Team Latin America

The YAQU PACHA Latin America - South America Team

Prof. Eduardo Secchi

Prof. Eduardo Secchi Yaqu Pacha Team Latin America franciscana delfin

In 1989, I was in the second year of my studies in Oceanography and I decided to dedicate myself to the study of marine mammals in South America. At the end of 1991, I received my degree from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande FURG (Federal University of Rio Grande) in Rio Grande, southern Brazil. From 1991 to 1999, I was head of the Marine Mammal Laboratory at the "Museu Oceanográfico" (Oceanographic Museum) of FURG, and since 1992/93, I have been leading a long-term project to assess the impact of bycatch on the Franciscana dolphin. Both my Master's degree (1999 at FURG) and PhD (2006 at the University of Otago in New Zealand) and my postdoctoral fellowship at Flinders University (Australia - 2014) focused on the population dynamics and viability of the Franciscana. For this research, I was awarded the first prize for the best research paper on aquatic mammal conservation in South America in 2000 and the Oliver Peason's Award from the American Society for Mammalogy in 2007. In parallel, I have led several research projects on the ecology and conservation of other marine megafauna species and their ecosystems in Brazil and Antarctica. These medium- and long-term projects have resulted in more than 160 publications in peer-reviewed journals and many other non-peer-reviewed papers. These publications provided contributions to genetics, population dynamics, fisheries interactions, stock identity, modeling, and other areas relevant to the conservation of these species and their habitat. My mid-term goal is to propose measures to reduce the impact of fishing-related mortality on the fate of Franciscana and other coastal cetacean and bottlenose dolphin populations, while enabling local communities to sustain their livelihoods through responsible use of natural resources (in this case, fish). My long-term goal is to better understand the dynamics, habitat requirements, and threats to other marine megafauna species and to identify trends in the Franciscana dolphin and other species. My ultimate goal is to build capacity in human resources. Since 2006, I have been a professor at the Institute of Marine Science at FURG, and I also direct the Laboratory of Ecology and Conservation of Marine Megafauna(ECOMEGA) at the same university, where I have supervised several undergraduate, master's, doctoral, and postdoctoral students from Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. From 2002 to 2007, I was Editor-in-Chief (now Editor Emeritus) of the Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals and serve as an ad hoc reviewer for many scientific journals in Brazil and abroad. I was president of the Latin American Society of Aquatic Mammals - SOLAMAC (2015-2016). I am a member of the Cetacean Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1997, Level 1 Research Fellow of the Brazilian Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Vice Rector for Research and Graduate Studies at FURG since 2017, and currently Chair of the Conservation Committee of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Dr. MSc. Juliana Couto Di Tullio

Dr. MSc. Juliana Couto Di Tullio Yaqu Pacha Team Latin America delfin

Juliana is a biologist who has been studying marine mammals in South America since 2002. During her studies, she participated in several expeditions to Antarctica to study the ecology of elephant seals and the distribution of stranded beaked whales in the Southwest Atlantic, which was also the subject of her monograph. Juliana completed her Master's degree in Biological Oceanography at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG), Brazil, where she studied bottlenose dolphin habitat use and potential overlap with artisanal fisheries in the Patos Lagoon estuary and coastal areas. She is currently working on the bottlenose dolphin project and is also involved in a humpback whale project in Antarctica. Since 2009, Juliana has also been working on a new project aimed at describing the distribution of marine mammal species and their relationship with oceanographic variables on the continental slope in southern Brazil. She has experience in photo-identification, biopsy, range-finding, and GIS analyses.

Lília Fidélix

Lília Fidélix Ecomega FURG Team franciscana delfin South America

Lília Fidélix, has a degree in Environmental Management.
She started in 1996 as a volunteer at the Toninhas Project or Franciscana and since she lives in the fishing community of Barra, Brazil, she became the link between the university and the fishermen. After 3 years, she joined the Ecomega FURG Group, where she has worked as a laboratory technician for 27 years. Since 1999, she has been financially supported by YAQU PACHA to work in the laboratory and participate in all activities, whether it is monitoring the beaches, monitoring the fishing fleet in the Toninhas project, participating in all the projects of the laboratory, providing logistical support or participating in the practical activities.

