In April, Corey Allard became the first North­eastern Uni­ver­sity under­grad­uate to work on co-​​op in Antarc­tica. Now back on campus, he is reflecting on his tremen­dous oppor­tu­nity to con­duct sig­nif­i­cant climate-​​change research in an envi­ron­ment unlike any­where on Earth.

The overall expe­ri­ence was def­i­nitely worth it,” said Allard, a bio­chem­istry major now in his fourth year at Northeastern.

Allard impressed pro­fessor William Detrich’s biology class on Nov. 1 with a pre­sen­ta­tion about his expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity at the bottom of the world. Det­rich, who has trav­eled to Antarc­tica to con­duct research many times, accom­pa­nied Allard in the early months of his co-​​op. Click here for a video about Allard’s co-​​op.

Allard also impressed another guest in the class, Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun, who lauded his efforts and encour­aged stu­dents in atten­dance to pursue sim­ilar expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties around the world.

It is an incred­ible oppor­tu­nity to go on a global co-​​op,” Aoun told the class. “Take advan­tage of it. It is really transformational.”

Allard, who was based at Palmer Sta­tion on the Antarctic Penin­sula, studied the impact of the ocean’s rising tem­per­a­ture on the devel­op­ment of embryos in dif­ferent types of fish — focusing on changes in how cer­tain genes are expressed. During his studies, he brought the fish embryos to the higher tem­per­a­tures that they are expected to face 50 to 100 years from now, hoping to pre­dict how these organ­isms will react.

We know the cli­mate in Antarc­tica is changing rapidly,” said Allard. “So what we want to know is how organ­isms that have lived there for a very long time will be able to respond to these changes.”

For example, warmer water tem­per­a­tures may accel­erate embry­onic devel­op­ment, causing fish to hatch before food is readily avail­able, he said.

Allard admitted to feeling worn down some days in the deep winter — when there were only three hours of day­light — and he described moments of frus­tra­tion when the fish ini­tially weren’t breeding, and thus couldn’t pro­vide him with embryos. But he said these moments were far out­weighed by unique lab expe­ri­ence he gained, as well those awestruck moments admiring the Antarctic environment.

Allard recalled hiking on glac­iers, wit­nessing a mag­nif­i­cent seven-​​layer rainbow, and observing a colony of 20,000 Gentoo penguins.

He said the expe­ri­ence has made him more con­fi­dent and inde­pen­dent, and it helped him solidify his future research goals as he looks to pursue his PhD. He already can’t wait to return to the frozen continent.

Now I feel much more con­fi­dent about the choices I want to make,” Allard said.