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### Studying Abroad in Antarctica: Insights from an ASU Student from Yuma

Julysa Urrutia, a sophomore at Arizona State University (ASU), discusses the impact of climate change on wildlife

In Yuma, Arizona, Julysa Urrutia, a second-year student at ASU, specializing in pre-veterinary science, recounts her transformative journey studying abroad in Antarctica.

Reflecting on her voyage lasting approximately three and a half days, Urrutia vividly describes the challenging passage through the notorious drake passage, known for its turbulent waters. Despite the arduous journey, she successfully reached Antarctica unscathed.

Driven by her passion for marine life, Urrutia’s decision to explore Antarctica was fueled by the allure of its diverse marine wildlife, including orcas, humpback whales, and penguins. She expresses profound fascination with observing these creatures in their natural habitat and studying their interactions within the ecosystem.

During her expedition, Urrutia recounts a captivating encounter with a pod of orcas. As she and her companions observed these majestic creatures from a distance, the orcas gradually approached their vessel, engaging in mesmerizing displays of behavior, including mating rituals—an awe-inspiring sight that left a lasting impression on Urrutia.

In a lighthearted moment, Urrutia shares an intriguing fact about penguins, highlighting the less glamorous aspects of their existence, such as their distinctive odor resulting from the absence of cleaners in their environment and their unique regurgitation behavior.

Witnessing the protective instincts of penguins towards their offspring, Urrutia recounts an incident where she observed birds attempting to pilfer penguin eggs, underscoring the delicate balance of nature in the Antarctic ecosystem.

Transitioning to a more serious tone, Urrutia delves into the profound impact of climate change on Antarctica, noting the unexpected warmth she experienced in a region traditionally associated with extreme cold. This observation led her to contemplate the stark reality of global warming and its implications for the fragile Antarctic environment.

Urrutia also sheds light on the significance of phytoplankton in the Antarctic food chain, emphasizing their role in carbon sequestration and their vital position as a primary food source for krill and subsequently, penguins. Her firsthand experience in studying phytoplankton using specialized filtration equipment provided her with a deeper understanding of these microscopic organisms’ critical role in sustaining Antarctic wildlife.

Recounting a daring plunge into icy waters, Urrutia humorously describes the intense sensation of cold water against her skin, an experience she views as a one-time feat, granting her unique bragging rights.

Inspired by her Antarctic expedition, Urrutia expresses her eagerness to pursue further study abroad opportunities, including a prospective program in Africa focused on wildlife conservation and sustainability—a new chapter in her educational journey filled with anticipation and excitement.