had to submit a two minute video outlining why they should be picked.
Dr Murray's work in conservation helped her get a place.
Selectors said Dr Murray's expertise in the areas of environmental sustainability and community engagementand her potential to lead and enact change made her a natural choice.
"I am a scientist that has worked for over 10 years in helping local and farming communities to manage their environment effectively," she said.
"However, I do not think we are doing enough. I do not see myself as just a consultant, fixing a problem and moving on without a backwards glance.
"Leadership comes in many forms. I want to empower people from the grassroots to make sustainable choices.
"I want to use my scientific knowledge to educate, and co-partner with local knowledge holders."
She said she wanted people to make better options to safeguard the planet's future.
The CSIRO doctor said that the movement was not about out performing men.
"We are not trying to overtake the men. It's about being equal," she said.
Initially, Dr Murray said she felt imposter syndrome, and questioned her selection alongside astrophysicists, soil scientists and community development experts.
"Every single one of us was looking at each other and saying how did we get picked," she said.
"Each of them are amazing."
Dr Murray needs to raise about $15,000 to board the ship.
You can donate to Dr Murray's trip here