Vreni Häussermann, Ph.D.

Huinay Scientific Field Station
Award Year


Vreni Häussermann is the scientific director of the Huinay Scientific Field Station located in the Comau Fjord in Chilean Patagonia. With a coastline spanning more than 80,000 kilometers, the Chilean fjord region is the most extensive fjord region in the world. The harsh regional climate and remote location have preserved the coastal waters from major human impacts until recently. Fast economic development—including salmon farming, industrial and small-scale fisheries, and infrastructure project—have considerable impact on the marine environment in the Chilean fjord region. The dramatic lack of data for the highly diverse nearshore marine ecosystems inhibits well-founded scientific recommendations for the management of activities that impact marine resources and makes irreparable large-scale management mistakes highly probable. In this situation, the creation of a properly designed network of highly protected marine areas (known as MPAs) provides the most realistic way to prevent major species loss and some compensation for ecosystem degradation in nonprotected areas. Currently, however, there is only one MPA of considerable size in Chilean Patagonia. Häussermann’s Pew fellowship project focused on the generation, compilation, and communication of data that will inform and support the establishment of a network of MPAs to protect unique marine ecosystems in southern Chile. She facilitated the application of an innovative approach in which a software for conservation planning, MARXAN, was utilized to detect the most problematic gaps in knowledge and data. In turn, new information gathered through the project has filled knowledge gaps to support arguments in favor of the establishment of MPAs. Key information was prepared for, distributed to, and discussed with decision-makers, nongovernmental organizations, and the general public. Häussermann worked to increase awareness and appreciation of fjord biodiversity and the importance of sustainable management, conservation, and, in particular, MPAs as inherent parts of spatial planning in the “Wild South” of Chile. To learn more about Häussermann, visit her bio online: http://vreni.anthozoa.info/homepagevreni.

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