Access Chile | An Adventure Science Series

Hello!

My name is Eylene Pirez; Physicist, world traveler, photographer, explorer and mountaineer.

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As a physicist, I dedicated myself to a decade of research, working on particle accelerators, working with NASA, burning through countless nights in the lab. I was fueled by curiosity and a love of knowledge. Growing up in communist Cuba, every bit of information that reached me was warped and filtered to preserve the political agenda. When I left the island and came to America in 2001, I was awestruck by the opportunities afforded by my newfound freedom.

Over the course of my adult life, I pursued every sport, topic, hobby and global excursion that grabbed my interest. I had an unquenchable desire to learn by experience. After failing at most of my pursuits, I somehow conned myself into becoming an 'adventurer'. I played roller derby in Los Angeles, I rafted rapids in Costa Rica, I built fires with a nomadic tribe, I traversed glaciers, I captured golden hour sunsets over the sand dunes of the Sahara desert, and I climbed mountains.

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Purposeful Adventure

Access Chile is a new approach to education that brings together the spirit behind human exploration and science to create an adventure with purpose. For this next adventure with Access Chile, I chose two of the most fragile ecosystems on Earth: The Atacama Desert and Patagonia. Atacama, unflinchingly flat and fringed by the Andes, sits at 8,000 feet above sea level. With less than 1cm of rainfall last year, it is the world's driest desert. Patagonia, a world of fjords and ice, is a stark contrast to Atacama. The glaciers in Patagonia are melting at non-glacial speeds. Almost no place on Earth is tied to as many scientific questions as these two ecosystems. Chile is more than a travel destination. It is a science lab.

The goal is to create a series of episodes, each containing a current research topic in these locations. Each episode will document a unique and educational travel experience. Some of the topics I will document include current astronomical research, at-risk wildlife ecosystems, climate change, and archaeology. I will spend 3 months in Chile living in the desert and in Patagonia. I will summit 3 peaks above 22,000 feet above sea level including a solo ascent to Aconcagua, the tallest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas.

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There’s Work to Be Done by All of Us

Between political, environmental and social issues, we have no shortage of work to do on this planet. Many of the efforts to tackle these important issues are confined to offices and labs. Several current topics are not even part of the school curriculum. Those outside of academia are left to read whatever makes it to the general public, often delivered without a call to action. With Access Chile, I will focus on granting access to knowledge and geographical locations while promoting solutions and active ways to get involved.

NICHOLAS MOHNACKY