Environmental Initiatives



Vreni Häussermann is the scientific director of the Huinay Scientific Field Station located in the Comau Fjord in Chilean Patagonia and operated by the Huinay Foundation (scientifically affiliated with the Catholic University of Valparaiso). Under her direction, the Huinay Scientific Field Station has developed into one of the most productive research facilities in the Chilean fjord region. Together with her husband Günter Försterra, Häussermann is in charge of promoting and carrying out multi-disciplinary research that is needed to facilitate conservation and sustainable resource management in this region. As a biologist, she is dedicated to baseline research projects such as species inventories and studies of patterns in biological diversity through space and time. Häussermann organized and directed several international SCUBA expeditions to remote areas of the Chilean fjord region, which led to the discovery of dozens of new benthic, or bottom dwelling, species and entire new marine communities.

As a classification expert, or taxonomist, Häussermann has contributed to several identification guides and was the organizer and main editor of the book Marine Benthic Fauna of Chilean Patagonia, the first marine field guide for multiple groups of organisms in the fjord region. Her work includes sea anemones, which are difficult to identify because they have soft bodies and no hard structures that persist when being preserved for scientists to describe. While older classifications of anemones are based on the dissection of dead organisms and are complicated and often ambigious, Häussermann has developed new techniques using features of live anemones that make identification possible for even non-specialists.


Through her work for the Huinay Foundation she is active in counselling governmental and non-governmental organisations on conservation and proper marine resource management and brings research results not only to the scientific community, but also to decision makers, industry representatives, fishermen and the broader public. In 2006, her team developed and submitted a proposal for a marine protected area (MPA) in two fjords with unique cold-water coral banks. Häussermann initiated several international research networks like Young Anthozoologists and the Fjord Research Network. She is co-founder of the Chilean initiative Foro Pacífico Patagónico and has contributed to international initiatives such as the Census of Marine Life, the Discover Life program, Mission Blue and Google Ocean.


Häussermann received her diploma in biology and her Ph.D. in marine zoology in 2004 from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. In 2005 she was the winner of the International Hintelmann Award for outstanding research in taxonomy.




Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany, undergraduate studies (Vordiplom), 1992, biology
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany, graduate studies (Diplom), 1998, ecology
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany, PhD, 2004, marine zoology

Founder of „Young Anthozoologists“ (www.anthozoa.com, since 2003), co-founder of Fjord Research
Network (www.fjord-research.net, since 2004); Association of German Biologists (VdBiol, since 2000)
Society for Systematic Biology (GfBS, since 2001), Census of Marine Life (COML, since 2002), German
Female Academics (DAB, since 2002), WWF (since 1989)

International Hintelmann Award for Outstanding Taxonomic Research (2005)
Award “VI Premios Europeos de Medio Ambiente a la Empresa” to Endesa for outstanding achievements of the Huinay Scientific Field Station under the directorship of V. Häussermann; Spain (2004)
Poster Award at the 5th Annual meeting of the GfBS (2002)
Award for the best poster at the 4th Annual meeting of the GfBS (2001)



- Häussermann, V. (2003): Redescription of Oulactis concinnata (Drayton in Dana, 1846) (Cnidaria:
Anthozoa), an actiniid sea anemone from Chile and Perú with special fighting tentacles; with a
preliminary revision of the genera with a „frond-like” marginal ruff. Zoologische Verhandelingen
Leiden 345, 173-208
- Försterra, G. and Häussermann, V. (2003): First report on large scleractinian (Cnidaria: Anthozoa)
accumulations in cold-temperate shallow water of south Chilean fjords. Zoologische Verhandelingen
Leiden 345, 117-128.
- Häussermann, V. (2004): The sea anemone genus Actinostola Verrill, 1883: variability and utility of
traditional taxonomic features; and a re-description of Actinostola chilensis McMurrich, 1904. Polar
Biology 28: 26-28 (Erratum published in 2005)
- Häussermann, V. (2004): Identifications and taxonomy of soft-bodied hexacorals: problems, their
consequences and solutions exemplified by Chilean species; with a protocol for sampling,
preservation and examination of sea anemones. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the
UK 84: 931-936
- Cairns, S., Häussermann, V. and Försterra, G. (2005): A review of the Scleractinia (Cnidaria:
Anthozoa) of Chile, with the description of two new species. Zootaxa 1018: 15-46
- Försterra, G., Beuck, L., Häussermann, V. and Freiwald, A. (2005): Shallow water Desmophyllum
dianthus (Scleractinia) from Chile: characteristics of the biocenoses, the bioeroding community,
heterotrophic interactions and (palaeo)-bathymetrical implications. In: Freiwald, A., Roberts, J. M.
(eds.): Cold-water corals and ecosystems. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 937-977
- Schrödl, M., Alarcón, M.-A., Bedriñana, L. R., Bravo, F. J., Bustamante, C. M. Carvalho, R.,
Försterra, G., Gallardo, C., Häussermann, V. and Salmen, A. (2005): Nudipleura (Gastropoda:
Opisthobranchia) from the southern Chilean Comau Fjord, with redescription of Polycera priva
Marcus, 1959. Vita Malacologica 3: 23-33
- van Ofwegen, L., Häussermann, V. and Försterra, G. (2006): A new genus of soft coral (Octocorallia:
Alcyonacea: Clavulariidae) from Chile. Zootaxa 1219: 47-57.
- Häussermann, V. (2006): Biodiversity of Chilean sea anemones (Cnidaria: Anthozoa): distribution
patterns and biogeographic implications; including new records for the fjord region. Investigaciones
Marinas (Valparaiso) 34 (2): 23-35.
- Galea, Horia, Försterra, Günter, and Häussermann, Verena (2007): Additions to the hydroids
(Cnidaria: Hydrozoa) from the fjords region of southern Chile. Zootaxa 1650: 55-68.
- Försterra, Günter & Verena Häussermann (2008): Unusual symbiotic relationships between
microendolithic phototrophic organisms and azooxanthellate Scleractinia from Chilean fjords. Marine
Ecology Progress Series 370: 121-125.
- Häussermann, Verena and Försterra, Günter (2008): A new species of sea anemone from the Chilean
fjord region, Paraisanthus fabiani (Actiniaria: Isanthidae), with a discussion of the family Isanthidae
Carlgren, 1938. Zootaxa 1897: 27-42.
- Sinniger, Frederik and Häussermann, Vreni (2009): Zoanthids (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Zoanthidae) from
shallow water of the southern Chilean fjord region with the description of a new genus and two new
species. Organisms Diversity and Evolution 9: 23-36.
- Lagger, Cristián, Tatián, Marcos, Häussermann, Vreni and Försterra, Günter (2009): Ascidians
(Chordata; Ascidiacea) from the southern Chilean Comau Fjord. Spixiana 32 (2): 173-185.

Edited Books
Häussermann, V. & Försterra, G. (eds.) (2009): Marine Benthic Fauna of Chilean Patagonia, Nature in Focus,
Santiago de Chile, 1000 pp.


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