Home South pole ice Auburn University alum prepares for adventure with prestigious Antarctic appointment

Auburn University alum prepares for adventure with prestigious Antarctic appointment


The pursuit of adventure and the desire to achieve a higher purpose drove Auburn alumnus Marc Tunstall through an illustrious career in the military and government agencies, and now takes him around the world. in the frozen tundra of Antarctica.

The 1990 Auburn University graduate has had a varied and meaningful career since his days on the Plains, spending about two decades as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Marines and U.S. Coast Guard and more than 10 years to work as an Aviation Compliance Supervisor for the United States. Office of Aeronautical Services (OAS) of the Ministry of the Interior. Tunstall’s next trip will take him to Antarctica, where he will begin serving as McMurdo Station Manager for the Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics Section of the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs (NSF). ).

Auburn University alumnus Marc Tunstall has been named director of the McMurdo Station in Antarctica by the National Science Foundation. (contributed)

In this role, Tunstall will oversee the day-to-day operations of the station, managing and supporting more than 1,000 scientists and contractors during the Antarctic summer which runs until February. Duties will include overseeing the sewage treatment plant, fire department, dormitories and station dining facilities, supporting and managing the safety of scientists’ field research expeditions. of the NSF and the function of director of the emergency operations center of the station.

In short, Tunstall will be the station leader, which was built in 1955 on bare volcanic rock and is the largest station on the continent. Named for former Vice Admiral Archibald McMurdo of Britain’s Royal Navy, the encampment is the logistical hub for the US Antarctic program and includes a port, ice and pack ice airstrips, and a helicopter pad. The station’s approximately 85 buildings range in size from a small radio shack to large three-story structures and include repair facilities, dormitories, administration buildings, a power plant, a wharf, stores, clubs, warehouses and the first-class Crary laboratory.

He will also oversee logistical and operational decisions that affect program delivery at the South Pole and inland. Tunstall is training with the U.S. Marshals Service to gain certification ahead of his role as the station’s police chief.

Never shy of a challenge, Tunstall thoroughly enjoyed a visit to McMurdo Station in 2014. He’s excited and ready to embark on this challenging journey later this summer.

“I said if I ever had the opportunity to work there permanently professionally and personally, I would jump at the chance,” said Tunstall, who has been based in Anchorage, Alaska, 15 of last 20 years. “Indeed, last November, one arrived. I am very, very lucky and I feel really privileged.

Marc Tunstall spent 10 years flying helicopters for the US Coast Guard after a decade of similar service in the US Marine Corps. (contributed)

Dedication to service, purpose

Tunstall has dedicated his career to serving others, first as a military officer and helicopter pilot, then for the OAS regional office in Alaska. He has served as a technical contracting agent representative for more than 100 commercial contractors, providing services to federal agencies such as forest firefighting, volcano research, wildlife, surveys, and environmental protection. the environment, according to the NSF.

His varied background, Tunstall says, will prove crucial to his new leadership position at the station, which is one of three year-round U.S. Antarctic science facilities. He finds his motivation in the possibility of overseeing projects that make a difference.

“I’m proud to be able to support a larger mission that is something for the greater good,” said Tunstall, who has accumulated more than 5,000 flight hours. “In the Marine Corps, my main job as a helicopter pilot was to support Marine infantry and get them safely from the ship to a maybe not so nice area and back. In the Guard Coastal, it was a question of rescuing people in need or putting the rescue swimmer who was in the back of the helicopter in a position where he could save a life.

“Next, with the Department of the Interior, I worked to support the aviation needs of the National Science Foundation, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. When this opportunity presented itself, I said “absolutely” to the chance to support something like the NSF and all that they do. With a background in emergency operations and unique leadership opportunities, I felt like everything had fallen into place and this was too good an opportunity to pass up.

The new position will suit his adventurous and determined nature, says Tunstall.

“I’ve always wanted to see something new and different and something where I serve a purpose and make a difference, but certainly with a flair for adventure and seeing exciting and different things,” Tunstall said. , a certified flight instructor and commercial pilot.

Solid foundations set the scene

Tunstall fondly recalls his time at Auburn, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in flight management. At this time, the aviation program was part of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and Tunstall divided his time between study and commitment to service through Auburn’s ROTC programs.

“I really enjoyed the aviation management program and ROTC,” he said. “I guess one of the biggest takeaways was meeting new, unique, and diverse people. I wanted to go somewhere out of state to experience something new and unique, and I I really found it in a great way in Auburn, I met some great people and I’m still in touch with some of my roommates.

“One of the lasting impacts has been a sense of belonging and community which in a way led me to the [role of] station manager in Antarctica.

A native of Western New York, Tunstall attended Auburn on an ROTC scholarship, joining the Marines option of Naval ROTC as a midshipman. He went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is enrolled in a Certificate of Management Excellence program at Harvard Business School.

Tunstall’s father, John, served in the United States Army Tank Corps, and his mother, Sally, always encouraged his pursuit of adventure and service. He remembers an affinity for aviation dating back to his childhood, watching Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda in the movie “Midway” and building model airplanes.

“I wanted to be not only a pilot, but a military pilot, from the age of 7,” he said. “My father and my mother helped foster and support this dream. Looking back on it, I feel very lucky to have been able to have the desire to do something from an early age and actually accomplish it.

A father of two, Tunstall passed the same kind of encouragement on to his daughters.

“I truly believe that I have been blessed and that God has a plan laid out for me,” Tunstall said. “I look back and think how grateful I am. I try to share that with people, especially my daughters, and tell them to go out there and no dream is out of reach. Do something something you enjoy doing, and if you can make a difference along the way, even better.

This story originally appeared on the Auburn University website.