Growing up in northern Germany, Katrin Iken loved science. “Even as a small child I loved to be outside, exploring nature and being with animals. In school I became very interested in biology and wanted to know more about biology, life and nature. And was most fascinated by ecology -- how do organisms manage to live in a certain environment and with each other? “My curiosity wasn’t satisfied after a few years at university, so I decided to go on with research and to explore more of it myself.”
That thirst for knowledge has now taken Iken, 35, three times to Antarctica. In her fourth trip, now a post-doctoral student at UAB, Iken is continuing her passion for studying ecology amidst the vast bio-diversity at Palmer Station. The closer the departure comes the more excited I am getting about it,” she said. “We are interested in how life and living together is organized in this polar environment. There are many climatic, hydrographic and biological features unique to the Antarctic, and it is important for our overall understanding to learn how life is possible there.”
And although Iken has been twice before, she’s far from bored in earth’s final frontier. “I am still as fascinated by the Antarctic as on the first day I went there. It’s like a virus, once you have it you cannot get rid of it,” she said.
“Antarctica is such a fascinating place in many respects. It is not just the cold and icy place many people may think of. It is spacious, quiet, clear air – in a way it is untouched, even at the places where humans have set their foot.”
A diving and hiking enthusiast, Iken has prepared for the trip by seeking diving certification and a medical clearance, “a huge part of our preparation.”
She also thinking about what to take both for research and for personal needs, she said. “There are no shops down there!”