Expedition Leaders

Meet the veteran leaders who orchestrate your expedition experience


Expedition Leader

For a volcanic archipelago, Galapagos doesn’t see too many eruptions. So when the call came over the radio of the bridge of National Geographic Islander that nearby Wolf Volcano was spewing lava into the sea, the ship’s expedition leader made the call along with the captain to change course and sail straight to the volcano. Guests aboard would be the first on the scene to see the lava rolling into the boiling sea, and footage shot by the ship’s video chronicler would play on news stations around the world the next day. 

It’s these kinds of once in a lifetime experiences expedition leaders enable for guests. In this case, it helped that the expedition leader and captain had lived and worked in Galapagos for over three decades. That they had the trust of every person in the national park service who would need to give them permission to approach the island. And that they sailed with the full confidence of Lindblad Expeditions senior leadership and were empowered to make the decision to deviate from the plan on the fly. 

Expedition leaders have worked in their fields and in the geographies where they sail for years. Most have advanced degrees and have conducted research or taught for years. They are deeply experienced naturalists, biologists, and historians who have achieved expedition leader status because they possess the skills, experience and the depth of knowledge necessary to continually craft the best expedition possible for guests.

They are empowered  with the personnel, resources, and opportunities to ensure remarkable expedition experiences. Their institutional knowledge is virtually impossible to match. When wind or weather might preclude a certain landing, they're using their local knowledge and collaboration with the captain to reach a more protected spot where you can go ashore safely—to actively explore. And, because an expedition depends on flexibility and the ability to take advantage of unexpected moments, they will often rewrite the day’s plan on the fly or make an announcement just as dinner is being served if a 40-ton humpback whale suddenly surfaces nearby, bow-riding dolphins appear, or a pod of narwhals is spotted. 

The caliber of the expedition leaders and their teams is the reason the Lindblad name is respected in the travel industry, and guests continually entrust their safety, valuable time, and intelligent curiosity to them.

For a volcanic archipelago, Galapagos doesn’t see too many eruptions. So when the call came over the radio of the bridge of National Geographic Islander that nearby Wolf Volcano was spewing lava into the sea, the ship’s expedition leader made the call along with the captain to change course and sail straight to the volcano. Guests aboard would be the first on the scene to see the lava rolling into the boiling sea, and footage shot by the ship’s video chronicler would play on news stations around the world the next day. ...

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Expedition staff are subject to change.
Expedition Leader icon Expedition Leader

Lucho Verdesoto

Born and raised in the tropical country of Ecuador, Lucho is a passionate naturalist that has been working for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic since 1998. With a marine biology background, he started as a naturalist in the Galápagos Islands in 1994. Since then, he has filled numerous roles with Lindblad-National Geographic, such as naturalist, undersea specialist and expedition leader in the Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica and Panama, and Baja California. Currently, Lucho spends much of the year traveling the world aboard the National Geographic Explorer. Working for Lindblad-National Geographic has given him the opportunity to explore remote locations from the Arctic to Antarctica and everything in between, while the opportunity to lead and explore the Amazon has only increased his passion for evolutionary biology and the understanding of how biological communities interact in such a complex ecosystem. During his time off, Lucho enjoys traveling and spending time getting to know the vast National Park system in Ecuador. Holding a dive master's license, he tries not to let a place pass without exploring the underwater ecosystem - he considers Antarctica to be the wildest place he has ever been able to dive! He also enjoys writing nature articles for a major newspaper in Ecuador, as he strongly believes that nature can only be protected when it is fully understood and appreciated by its inhabitants.

