Louisa Ponnampalam, Ph.D.


Louisa Ponnampalam is the chairperson and co-founder of the MareCet Research Organization, Malaysia’s first and only nonprofit organization dedicated to the research and conservation of marine mammals and their environment. She is also a research fellow at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. For her Pew fellowship, Ponnampalam is conducting research to overcome the knowledge gaps on the ecology and status of dugongs and their seagrass habitats along the Johor east coast and adjacent islands in southern Peninsular Malaysia. She is using aerial and acoustic survey methods to further study the distribution, relative abundance, movement, and habitat-use patterns of dugongs. Ponnampalam and her team are analyzing the sediments and seagrasses for contaminants in order to assess the risks posed to the dugongs by pollutants in the environment. They are also mapping the seagrass habitats and conducting socioeconomic studies of the local communities and stakeholders in the area. The results are being used to encourage the planning and establishment of a dugong and seagrass protected area, which would provide valuable habitat needed for the survival of the endangered dugongs in Peninsular Malaysia. This protected area would also contribute to Malaysia’s obligations to the Convention on Biological Diversity, a commitment that requires having 10 percent of the marine environment, particularly those areas relating to threatened species, protected by 2020. In addition, the protected area also fulfills the country’s obligations as laid out in Malaysia’s Dugong National Plan of Action and National Policy on Biological Diversity 2015-2025. To learn more about Ponnampalam and her work, visit her bio online: http://marecet.org/about/meet-the-team.

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