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Polar Guide Week

Welcome to our inaugural Polar Guide Week!

This week we’re celebrating our polar guides and educating Antarctic enthusiasts about the incredible people leading safe and environmentally responsible expeditions South.
On this page you’ll find profiles of some of our expert guides, free downloadable Day In The Life posters taking you through the challenging role of an Expedition Leader and a quick quiz which will give you a taste of the exceptional knowledge and know-how required to put our mission into practice.

Don’t forget to join the #polarguideweek conversation on @iaato_org socials this week too!

Meet The Experts


Mariela Cornejo

Assistant Expedition Leader

Hola! My name is Mariela Cornejo, I’m an Assistant Expedition Leader for an IAATO member operator. I started working in Antarctica in 2014, but the first time I dreamt about working in Antarctica was back in 1991 when I was six years old and my father was offered a job in one of the Argentinian stations as a teacher.

I love being able to combine all of my hobbies into one role description: boating, hiking, guiding, organizing things, logistics, lots and lots of spreadsheets, lecturing, talking to amazing people, sharing my days with people from all over the world, teaching and learning, facilitating science projects to people who thought it was inaccessible and only reserved to a few guys in a lab, seeing people’s faces change the first time they get to Antarctica and they see the mountains, glaciers, and icebergs while listening to penguins and ice cracking in the background… I don’t think there’s any other industry that could put together all the things that I love and let me call it a job.

Working in Antarctica, teaching people about its global importance and the need to protect and preserve it, has taught me how small we are as individuals to this planet and still, how much power we have as a whole to produce changes. We have the power to choose what we want to change and how. It is on us to take action, even if it is small steps in our daily lives. My work in Antarctica has put me in touch with amazing people who have shown me that it is never too late to start doing something, to be an ambassador for change.


Jim Mayer

Expedition Teams Training Manager

Hello! My name is Jim Mayer. I have been travelling in the Antarctic (and the Arctic, for that matter) for more than 20 years, and am currently the expedition teams training manager for an IAATO member operator.

My first visit to Antarctica in 2000 was to work for the British Antarctic Survey, the United Kingdom’s national Antarctic operation, and I have been fortunate enough since to lead visitors to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, to Scott and Shackleton’s huts in the Ross Sea and of course, to the Antarctic Peninsula.
My area of special interest is polar history. And my writings on the history of polar exploration include blogs, book: Shackleton, A Life in Poetry, articles for journals such as the Polar Record and a BBC Radio 4 documentary-style podcast.

It’s a great pleasure to teach Antarctic visitors about the history of Antarctica and the wildlife that calls this unique place home. They are normally struck but reassured by the myriad guidelines we follow to ensure our visit is safe and environmentally responsible, including biosecurity measures we adopt to prevent the introduction of non-native species – yes, we do vacuum your clothes! You see a transformation during the expedition of guests becoming champions for Antarctica and its ongoing preservation. They take that feeling home with them.


Lauren Farmer

Expedition Leader

Hi! My name is Lauren Farmer and I’m an expedition leader across distant latitudes from the Antarctic Peninsula, to the Norwegian and Russian Arctic. It was a wandering path of life experience which led me to work in the polar regions.

Born in Lismore, Australia, I spent my formative years in the mid-west of the United States and, following an interest in the entertainment industry, I initially studied in Los Angeles before spending a decade working in television marketing in New York City. An enthusiasm for storytelling led to an exciting career as a travel and portrait photographer and this is where I was first introduced to the polar regions.

Now in my seventh year as a polar guide, the Antarctic Peninsula is beginning to feel like a second home and is truly the most beautiful and magnificent place on earth.

While the frozen south has definitely captured my heart, I have also journeyed to the North Pole 15 times as co-lead on a project collecting sea ice and atmospheric data in the hope of contributing to a better understanding of our changing climate.

I’m a proud fellow of The Explorers Club and have a passion for the intersection of tourism and science and how the polar tourism industry can support ongoing research at the poles. Most recently I co-founded the Polar Citizen Science Collective, a non-profit organization which facilitates ship-based citizen science programs.

Not only did my first taste of Antarctica back in 2012 dramatically alter the professional course of my life, it introduced me to so many of my closest friends, one of whom became my partner. Life works in weird and wonderful ways!


Bruno Cazarini

Photographer, Drone Operator & Film-maker

Hi, my name is Bruno Cazarini and I am a professional photographer, drone operator, film-maker and general naturalist. Specializing in digital photography since 2007, I have a passion for teaching and lecturing about photography.

I was born in the south-east of Brazil where I had the privilege of growing up very close to the endangered Atlantic rain forest, underneath its humid dense vegetation and surrounded by an extremely rich fauna, where the jungle meets the ocean. An unconventional education, and a loving home, led me on my artistic journey from an early age.

As an award-winning photographer & film-maker, I have already traveled to more than 130 different countries, and for the last 13 years I’ve traveled on ocean-going vessels. My latest work includes photographic expeditions through all seven continents, focusing especially on the polar regions.

Photographing Antarctica for me has been a dream since a very early age, inspired by the story of Frank Hurley on Endurance’s final expedition. My very first visit to Antarctica was in 2015, and I have had the privilege of visiting the white continent almost every season since.


Ella Potts

Naturalist

My name is Ella Potts and I’m a relatively new addition to the Antarctic community, having worked as a Naturalist with an IAATO member operator in Antarctica for two seasons. My journey to the frozen continent really started a decade ago with my first wildlife guiding job at sea in the Hebrides of Scotland, where I now currently live. Back then I was still in the early stages of studying marine biology at university. I jumped on a train and made the 11hr journey up to the west coast of Scotland for the first time. The job involved spotting whales, enthusing guests on the specifics of their life history and scrubbing the decks. My passion has always been for whales – and during the Austral summer, the Southern Ocean becomes the world’s largest feeding area for marine mammals, so I feel incredibly lucky to get to work in this magical place. In my role as a naturalist, I give lectures on marine mammals, lead hikes and drive our Zodiac tender boats, often through challenging icy sea conditions and in the big swell that the Southern Ocean exerts on her Sub-Antarctic islands.