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Emma Ridley

Born of a Scottish father and English mother, Emma enjoyed an international upbringing because of her father’s job as a foreign correspondent. Although her family eventually settled in Rome, Emma's schooling was conducted in French, having started her studies in Brussels, Belgium and finishing at the Lycée Français de Rome in 1988. While at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Emma combined her fascination with biology with her love of the seas, receiving a degree in applied marine biology. She is a keen diver, and while at school worked part-time as a diver in an aquarium. Two months after graduation, having seen the job advertised at her university, Emma moved to Ecuador and began her fascinating job as a naturalist and dive guide in the Galápagos archipelago. Emma has worked as a naturalist and expedition leader with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic in Galápagos since 1997. She has also worked as expedition leader, undersea specialist, and dive master for in regions as diverse as the Columbia River, Central America, Europe, and the South Pacific. She was granted permanent residency in the Galapagos and has now called the islands home for over half her life! She built her home on the island of Santa Cruz, where she raises her two daughters, Amelia and Rebecca. Since 2008, she works from home for Lindblad Expeditions as Galápagos Field Staff Manager. She also gets involved in local conservation projects and volunteers as a diver in ecological monitoring programs with the Charles Darwin Research Station. Nonetheless, she tries to get back out into the field with Lindblad Expeditions as much as possible, since she loves being out at sea and sharing her passion for the natural world with others.

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Jim Kelley

A native of California, Jim has been going to sea for most of his life. Jim grew up by the ocean in Southern California, did his undergraduate work in geology at Pomona College, and received his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Wyoming. In 1966 he joined the faculty of the Department of Oceanography at the University of Washington, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Department of Biomathematics. In 1970-71 he was Fulbright Professor at the University of Athens and Senior Research Scientist at the Democritos Greek Atomic Energy Commission. During his nine years at the University of Washington he conducted research on most of the world’s oceans, primarily on the biological productivity of the coastal zone. From 1970 until 1975 he carried out research on coastal upwelling along the west coast of Africa from Morocco to Côte d’Ivoire and lived in the Canary Islands in 1974. In 1975 he became Dean of the College of Science and Engineering and Professor of Oceanography at San Francisco State University. From 1981 to 1993 he served as President of the California Academy of Sciences. He is a Fellow of the Academy and a Fellow of the Explorers Club. Now retired form academic life, Jim lives in the Sierra Nevada. He has worked with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic as a naturalist and expedition leader since 1985. He is interested in the geology, oceanography, and meteorology of the places we visit, as well as their human history and history of exploration. He has sailed with Lindblad-National Geographic from the Arctic to the Antarctic and most places in between.

Expedition Leader icon Expedition Leader

Jason Heilmann

Growing up in northern California, Jason was surrounded by the incomparable nature of the Pacific Northwest. While attending university there, Jason met and eventually married an Ecuadorian woman who happened to be from a small group of islands off the coast of western South America. It was thus that Jason’s path led him to Ecuador and, in time, to one of the most revered natural environments on earth, the Galápagos Islands. Having found his niche in the Galápagos, and eventually becoming a professional SCUBA diver, Jason volunteered as a dive assistant on various scientific projects. Developing his enthusiasm for nature, in 1999 Jason took the only logical course: the Galápagos National Park naturalist program. Interpretation of the Galápagos, whether in the underwater realm or on land, has become a passion with Jason. Eventually he would also work as a naturalist in Alaska and British Columbia. Jason and his family also had the opportunity to take a year-long sabbatical to Sweden to continue their education in ecology and environmental communication. After almost 20 years, Jason still resides on the Galápagos Islands with his wife Graciela and son Matias. He received his Photo Instructor certification in a training workshop in 2010. Developed and taught by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions photographers, the workshop equipped him with the insight and skills necessary to help you better understand your camera and the basics of composition—to better capture the moments at the heart of your Lindblad-National Geographic expedition.

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Doug Gould

Travel and adventure were an integral part of Doug’s upbringing in a small town on the south shore of Long Island, New York. Growing up on the Great South Bay, his family claims Doug learned to sail before he learned to walk. Whether it was camping, sailing, birding, traveling across country or spending most of fifth grade living in Europe, Doug’s formative years left him with a love of wildlife, the outdoors, and a desire to keep moving.  After receiving a B.A. in dramatic arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Doug mixed a short career in the film and TV industry with two summers working for the Catalina Island Harbor Patrol, which led to his owning the third largest private marine rescue company in California. Doug sat on the Board of Directors of the Vessel Assist Association of America for three years and has lectured extensively to the marine assistance industry about safety and risk management.  In 2003, he volunteered to work for Oceanites as a member of their Antarctic Site Inventory wildlife census team (aka: a penguin counter). This opportunity included numerous trips to the Antarctic Peninsula over the span of three seasons. The Antarctic Site Inventory focused on gathering data about the impact of tourism on Antarctic wildlife, and helped to develop some of the Antarctic Treaty recommendations that govern tourism today. Since 2011, Doug has worked full time as a naturalist, photographer and expedition leader, working primarily in the polar regions. In 2015 he joined Lindblad Expeditions, and continues to share his enthusiasm for travel and adventure as an expedition leader and certified photo instructor. 

