Vreni Häussermann

2016 Laureate, Exploration
Germany, Chile, Born 1970


Project Goal

Marine exploration to protect Patagonia's fjords 

Location: Patagonia, Chile

“I have learned patience here. Things don’t always go to plan, so you always have to have a plan B.”

Mass deaths of whales, fish, shellfish, jellyfish and corals were a red light to Vreni Häussermann. There was something terribly amiss in the supposedly “pristine” fjords of remotest Patagonia. The scuba-diving marine biologist has studied the ecology of Chile’s most isolated and rugged region for two decades: ranging from highly saline to totally fresh water, from bright sunshine to gloomy shadow, it harbours a teeming variety of life. Yet now it is under threat from encroaching human exploitation, she warns. Using a submarine robot, Häussermann will document and film this unexplored life to depths of 500 metres, creating a baseline for its conservation and presenting her discoveries to world science, government and the public, to inspire Chile’s nascent environmental movement and promote the implementation of a network of Marine Protected Areas.

US$3.5 billion

Annual export earnings in US dollars from Chile’s salmon industry.


Dead sei whales discovered by Häussermann’s team on a 2015 expedition.

Other 2016 Laureates