UH Hilo alumna Louisa Shobhini Ponnampalam, PhD, has been awarded a 2014 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to conduct new research on the country’s population of dugongs, a large coastal marine mammal that resembles the manatee. She is a scientist with the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and co-founder of grassroots NGO, The MareCet Research Organization.
The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation awards recipients $150,000 for a three-year project to address conservation challenges facing our oceans. As a developing nation, Malaysia’s coast is undergoing rapid, large-scale developments, sometimes putting pressure on its marine environment. Focusing on the islands located off the east coast of Johor in Peninsular Malaysia, Ponnampalam's research will identify areas that are critical for one of the country’s last remaining population of dugongs in order to make recommendations for their habitat protection.
Over the course of the next three years, Ponnampalam will gather scientific data on dugongs and their habitat using visual, acoustic, and underwater surveys. Through an international exchange, this research will also assist other scientists working to protect dugongs around the world.
Ponnampalam is a research fellow at the Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Malaya in Malaysia. She earned a BA in marine science at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and a PhD in marine biology at the University Marine Biological Station Millport, a program of the University of London. She also co-founded The MareCet Research Organization in 2012, a local NGO dedicated solely to the research and conservation of marine mammals as a basis for marine conservation.
For more information on the PEW Marine Fellows, watch this video:
Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts website