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Team Yaqu Pacha Chile

The team of Yaqu Pacha Chile consists of three core members: Sonja Heinrich, Marjorie Fuentes and Cayetano Espinosa who are ably assisted by students and interns in the field. We work closely with international collaborators and currently have various projects on the go. So get in touch with us if you wish to join our small team for an internship, placement or collaboration.

Dr Sonja Heinrich

Research leader

Ecology & conservation of cetaceans

Sonja is the principal investigator of the Chiloé Small Cetacean Project which she initiated in 2001 as part of her PhD at the University of St Andrews, United Kingdom. The Project and her research interests focus on abundance, distribution, ecology and conservation of small cetaceans (and other aquatic mammals). For most of the year Sonja is based at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) in Scotland and is a faculty member in the School of Biology at the University of St Andres where she oversees the taught Master’s programmes including the unique MSc in Marine Mammal Science. 


Cayetano Espinosa

Scientific coordinator

Wildlife health assessment

Cayetano is a veterinarian by training. His work focuses on multidisciplinary research with an emphasis on the conservation of coastal environments. He is currently undertaking his PhD in Conservation Medicine at the Universidad Andres Bello, Santiago de Chile. For his PhD project he is taking an ecoimmunological   perspective to investigate the potential effects of coastal developments  on the skin microbiome and immune functions in small cetaceans. 



Marjorie Fuentes

Outreach & intern coordinator

Community outreach programme

Marjorie graduated as marine biologist from the Universidad de Valparaiso. Currently she is the general project coordinator and is employed by yaqu pacha. Marjorie organises the photo-identification data and looks after our volunteers and interns during the field work season. She also organises most of our educational outreach activities. In 2013, Marjorie was named as one of the "Young Entrepreneurs in Education for Marine Conservation in Chile" by the Consortium of Universities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Chile and United States of America. 

Current postgraduate students

Julia Haywood
MSc student

Julia is from the UK and is currently studying for the MSc in Marine Mammal Science in Scotland. For her Masters thesis she uses long-term sighting data from the Chiloé Small Cetacean Project to investigate the relationship between Chilean dolphins and their habitat in the Chiloé Archipelago, Chile. This will then be used to identify by predictions their suitable habitat in the wider Chiloensis Ecoregion. Conservation and further research efforts can then be focused in these predicted dolphin ‘hotspots’.

Annie Post
MSc student

Annie is from Australia and is currently also studying for the MSc in Marine Mammal Science. She is looking at predicting the likely hotspots of Peale's dolphins across the Chiloensis Ecoregion, using pre-existing information about the relationship between these dolphins and their physical environment. This will allow for future research efforts to be focused on these areas, and also highlight potential areas of overlap with intense anthropogenic activities.

Current undergraduate students

Diego is currently finishing his marine biology degree at the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia. For his thesis he is using CPODs and static passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) to characterise seasonal patterns in habitat use by Chilean dolphins and how that relates  to human activities, such as salmon farming. Static PAM methods have proven to be an affordable and powerful tool in obtaining continuous information on dolphin occurrence throughout the year.

Diego Filún
Marine Biology student

Lea has participated in the Chiloé Small Cetacean Project for the last four years starting off as a volunteer. She is currently working on her bachelor thesis about the social structures of Chilean dolphins in southern Chiloé, evaluating their associative patterns with data collected during boat-based surveys over the past decade. Lea is studying for her BSc in biology degree at the University of Konstanz in southern Germany.

Lea Prox
Biology student

Franchesca is also finishing her marine biology degree at the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia. For his thesis she is investigating the fine-scale movement patterns and behaviour of chilean dolphins in Bahiá Yaldad during summer and autumn. Franchesca uses non-invasive land-based observations (from a 100 m high hillside), theodolite tracking (i.e. using a surveyor's instrument) and GIS (Geographic Information System) to map the dolphins' movements in, out and around Bahiá Yaldad and the extensive mussel farms located there.

Franchesca Sanzana
Marine Biology student


Prof Philip Hammond (University of St Andrews, UK), Dr Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse (UAQ, México), Dr Ricardo Antunes (Wildlife Conservation Society - Ocean Giants Programme, USA), Alexander Coram (University of St Andrews, UK), Carla Christie (Universidad Austral de Chile- UACh), Ignacio Garrido (UACh, Chile).

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