Vera Bürgi grew up in the region of Zurich. After spending some time in the USA, and after studying history of art in Lausanne and Zurich, Vera joined OceanCare in 2003. Until 2012, she was in charge of communications and media relations. In 2013 she became the co-director of the organisation alongside Sigrid Lüber, taking over the administrative management of OceanCare.
Prior to this, Vera Bürgi had applied her communication skills in the tourism sector, for the Tibetan cause, at the theatre and in PR agencies. Since 2009, she is also working as a kinesiologist.
By dedicating her working life to OceanCare, Vera Bürgi wishes to promote respect for the wilderness and the biodiversity of the blue planet.
Silvia Frey, Ph.D
Director Science & Education
Silvia Frey studied environmental science at the ETH Zurich which led to a M.Sc. in Environmental Sciences; she also holds a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the Faculty of Science from the University of Basel. Motivated by her love of nature, Silvia Frey already knew at an early age that she would one day be working for animal, species and nature protection.
Since 2001, Silvia Frey is in charge of OceanCare’s whale and dolphin research programmes. She is a strong advocate of using non-invasive research techniques which minimise disturbance to the animals. She has been involved in various cetacean research and conservation projects, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea. Besides her dedication to the conservation of whales and dolphins, she has been involved in a sea turtle research and protection project. Silvia Frey has also been active in the fields of whale and dolphin watching tourism and environmental education relating to marine mammals and oceanography. She gives talks and workshops, and supports high school and university students with their theses. Silvia is currently leading OceanCare’s science and education programme.
As a conservation biologist, she is interested in using scientific knowledge as a sound basis to better protect marine species and their habitats. Raising public awareness is another essential issue for Silvia Frey as she is convinced that the urgently needed changes in people’s behaviour can be brought about by increasing awareness about the diversity of life in the oceans and about existing anthropogenic threats.
Director International Relations
Sigrid Lüber grew up in the Canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Following a touching encounter with a school of dolphins when diving in the Indian Ocean, she became a founding member of OceanCare. Since then she has been actively working to protect marine mammals and the oceans.
Since 1992, Sigrid Lüber has been the only representative of a Swiss NGO participating in conferences of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), also working towards the protection of small cetaceans with the IWC, promoting discussion and agenda items on environmental threats to cetaceans, and introducing political as well as scientific initiatives on the issue of cetacean meat contamination and its effects on human consumers. She was elected President of OceanCare in 1993. Since 1997, she has held the observer status with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES); and, since 2004, she has been playing an active role in all UN related bodies dealing with maritime law.
Sigrid Lüber’s work focuses on the regulation and reduction of ocean noise pollution. She is also concerned with the growing problem of economic development aid bound with conditions such as voting behaviour. She lobbies for the increase of transparency, good governance of oceans and the involvement of non-governmental organisations in international policy making, in order to make governments conscious of demands by the civil society.
Sigrid Lüber maintains excellent contact with decision-makers both nationally and internationally. Owing to her cooperation with the UN, OceanCare was appointed Special Consultant for marine protection by the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Co-Director International Relations
Fabienne McLellan was captured by the travel bug already in her early years. In addition to numerous journeys, she made Vancouver, San Diego, Melbourne and London her place of residence before returning to her home country Switzerland.
While dealing with complex financial structures in the private sector, Fabienne McLellan completed a part-time study at the HWZ University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration in Zurich, which led to a B.Sc. in Business/Communications. She joined OceanCare already in 2009, supporting the organisation as a volunteer once a week back then. OceanCare inspired her to study environmental sciences and sustainability at Monash University in Melbourne where she received a Masters Degree. Since 2014, her working life is fully dedicated to marine issues at OceanCare.
Fabienne’s strong passion for oceans and marine wildlife is also owing to the fact that she is an enthusiastic surfer and follows the call of the waves whenever possible. If she then encounters marine animals in the wild, Fabienne can hardly believe her luck.
With mind and heart, she wants to advocate for a better protection of marine animals and their habitats, so that future generations, too, can protect and marvel at a rich marine biodiversity.
Sandra Ludescher holds a Masters Degree in journalism and communication science from the University of Zurich and has acquired substantial practical knowledge as student trainee in digital communication and online marketing. After working for more than two years as a media planner at an international advertising agency, she decided to dedicate her skills to her passion for animal conservation.
One of her heartfelt wishes is the welfare of farm animals, with which she is involved in her free time. Sandra discovered her fascination for marine mammals during a holiday trip to the Caribbean, where she encountered a group of dolphins.
Stefani Westphal Vonesch
Stefani Westphal Vonesch was born in Zurich, Switzerland, and has been a member of OceanCare since 1993. She was elected to the Steering Committee in 2001 and has become Vice President in 2003.
Raised on the shores of the lake of Zurich, Stefani has had close ties with water ever since, her childhood spent snorkeling through to her professional diving as an adult. In her many years as a sport diver and diving instructor, she has come to know and love the marine environment.
On her numerous dives, she became aware of the beauty of and the threats to this wonderful part of our planet. It is very important to her that her work at OceanCare contributes to the conservation of the marine environment.