Expedition Leader icon Expedition Leader

John Mitchell

Raised in the mountains of Crested Butte, Colorado, John has always been a “child of nature,” where the natural world around him was life’s classroom.  After graduating from Colorado State University with degrees in Speech Communication and Biology, John joined Lindblad Expeditions.  Over the years with Lindblad he tried to learn every aspect of vessel operations while spending his “free time” learning all that he could from the naturalists on board.  His time off the boats was spent traveling throughout North, South, and Central America learning more about the areas.  John left “for a spell” to pursue a post-graduate degree in marine ecology in Hawaii, fell in love with island life and now calls Maui home. Most recently working as a Coastal Management Specialist for NOAA Pacific Region, he has also been the Program Director for an educational non-profit whose mission was to excite youth about science and all things natural.  John has also served as a naturalist, junior high and high school marine science field teacher.  He also worked on the Marine Turtle Research Project, and spent five years as the Fish and Habitat Monitoring Coordinator for the State of Hawaii.  John is passionate about the need to re-connect our youth to the environment in order to sustain meaningful education.

Expedition Leader icon Expedition Leader

Alex Searle

Born in Chile and raised in Argentina, Alex spent his childhood living in different parts of these countries and getting to know the local cultures. Alex studied Journalism at the University of Chile and did post graduate studies at UBC in Vancouver, Canada. Working as a Chilean TV producer for years, Alex worked in the news department doing research, and produced a successful late night show as well as a wildlife show that did stories all over America. Since he was a kid his life’s dream was to visit Easter Island, or Rapa Nui in the local language. He visited during his university years, together with his wife, Terangi, who was born on this unique Pacific island. Alex has worked for years with Lindblad Expeditions in Easter Island, and also works as a guide all along Chile. An avid diver and photographer, he has contributed his photos to books about Easter Island. His love for the cultural past and present of Rapa Nui, Polynesia, and other areas of South America, as well as his passion for wildlife and nature, make him a passionate guide. He is excited to share his understanding and knowledge with fellow travelers.  

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Sheri Bluestein

Native New Yorker, Sheri Bluestein has lived, worked, volunteered, and traveled on all seven continents including 3.5 years in Amsterdam, where she learned to speak Dutch fluently and became a citizen of the Netherlands. She currently resides in the French Pyrenees, living in a restored cow barn with her Dutch husband, whom she met while riding an elephant in Thailand (before learning how cruel this type of tourism activity can be). When not enjoying the pleasures of French rural life, Sheri works on a variety of Lindblad ships and itineraries as an Expedition Leader, Cultural Specialist and Naturalist in geographies ranging from Europe to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to Antarctica and the South Atlantic.Though fascinated with almost everything on our amazing planet, she is particularly interested in the human story and how it intersects with the natural world. Alaska is one of her favorite destinations, having developed a love for the unpredictable wildness during years working in tourism and living on the Kenai Peninsula experimenting with a subsistence lifestyle during the easier summer months. Since 2000, Sheri has been migrating far south during northern hemisphere winters. She worked eight seasons in Logistics for the U.S. Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station, one austral summer on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, and now loves to share those unique experiences with guests onboard Lindblad's blue water vessels.

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Russell Evans

Russ Evans is a sixth-generation Falkland Islander now living in Orkney, Scotland. In 1997, he was drawn away from his work on the family farm by the lure of the sea. Since then, he has made his living at sea. As a licensed captain, Russ has been part of a variety of marine endeavors, including commercial tugs, dive boat support, scientific research, sightseeing tours, cruise ships, and since 2003, an expedition leader on expedition ships worldwide but specializing in the polar regions. Russ is committed to the environmental impact of tourism and its future in the Antarctic through his advocacy with the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), and shares their commitment to responsible tourism. Although his chosen place on the globe is the Antarctic and its surrounding waters and islands, he is as at home in the far north as he is in the far south. Also having led expeditions in lower latitudes and warmer climates, his passion for the oceans is coupled with keen expertise on the natural history of these places of extremes. His intimate knowledge of, and love for, remote islands and hard-to-reach corners of the world, (especially if they can only be reached by sea), makes him a natural for sharing his passion with others. His adventuresome spirit, along with his thirst to deliver the most extraordinary experiences to the guests of each expedition, provides a compelling and insight-filled backdrop for exploring.

