Kim Sarah Bernard

When Americans begin saluting the sun after an icy winter Kim Bernard, an assistant marine biology professor at Oregon State University, starts digging out her extreme-weather gear in preparation for a very different summer. Pietermaritzburg-born Bernard, who holds a PhD in Marine Biology from Rhodes, spends her summers at the United States Palmer Station on the Western Antarctic Peninsula. A typical day is spent in a small inflatable boat, engulfed by the stark beauty of this remote tundra. Bernard’s research focuses on the impact of climate change on polar ecosystems and informs international marine management. Professionally, she is proudest of having presented her research to former US Vice-President Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project team when they visited the station in 2012. Braving the glacial Antarctic water and swimming across the narrow Hero Inlet in the company of leopard seals was, however, her most invigorating task. — Taryn Mackay