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Article Released Wed-21st-May-2014 01:36 GMT
Contact: University of Malaya Institution: University of Malaya
 University of Malaya research fellow receives National Youth Premier Award 2014

Dr Louisa Ponnampalam is the first Malaysian to win the prestigious 2014 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, which aims to provide outstanding individuals the opportunity to make a difference for marine conservation. This grand achievement, along with her other efforts, earned her this year's National Youth Premier Award (Special Category).

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Dr Louisa Ponnampalam receives her award from the Honourable Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
A research fellow at the Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Malaya, Dr Ponnampalam is a marine biologist specializing in dolphin, whale and dugong ecology and conservation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Marine Science from the University of Hawai'i at Hilo, and a PhD from the University of London's University Marine Biological Station Millport in Scotland. Her research career on these charismatic marine mammals spans 10 years across various seas, including the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Bering Sea, Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea.

In Malaysia, Dr Ponnampalam heads dolphin ecological research projects in Langkawi and Matang, while leading dugong research and conservation efforts in the Johor east coast islands. She is one of the founding members of the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network and has contributed content to various national policy documents concerning Malaysia’s marine biodiversity and environment. These include the National Oceans Policy, Dugong National Plan of Action, and Country Reports to the Convention on Biological Diversity. One of her career goals is to raise the profile of marine mammals and their scientific research in Malaysia, and build local research and conservation capacity as well as awareness for these animals and their fragile marine environment.

Dr Ponnampalam currently serves as a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean and Sirenia Specialist groups. In 2012, she co-founded the MareCet Research Organization, a local NGO dedicated to the study and conservation of marine mammals in Malaysia and the larger Southeast Asian region. She was appointed an Honorary Research Fellow at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak from 2012-2015, and is the current Vice-Chair of the International Consortium for Marine Conservation.

As the recipient of the 2014 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, Dr Ponnampalam is the first Malaysian to win the US$150,000 three-year grant. Her project will focus on the ecological study of dugongs in the Johor east coast islands, using a multi-pronged approach and in collaboration with local and international scientists. The results of her study will be used to make recommendations for a dugong and seagrass protected area where these animals have been observed to concentrate outside existing marine parks. She will be travelling to San Francisco later this year to receive her award.

As a result of this and other achievements, Dr Ponnampalam was handpicked by the Minister of Youth and Sports, YB En. Khairy Jamaluddin, to receive this year's National Youth Premier Award (Special Category). The award was presented to her in Putrajaya recently by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, in conjunction with National Youth Day celebrations.

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