A Last Thought from Charlton Shackleton

Executive Director of the Shackleton Research Trust

When I was a child, my father shared stories of the Heroic Age of the Antarctic Exploration. His narrations covered the exploits of Scott, the great race to the South Pole of Amundsen, and the many efforts of Sir Ernest Shackleton. I believe this was his way of inspiring me to follow our ancestor’s path by teaching me concepts of dedication, perseverance, and inclusivity. These stories brought to life individuals pushed to their limits, forced to rely on each other, and operating with little in the way of creature comforts or technology that we take for granted today.  My father’s stories highlighted these explorers’ outstanding achievements and those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Their feats by anyone's standards were and are amazing. They inspired me to realize for one to do something monumental, one has to act.


My desire in this life is to leave the world better than I found it and see where I can make a difference. Through my global education, travels, and work, I have met and engaged with truly fascinating and talented individuals from varying socioethnic backgrounds. However, as I got to know people, one repeating and emerging theme that seemed to stifle innovation and growth was the marginalization of some of the brightest minds. Those with historical knowledge, those who did not have the means or did not look like the so-called majority, seemed to be systematically excluded from the table. From these challenges, the seeds were formed that led to the creation of the Shackleton Research Trust (SRT).


Our goals at SRT include fostering the growth of collective knowledge, providing a global platform to increase the voices of underrepresented minorities of science, and empowering the next generation of problem solvers who will change the face of research and adapt to it. One of the ways we look to foster dialogue is through the development of Poplar & Ivy, the quarterly scientific communication platform of the SRT. 


This fall, 2021 marks the first issue of Poplar & Ivy and addresses the concept of decolonization of science. Thinking back on the stories my father shared and the colonial powers who spurred the race to the Poles, I see the inspiration for the next generation to follow. To take on some of the most daunting challenges that face us in the 21st century, we need to rethink how we collaborate, ensuring that all voices have a place as we seek to deal with ever more complex and far reaching problems. 


In some ways, we are still living under the 19th-century colonial construct in the way we approach problem-solving. The first step in understanding the biases of colonization in science is to discuss and address the subject. Scientific research shouldn’t just benefit the researchers; local scientists and citizens deserve to have a voice and benefit from the research on their land. I am optimistic we can combine the relevant lessons of the past with today’s collective innovation for a brighter tomorrow for all stakeholders. 

"Optimism is the true moral courage." - Sir Ernest Shackleton