Dr. Pedro Fruet

Dr. Pedro Fruet YAQU PACHA Team Latin America South America

Dr. Pedro Fruet is a biologist who has been working in marine mammal research and conservation in South America for more than 20 years. He is co-founder of the non-governmental organization Kaosa (local NGO based in Southern Brazil) and since 2014, he is the research director of the Marine Mammal Laboratory of the Oceanographic Museum of Rio Grande and member of the ECOMEGA Laboratory(Federal University of Rio Grande). He is currently the Secretary of Environment of the City of Rio Grande and President of the Municipal Environmental Council COMDEMA. Pedro graduated in Biology in 2004 and completed his Master's degree in Biological Oceanography at FURG (2008), the Federal University of Rio Grande. He earned his PhD in biological oceanography in 2014 through a joint teaching program between the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG) and Flinders University of South Australia. He was a Research Fellow at the National Center of Aquatic Mammals, ICMBio/Ministry of Environment (GEF-Mar program) for two years (2017-2019) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Oceanography - FURG between 2019 and 2020. Reviewer for the conservation status of species(IUCN and National Red List of Threatened Marine Mammal Species of Brazil). Pedro has been Brazilian delegate to numerous meetings of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and was also PNUD consultant (in collaboration with the Brazilian Ministry of Environment) in the review and update of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal under the IWC. He is the coordinator of the Task Team for Lahille's bottlenose dolphin, which was endorsed by the IWC in 2020. In 2021, Pedro was awarded the Whitley Award for his remarkable contribution to the long-term research and conservation of the Lahille's bottlenose dolphin in South America. In 2022, he was accepted as a member of the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including socio-economic aspects, under the auspices of the United Nations.
Its responsibilities include coordination of research groups. Developing management plans and research and conservation initiatives for dolphins at the national and international levels. Expertise includes environmental education, dolphin and marine mammal population dynamics, genetics, ecology, and capacity building and fundraising for research and species conservation. Pedro conducts discussions with locals and government, as well as environmental non-governmental organizations to develop strategies for sustainable use of coastal areas.

Yurasi Briceño

Yurasi Briceño Team Proyecto Sotalia

Biologist and currently a PhD candidate in Ecology with a degree in Protected Area Management. Since 2005, I have been dedicated to academic training in the study of whales and dolphins in South America. I received training in biology, ecology and care of stranded animals and toxicological analysis of these species. I have coordinated and led workshops on cetaceans in Venezuela. Currently, I direct the Sotalia Project, which is dedicated to the promotion, study and conservation of marine mammals in Venezuela. Particular focus is on critically endangered species such as Sotalia guianensis, Inia geoffrensis, and Trichechus manatus manatus at the regional level. I have promoted education and outreach campaigns for these species at regional and national levels through infographics, children's books, workshops, and courses. I have trained in programs such as Distance Sampling, Geographic Information System, and others. As a professional diver and through the Sotalia Project, we work with other national organizations to remove ghost nets and litter from coral reefs in important distribution areas for aquatic mammals. Thanks to the support of international organizations such as YAQU PACHA e.V., Fundación Omacha, PADI Foundation, Cetacean Society International, and Ocean Care, I have been able to design, implement, and lead projects to estimate distribution and abundance, analyze threats, assess heavy metals, and restore habitats for the Guiana dolphin, Amazonian dolphin, and manatee in Lake Maracaibo and the Orinoco Basin. These results have been presented at international congresses, symposia and in scientific articles. I am a member of the Conservation Biology Society, the Latin American Society of Aquatic Mammal Specialists, and the South American River Dolphin (SARDI) Initiative for Venezuela.