At the moment, I am lucky enough to be working as a researcher on a natural history documentary about the wildlife of this last, great, wilderness. It’s good to know that during these strange COVID times, I can still work to inspire and inform the public about the beautiful species that live among the ice.

Looking to the future, I am working to be able to follow my passion and push towards my dream of conducting scientific research into the whales of the Southern Ocean. I hope that I can also continue to educate audiences on the importance of Antarctic ecosystems and inspire people to love and protect this landscape. Importantly, my journey as an Antarctic Ambassador is still developing.

Wherever you are in your life journey and however humble you think your beginnings, know that you will always have a voice and if there is something that you love, you can always be an ambassador and make a difference towards protecting it – however small you may perceive your impact to be.


Dr. Michaela Mayer

Marine Biologist, Polar Ecologist, Ornithologist & Scientific Diver

Hello. My name is Michaela Mayer and I am a zoologist, marine biologist, polar ecologist, ornithologist, scientific diver, car mechanic, and a judoka. My first season in Antarctica was 1997 when I was a PhD student doing research on marine unicellular organisms (foraminiferas) in the shallow waters of Antarctica. I collected my samples scuba diving, which made me immediately addicted to this continent. In my first season I flew in supported by Argentine military logistics, but in my second season an IAATO tour operator took me to my research destination.

I was so thrilled that it is possible to show the beauty of Antarctica to non-scientific visitors. As soon I finished my doctoral thesis, I remembered that and since then I’ve come back every southern summer as a lecturer or expedition leader.

In these jobs I can bring all my education and skills together – academic and hands-on. I love bringing scientific papers to ‘edu-tainment’ lectures. I love being outdoors, driving Zodiacs, going on an ice field hike, being surrounded by mother nature at its finest.

At home in northern Germany, I work with several projects aiming sustainability for any activities at sea, including offshore wind farms and cruise tourism. I believe that everyone can make a contribution to preserving the wellbeing of our planet.

For me, working in the Antarctic also means working in an international team. United by the fascination for nature, the Antarctic proves that a peaceful collaboration between different cultures and nations is possible. This also applies to people on research stations, research ships or passenger ships. We are the World.


Gerard Baker

Expedition Guide

Hello, I’m Gerard Baker. I have a passion for polar regions that has seen me spend my working life on the Antarctic continent in a variety of roles. It was my privilege to have over wintered at the British Antarctic bases of Rothera and Halley multiple times, and I love the ‘deep south’ following several seasons at Patriot Hills for ANI. My first contact with the expedition cruise industry was when I hitched a ride to work for a season at Port Lockroy in 2006.

Having worked in the Falklands making documentaries for the BBC, it was inevitable that I would find a way to get to South Georgia which I did as part of a BBC film crew on Jerome Poncet’s yacht Golden Fleece. Since I first visited in 1994/5, I have found various ways to spend extended periods of time on the islands, writing, recording and being a part of the rat eradication project, as head chef. Most recently, I have established senior roles in several expedition companies as well as establishing my own in 2020. My passion for history and conservation are at the core of my guiding principles and I spend most of my time on ships mentoring and training new staff.


Doug Gualtieri

Naturalist, Expedition Guide

Hi! I’m Doug Gualtieri. I’ve worked as a naturalist interpretive guide for over 20 years, beginning my career in Denali National Park and Preserve at a remote wilderness lodge leading hikes and giving lectures on the ecology and wildlife of that region. In 2002 he began leading land visits to Denali on behalf of an IAATO-member operator, and have worked within the IAATO family in some form or another ever since including many seasons in Antarctica. With a background in Biology and a lifelong passion for the natural world, I moved to Talkeetna, Alaska in 1999 from my home state of Michigan, and never looked back.

Having studied many facets of the natural world, from general ecology to animal behavior, I found a strong connection to the life of birds; primarily because birds tie together so many components of our world, making them perfect teaching tools. But, also because almost all of them fly, and that’s pretty cool.

It was my love of birds – and in particular my dismay at the mischaracterization of the Skua as Antarctica’s ‘bad guy’ that led me, with the help of other fair-minded and forward-thinking naturalists, to create The Skua Support Society, in 2010. You can find out what makes the Skua such a great polar predator in my IAATO blog: “Down with the Anti-Skua Propaganda! These Polar Pantomime Villains Deserve a Second Chance” over at iaato.org/blogs

Creating ambassadors is a big part of my work as a polar field guide. Our expeditions have a focus on education and my colleagues and I always seize an opportunity to teach our guests something about Antarctica and the wildlife that calls it home. We hope by doing this, and by guests witnessing the majesty of the region first-hand, that they have a greater appreciation for its importance and the need to preserve it.

My Life as a Polar Guide

Assistant Expedition Leader (AEL) Mariela Cornejo shares her journey to working in Antarctica
and the responsibility that comes with it.
Read Mariela's Polar Guide Week Blog

Day In The Life of an Expedition Leader | Educational Posters

Ines is an Expedition Leader on a 134-passenger IAATO member vessel with a kayaking program. Here she shares a day in her life; the everyday essential tasks, the challenges and ultimately rewards of leading responsible, enriching and educational expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day In The Life of an EL Poster | Morning

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Day In The Life of an EL Poster | Afternoon

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Day In The Life of an EL Poster | Evening

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