The world was Irene Bernasconi’s oyster, or perhaps she would say starfish. Argentina’s first echinoderm specialist, who spent more than 50 years researching sea stars and other marine life, is honoured in today’s Doodle. She led the first Argentinean marine biology trip to Antarctica on this day in 1968.
On September 29, 1896, Bernasconi was born in La Plata, Argentina. In 1918, she graduated as a teacher with a focus on natural sciences, and in the early 1920s, she started working at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences. In 1925, she published her first piece of original research on mollusks and other marine invertebrates.
At the age of 72, Bernasconi led the first journey to the Arctic from Argentina. She travelled to Antarctica with three other female scientists to investigate the biodiversity of the continent close to the South Pole.
Over the course of the journey, Bernasconi and her crew gathered more than 2,000 echinoderm specimens from the ecosystem of Antarctica, in addition to plant life and other live material. In order to achieve this, they set up nets and hooks in icy waters using diving equipment. The main find of the expedition was a new echinoderm family in the Arctic.
The team received a memorial medal in 1969 from the Embassy of Women in America. The National Directorate for Antarctica, the Argentine Antarctic Institute, and the Naval Hydrographic Service also honoured Bernasconi and her crew for their achievements on International Women’s Day in 2018, which also occurred to be the 50th anniversary of the polar trip. With the creation of Bernasconi Cove, her name was added to Argentine maps of Antarctica.
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