KUALA LUMPUR, 23 MARCH 2022 – Universiti Malaya researcher are one of six international researchers selected by The Pew Charitable Trusts as a recipient of the 2022 Pew fellowship in marine conservation.
Dr. Jillian Ooi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will receive USD 150,000 over three years to research the growth of seagrasses and encourage more effective seagrass restoration.
Seagrass meadows are an invaluable part of healthy marine ecosystems, because they protect shorelines, improve water quality, provide nursery grounds for species, and sequester carbon. But in southeast Asia, as in other parts of the world, human activities have driven rapid losses of these diverse habitats, and many efforts to restore seagrasses have failed due to problems anchoring transplanted seagrasses to the seafloor.
“If Southeast Asia continues to lose seagrass rapidly, we will witness drastic changes to our seas, leading to disturbing impacts on what we eat, how we earn our livelihoods, and how our entire cultural identity is expressed.
“Efforts to stem seagrass decline, however, have been impeded by two issues: uncertain restoration success for tropical species due in large part to poor root development, and the low uptake of seagrass conservation action due to the perception that seagrass is inconsequential to human well-being. The Pew Fellowship will enhance my efforts to probe into how robust seagrass root systems can be developed, and apply the cultural arts to provoke deeper feelings and thoughts of our connections to this wondrous ecosystem,” she added.
During her fellowship, Dr. Ooi will conduct field and experimental research to identify optimal conditions for promoting seagrass root growth, and she will work with coastal Malaysian communities to develop methods for effectively anchoring transplants using traditional ecological knowledge and local, accessible materials. Dr. Ooi will also work with local communities to produce multimedia assets that will help communicate the cultural and ecological importance of seagrass ecosystems to wider audiences.
Dr. Ooi joins Pew’s global community of nearly 200 marine fellows from 41 countries all working to expand knowledge of the ocean and advance the sustainable use of marine resources. For 26 years, the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has supported mid-career scientists and other experts seeking solutions to challenges affecting the world’s oceans. Fellows are selected by an international committee of marine science experts with a range of expertise following a rigorous nomination and review process.
Dr. Ooi holds a doctorate in seagrass biogeography from the University of Western Australia, a master’s in environmental management and a bachelor of arts in environmental studies from Universiti Malaya.