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Rachel Sullivan-Lord

Hailing from the salt-encrusted coast of New England, Rachel grew up with a passion for the ocean and the creatures that live just beneath the water’s surface, leading her to become a marine ecologist. Wild places first captured her heart on a life-changing 2009 expedition to Baffin Island to investigate climate change in the eastern Canadian Arctic. This expedition was the first of many, kick-starting a lifestyle of exploring and photographing this incredible planet, doing meaningful science and sharing these endeavors with others.

Rachel studied marine ecology and graduated from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, where Acadia National Park was her back yard and the endlessly fascinating Gulf of Maine was her front yard. Here she learned to sea kayak, scuba dive and sail; started training in wilderness medicine; and worked for the local marine mammal research lab, Allied Whale. She curated humpback whale photo-ID catalogs, studied dead stranded marine mammals and conducted her own research on marine pollutants in the local food web. Here and on a small island lighthouse and research station located 25 miles out in the Gulf of Maine, Rachel started driving Zodiacs and guiding small adventure groups. She has since worked on a variety of small research vessels in the North Atlantic as a deckhand, dive-tender, mate and captain.

Rachel’s current research is focused on marine conservation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence working with the non-profit research group Mingan Island Cetacean Study. Since 2011 she has studied the impacts of modern ocean threats such as fishing gear entanglement and ship strikes on populations of large baleen whales recovering from historical commercial whaling. One of the most important tools for this research is scientific photography, specifically capturing pigmentation patterns on a whale that allow it to be recognized as an individual and tracked over time. While she made her first foray into photography as a science tool to capture and identify individual whales, she fell in love with it as an art form. Years of experience photographing speed-swimming whales from a moving vessel and trying to operate a camera in wet, windy, and cold conditions has yielded many lessons that Rachel is happy to share with others looking to tackle the challenges of wildlife photography.

Rachel splits her time seasonally between conducting research and leading expeditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Alaska, Greenland and Antarctica. She is passionate about working toward healthier oceans, protecting wild places and better communication and community involvement in science. Having spent years observing and photographing whales for science, she knows how much you can learn about an animal just by watching it, and she is excited to share these special moments in the wild.

Upcoming Adventures with Rachel:
East Greenland Arctic Safari
Polar Bears of Churchill
Iceland: Circling the Land of Fire & Ice

Praise from Nat Hab travelers:

M. Barney
“I've traveled extensively, and Rachel was truly the best guide I've ever had. She was very knowledgeable and able to explain things in a clear and understandable way. She's very conscientious and made sure each person got what they needed in terms of information, logistics, help and attention. She was also a lot of fun and really connected with each one of us. I could not be happier with her as a guide.”

C. Dvorak
“Rachel was super, and she cared for all in the group. She went way beyond her call of duty. She even made sure one person in our group was able to find a pair of boots in town. She was always on time and clearly prepared for the day. She was able to adjust easily at a moment’s notice and filled the day with fun activities. I can't say enough good things about her. She’s the best.”

J. Schmelzer
“Rachel was an extraordinary Expedition Leader. She was extremely clear in explaining habitat, geology, what we saw, the history of Churchill and any topic that came up. When she didn't know the answer to a guest's question, she researched the topic and gave us the answer later in the day. She was always cheerful and enthusiastic. In short, she was terrific.”

M. Angilley
“Rachel was a first-class leader. Her knowledge and commitment was evident throughout the trip. She always made an effort to take care of everyone's needs. Nothing was ever too much trouble, as Rachel always went the extra mile to make sure the adventure was unforgettable for everyone.”

K. Lew
“Rachel was both knowledgeable and kind. She made sure that everyone in the group got what they needed and received an experience of a lifetime. She integrated education while we looked for polar bears which greatly enhanced the trip. She made the whole experience so fun!”

C. Freechack
“Rachel could not have been better. Her store of knowledge was remarkable in both its breadth and depth. I learned so much on this trip. She was also organized, cheerful and welcoming. She was always enthusiastic, informative and so much fun! I would love to go on another trip with her.”
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