Dr Patrick Lewis hails from the outback of central south Queensland Australia where despite the absence of Ocean he developed an early passion for all things wet by exploring the creeks and waterholes of the family farm. But it was not until a little later that he got his first taste of saltwater and secured a passion for marine biology and wilderness exploration that has endured and been honed by years of study and research. Patrick completed his studies in Tasmania where the winds blew from the Southern Ocean and whispered of heaving seas, icebergs and adventure. When not studying he spent his youth exploring the wilderness of Tasmania, fly-fishing in the central highlands and learning to sail on a decrepit old yacht that he called home. Patrick continued his studies with a PhD project examining the conservation threats related to increasing human traffic to the Antarctic Continent, and the spread of alien marine species. These studies saw him sailing small yachts to the subantarctic islands, diving under the hulls of icebreakers to record the animals clinging to the hull and a range of other research including aquarium studies, taxonomy of marine invertebrates and genetics. Since completing his doctoral work Patrick has worked in a range of fields including conservation biology in the Indonesian islands, marine science around the coast of Australia, management of marine biosecurity with the Australian Commonwealth government, working as a marine naturalist aboard expedition cruise ships to Antarctica, and running Arctic conservation programs with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Norway. When not getting serious about science, Patrick is an avid adventurer and has travelled broadly around the world by yacht, motorbike and soles of his feet.
Dr Léonie Suter grew up in Basel, Switzerland, where she developed an early passion for exploration in the form of ancient history and the lost languages. Nature and adventure travel, however, were to become more important. Before starting university she worked in the outdoors as a gardener on a cemetery, ski instructor in the Swiss Alps and traveled widely in Central America. She then focused on studying biology at the ETH Zürich to learn how life works. There she also worked with students on botanical excursions to the Swiss Alps. After completing her Bachelor of Science she took a break from university and embarked upon a research project in the Seychelles Islands where she studied the effect of fire on the native vegetation on the Island Praslin and enjoyed the relaxed island life. After soaking in the sun of the Indian Ocean she returned to her studies and completed her Masters of Science degree in the famous Kew Gardens of London where she worked on reproductive isolation and sex chromosome evolution of two European poplar species. During this time she fell in love with Science and decided to continue in this field with a PhD. However, first she needed to satisfy her need for traveling and a little adventure, so after completing her Master of Science she bought a round-the-world plane ticket and left for Australia, New Zealand, South America and Antarctica. During this journey she traveled by bus, train, car, boat and, after she met Patrick in Ushuaia, Argentina, on the back of a motorbike. At the moment she is conducting her doctoral research at the ETH Zürich on epigenetics in plants, to find out whether plants can adapt to changing environments within very few generations and without altering their DNA sequence. Just two weeks before boarding Widdershins she successfully finished her thesis to become an full-time adventurer, sailing from pole to pole.
Sparrow (a.k.a. Captain Jack Sparrow or Sparrow-saurus) is a little Jack Russel Terrier, born in September 2012, who joined the crew on Widdershins two months later in Oban, Scotland. She quickly adapted to live at sea (although she still is a bit scared of water), loves a good cuddle in the morning and chews anything that’s lose, especially socks.