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Austin documentary filmmaker journeys to Antarctica to study climate change thanks to surprise grant

(Courtesy of Amal Morse)

Austinite Amal Morse says she’s just a “concerned human being” when it comes to climate change, but Grape-Nuts Cereal says she’s a woman changing the world.

A documentary filmmaker who focuses on the effects of climate change in Antarctica, Morse was able to travel to Earth’s southernmost continent in March, with the help of a grant from Grape-Nuts’ Female Pioneers program and a GoFundMe campaign.

Morse was one of nine women given the grant, in honor of the brand’s 125th anniversary and history of funding exploration efforts, though she never applied and didn’t know until the money showed up on her GoFundMe.

Morse sitting next to a penguin in Antarctica. (Courtesy of Amal Morse)

“It was really a very pleasant surprise,” Morse said. “It was really an honor because they have a history of sponsoring big explorers throughout the century—in the 1930s, they sponsored Admiral Byrd’s historic expedition. This time they decided to honor and support women who are going on amazing journeys… and it was just amazing to be part of that.”

As a longtime advocate for climate change tired of the relatively small impacts of his recycling and composting, Morse said she was inspired by Antarctica preservationist Robert Swan’s TED Talk to make the trek. Morse raised $17,111 of her $19,000 goal—$12,500 of which came from Grape-Nuts—and joined Swan’s 2041ClimateForce expedition from March 16-29.

“I wanted to firsthand see the impact of climate change on Antarctica and get the knowledge and the tools I need to become an agent of change,” Morse said. “While small action is better than no action, it really seems insignificant in the face of what we are experiencing right now.”

Morse pictured with 2041 ClimateForce founder Robert Swan. (Courtesy of Amal Morse)

Morse is currently in the research phase of her second documentary, which she said will share some of the things she learned during her 13 days of lectures from renowned climate experts, workshops and expeditions.

One thing that gave her hope was learning about krill, shrimp-like crustaceans that serve as a major food source for larger fish and also as a carbon sink, since they eat carbon-capture algae on the surface of the water.

When it’s all said and done, Morse said she hopes to make a trip to space to learn more about caring for the only planet humans have. She said she hopes to travel back to Antarctica for some time after next year for research, this time for months rather than days.

“I've always found it a fascinating place because it's really not usually on the minds of people in their day-to-day life,” Morse said. “An animal so small like that has so big of an impact and any decline in their population can have far-reaching effects. That means that our individual actions count and we have to be mindful of them if we want to protect our planet and our species.”


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