Camilah Antunes Zappes

Camilah Antunes Zappes Team Ecologia Humana do Oceano Brazil Environmental Education

Camilah Antunes Zappes is a biologist, PhD ecologist, professor at the Federal University of Espírito Santo in southeastern Brazil and coordinator of the ECOLOGIA HUMANA DO OCEANO research group. Her research areas include the human dimension, dealing with human ecology, ethnobiology and ethnoecology of marine fauna, socio-ecological oceanography and environmental education.
The ECOLOGIA HUMANA DO OCEANO group, which it coordinates, is composed of researchers from universities, research institutes and the Brazilian government. The group's goal is to understand environmental problems by linking scientific knowledge with the traditional knowledge of communities living along the Brazilian coast. Based on research findings, researchers and community stakeholders work together to propose solutions to environmental problems.
YAQU PACHA works with this group in South America by funding environmental awareness projects. Projects are carried out in elementary schools, with children who are patients in public hospitals, and in traditional communities in Brazil. It also supports ethnoecological and ethnobiological research on dolphins and small cetaceans conducted with artisanal fishing communities on the Brazilian coast.

Prof. Paul Kinas 

Prof. Paul Kina's Team Yaqu Pacha Latin America

Paul G. Kinas is a biologist and oceanographer with a Ph.D. in statistics (UBC, Canada) and a lecturer in applied statistics for undergraduate and graduate students at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG) in Brazil since 1980. His research interests focus on Bayesian statistical modeling to solve problems in population ecology, conservation biology, and animal behavior.

Biol. Marjorie Fuentes

Biol. Marjorie Fuentes Team Yaqu Pacha Chile Latin America

Marjorie is the Chilean project coordinator for theSmall Cetaceans of Chiloéproject in southern Chile. She graduated with a first class degree in Marine Biology from Valparaiso University and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Wildlife and Conservation at the University of Chile in Santiago. Marjorie has been involved in research on the ecology and behavior of Chilean dolphins, Peale's dolphins, and Burmeister's porpoises since December 2002, first as a field assistant and since 2007 as a field work and volunteer coordinator. She also leads the environmental education campaign "Discovering the Marine World," which has been implemented with great success in more than a dozen urban and rural schools in southern Chiloé. She is currently an active member of the Coastal Management Plan Working Group in South America and has presented a proposal for protected areas based on the results of the YAQU-PACHA project.

Roke Rojas

Roke Rojas Team Yaqu Pacha Latin America

Roke is a marine biologist at the Universidad Austral de Chile. For the past four years, Roke has worked as a researcher in thePequeños Cetaceos de Chiloeproject, studying the ecology of Chilean dolphins, Peale's dolphins and Burmeister's porpoises in the Chiloe archipelago in southern Chile. He has also been involved in studies characterizing the acoustic signals of these species, an area that became his thesis. Roke is an expert taxidermist and uses this skill, combined with his knowledge of aquatic mammals in South America, to develop environmental education programs for schools and university students. In a post-graduate program, Roke hopes to further his experience in bioacoustics.

Dr. Biol. Juan Valqui

Dr. Biol. Juan Valqui Team Yaqu Pacha

Juan is the director of Projecto Lontra felina, which coordinates activities to protect the endangered sea otter in Peru. His participation in studies conducted in Peru on the little-known species Lontra felina, has already earned him the designation of sea otter specialist. Since 2009, he has been part of the South America team with his PhD thesis, a population genetic study of the sea otter in Peru. In his field work, he organizes workshops in which school children - future fishermen - receive information about the importance of conservation and environmental protection.

Dr. Carolina Abud

Dr. Carolina Abud Team Yaqu Pacha Franciscana dolphin South America

Carolina is one of the founding members and co-directors of the research and conservation group Team Cetáceos Uruguay. She created the Franciscana Project in 2004 and has been involved in it ever since, working mainly on Franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei) bycatch in artisanal fisheries. She has worked on the geographic genetic structure of Franciscana, which is also one of her current interests. She is now an MSc. D. student and her dissertation is on the study of genetic variation and geographic genetic structure.

Dr. Paula Costa Urrutia

Dr. Paula Costa Urrutia Team Latin America Franciscana delfin

Paula is one of the founding members and co-directors of the research and conservation group Team Cetáceos Uruguay. She is co-director of the Francaaustral Project, which studies the behavior and distribution of southern right whales(Eubalaena australis). Since 2004, she has also been involved in the Franciscana Project, which focuses on the bycatch of the Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) in artisanal and industrial fisheries. She is currently working on conservation genetics. She has worked on the social and geographic genetic structure of Franciscans (Master's thesis), and as a PhD student she is studying the population genetics and mating system of blue whales.

