Brigham Young University-Hawaii's assistant professor Spencer Ingley has been selected for an all-expenses-paid trip to further research on how pollution and plastics are affecting far-off regions of the world.  

The trip is sponsored by Ocean Conservancy and Airbnb and will take Ingley, along with four other researchers, to Antarctica and Chile to research microploastics and forestry issues. 

More than 140,000 people applied for the excursion, and Ingley was among the just five selected. During the month-long expedition, he’ll attend training in Chile, fly to Antarctica, collect snow samples, visit and explore the South Pole and return to Chile to finish the study. 

In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Ingley talked about his background in biology research, his passion for environmental stewardship, and the awareness he hopes to raise through the trip. 

“[The] thing I’m most excited about for this sabbatical—it's another opportunity to share that passion that I have for being a good steward of our environment,” he said of the trip. 

Ingley said he’s been interested in wildlife conservation from a very young age. That mindset of conservation became even more entrenched during his undergraduate studies in Florida. 

That passion then became specifically focused on marine conservation research during his time at BYU-Hawaii. 

The “Antarctica Sabbatical” that Ingley’s been selected to attend was actually brought to his attention by one of his students, on the very day the application was due. 

“I saw it immediately as an opportunity to reach an even broader audience and talk about the issues related to plastic pollution,” Ingley said. 

The professor said he was shocked to find out he was selected, especially considering his last-minute application. He’s excited to visit Antarctica—a global hot-spot for conservationists. 

The group Ingley will be traveling with will be doing forestry studies in a national park in Chile, before heading south to Antarctica to research how global marine pollution is affecting the continent. 

“What I hope that this trip shows is that individual decisions that we make on a daily basis, no matter where we are, can have impacts that are really, really wide-reaching,” Ingley said, describing what he hopes the research will accomplish. 

He also said many people don’t understand how their consumption and activity can have an impact on the global environment, explaining that surely if pollution is found in Antarctica, it’s being caused by people very far away.