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Andy Wolff

A Midwestern kid with an insatiable curiosity about places far and foreign, Andy has converted a lucky break after college into a career at sea. From swabbing the decks to advocating for artisans and zooming in Zodiacs, he knows the operation from every department on board. What keeps him fresh after nearly two decades working at sea is waking up somewhere new every morning, the day ahead a blank slate with no way of knowing what marvels nature and serendipity may bring his way. Andy looks forward to sharing this sense of wonder and possibility with guests as they venture together into new realms with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic. Having traveled everywhere from Madagascar to Moscow, Andy’s happy place is amongst icebergs and whales on a sunny Antarctic summer day. When not aboard ship, he often winters near tropical seas, typically hunting below the water’s surface for nudibranchs. A happy Pacific Northwest transplant, Andy now calls the evergreen forests of Olympia, Washington home. There he enjoys crafting homemade soap, trail running, and consuming copious quantities of coffee. If you end up sharing a table in the dining room one evening, be sure to ask about his international gold medal in barbershop. Andy was thrilled to join the Lindblad Expeditions team in 2010. Among so much photographic talent, he is a firm believer that the best camera is the one you always have with you. For a look at life through his lens, investigate instagram.com/travelingandy.

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John Frick

Although he didn’t set out for a life of travel, John has combined his passions for education and exploring the world and turned them into a successful career leading trips around the globe. After completing an undergraduate degree in engineering at the University of Notre Dame, John moved to Alaska in search of a more adventurous future. From there he continued on to Tansen, Nepal, where he served for two years in the Peace Corps. He then moved to New York City to teach as part of the Peace Corps Fellows Program while pursuing a master’s in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University. John began leading family programs to Mediterranean sites of antiquity during his summers, and this quickly expanded to other regions: Africa, India, Antarctica, the Transatlantic, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, Alaska and the South Pacific. As comfortable exploring archaeological and cultural destinations as he is leading expeditions to the world’s most remote areas, John looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for the best in travel with guests of Lindblad-National Geographic. When possible, he especially enjoys sharing his knowledge of astronomy and expertise in stargazing from the deck of a ship.

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Adam Jenkins

Adam began sailing as a boy off of Port Townsend WA. He acquired his Master Mariners license at age 18 and began working as a yacht captain aboard Puget Sound charter yachts. After attending the University of Washington, Adam embarked on a single-handed voyage down the Pacific Coast aboard Saint Brendan, his 27-foot sloop. On this voyage, he explored the Sea of Cortez, transited the Panama Canal, circumnavigated the Caribbean Sea and explored the eastern seaboard from Florida to Nova Scotia. During this four-year voyage, Adam made a living as a professional sailor, sailing as master aboard various vessels in the Caribbean Sea and lived aboard his boat in Guatemala and Belize for a year. Other global adventures include traveling the length of Pakistan by train and four-wheel drive truck, trekking in the Hindu Kush, exploring Patagonia and climbing in Torres Del Paine National Park, skippering the expedition yacht MV Peregrine in South East Alaska and the Queen Charlotte Islands BC (Haida Gwaii). From 1994-2017, Adam worked with NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Antarctic Program as a field biologist, expedition leader and science project manager supporting marine mammal and ecosystem researchers in the Antarctica, and the coastal waters of the Eastern Pacific from Alaska to Cape Horn. When not on an expedition vessel, Adam owns a yacht delivery company and can be found delivering a yacht as a professional sailor. Through these adventures, Adam developed a passion for leading expeditions and working with adventure travelers and scientists. He loves to get out in small boats and up close to nature. Hobbies include writing for sailing magazines, cooking, playing basketball and sailing with his daughter Sophia aboard their 35-foot sloop based in Guaymas, Mexico. Adam’s goal on any expedition is to make sure guests have a true adventure they will never forget.

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