Caterina Dimitriadis

Caterina Dimitriadis Team Latin America Franciscana delfin South America

Caterina is one of the founding members and co-directors of the research and conservation group Team Cetáceos Uruguay. She has been involved with the Franciscana Project since its inception and is concerned with the bycatch of Franciscana dolphin(Pontoporia blainvillei) in artisanal fisheries. Since 2005, Caterina has also been co-director of the project entitled "Diet of the franciscana dolphin in the Uruguayan coast". Caterina is a PhD student at the University of Girona (Spain), writing her thesis on artisanal fisheries and marine protected areas in Palamos (northwestern Mediterranean).

Dr. Valentina Franco-Trecu

Dr. Valentina Franco-Trecu Latin America Franciscana delfin Team YAQU PACHA

Valentina is one of the founding members and co-directors of the research and conservation group Team Cetáceos Uruguay. She began her work on Uruguayan seal populations in 2004, focusing on maternal behavior. For five years, she studied mating behavior, feeding habits, reproductive success, and interaction with fisheries in the Uruguayan rookery. She is currently co-director of the Franciscana Project, which focuses on Franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei) bycatch in artisanal and industrial fisheries. She is also co-director of the Franciscana coastal dolphin diet project in Uruguay. She has a Master's degree in Biology and her thesis was entitled "Reproductive success and diet of Arctocephalus australis females and their trophic relationship with Otaria flavescens in Uruguayan waters".

Dr. Paula Laporta

Dr. Paula Laporta Yaqu Pacha franciscana delfin Team South America

Paula is one of the founding members and co-directors of the research and conservation group Cetáceos Uruguay. She currently holds a master's degree in biological oceanography. She is the director of the Toninas Project, an ecological and behavioral study of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) on the Uruguayan coast. She has also been a member of the Franciscana Project since 2004, which focuses on the bycatch of the Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) in artisanal and industrial fisheries in South America. Next year, she will begin her PhD and continue the study of bottlenose dolphins in a coordinated regional framework. Since the creation of Team Cetáceos Uruguay, she has worked on its environmental education program and is currently coordinating the YAQU PACHA Arenas project, which targets teachers along the Uruguayan coast.

Dr. Cecilia Passadore

Dr. Cecilia Passadore Franciscana delfin Team YAQU PACHA South America

Cecilia is one of the founding members and co-directors of the research and conservation group Cetáceos Uruguay. She is a Master's student researching marine mammal interactions with the Uruguayan pelagic longline fishery in the Southwest Atlantic, focusing on orca (Orcinus orca) bycatch, prey capture, and distribution. Since 2006, she has been part of the Franciscana Project, which focuses on Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) bycatch in artisanal fisheries. She also leads a project on the distribution of cetaceans in Antarctic waters, which is part of the Census of Antarctic Marine Life. Since the creation of Cetáceos Uruguay, she has worked on its environmental education program and currently coordinates the YAQU PACHA Arenas Project, a project aimed at teachers along the Uruguayan coast.

Dr. María Nube Szephegyi

Dr. María Nube Szephegyi Yaqu Pacha Team South America

María is one of the founding members and co-directors of the research and protection group Team Cetáceos Uruguay. She is currently an MSc. Student and is working on her dissertation on the distribution of the Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) in relation to environmental variables. Since 2006, she has been part of the YAQU PACHA Franciscana project, which focuses on bycatch in artisanal and industrial fisheries. She is also part of the Environmental Education Program of Cetáceos Uruguay and coordinates the Team Arenas Project, a project targeting teachers along the Uruguayan coast.

YAQU PACHA Team Germany

Scientific Advisory Board

YAQU PACHA Board of Directors

The employees of the Latin America - South America team do not receive a salary from YAQU PACHA, but a specific project support for the implementation of the species conservation projects.