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Hurtigruten Group

Dr. Verena Meraldi | Chief Scientist

From making history as the first Chief Scientist across any cruise liner to pioneering and growing the Science & Education program into what it is today, Verena has crafted an iconic legacy—and she's not finished yet.

Creating a Lasting Legacy

Verena is a Swiss/Mexican biologist who was born in Mexico City. She began her scientific career studying biology at the National University (UNAM)—the largest university in Latin America—before moving to the University of Lausanne to complete her PhD in Immunology in 2002. After completing her studies, she started work at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. In 2007, she started working for Hurtigruten as a lecturer and later an explorer consultant. Verena also made her first trip to Antarctica in 2007, not long after she started with Hurtigruten. It was during this visit that she realized how this unique and fragile part of the world has the potential to change public behaviors and attitudes toward protecting our planet. Since this initial sailing to Antarctica, Verena has been one of the driving forces behind Hurtigruten's extensive Science & Education program, and she became the cruise industry’s first Chief Scientist in May 2018.

“As Chief Scientist for Hurtigruten Expeditions, I have had the opportunity to work alongside scientists across different disciplines and get a deeper understanding of the processes governing our planet, and the impact we are having on it. Conveying this to our guests and raising awareness on the need to protect our home is a great motivation and extremely rewarding.”

What is the best thing about your job?

As Hurtigruten Expeditions’ Chief Scientist, it is Verena’s job to further develop and oversee the Science & Education program not only for our guests but for the wider scientific community. When Verena first joined Hurtigruten, the on-board education consisted of lectures on the local wildlife, history, and geography. However, she quickly learned that the guests were hungry for more, and it has been a big focus in her role as Chief Scientist to bring these immersive experiences on board. We now offer specific citizen science projects on board all our expedition cruises, working with third-party organizations like the NASA GLOBE Observer program or Happywhale to support their ongoing research. Another major role of the program is to offer the expedition ships as research platforms where scientists can perform their work while interacting with guests, as well as providing logistical support, for example by transporting research teams and their equipment to some of the world’s remote locations. Due to the success of the research projects, we have been fortunate to see many teams come back on board year after year, building strong relationships and collaborations. By bringing together these two groups, we can support vital research and give life-changing opportunities to all, a testament to the hard work of Verena and her team.

From working alongside organizations on the front line of climate and wildlife research to delivering and planning the on-board science activities, there are many aspects of Verena’s job that she enjoys. But seeing the wonder on our guests’ faces when they discover something they didn’t expect to see, such as phytoplankton under the microscope or spotting a pod of whales for the first time, is the best feeling in the world. This, coupled with their desire to learn more and ongoing commitment to protecting the oceans and environment is both empowering and all the inspiration she needs to build and grow the Science & Education program further.

Other stories

Penguins perched on the ice of Cuverville Island, Antarctica. Credit: Espen Mills / HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

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