Louisa Shobhini Ponnampalam, Ph.D., a 2003 University of Hawaii at Hilo marine science graduate and research fellow at the Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was awarded $150,000 to conduct a three-year study on dugongs, a large coastal marine mammal that resembles the manatee.
Ponnampalam will gather scientific data on Malaysia’s dugong population and their habitat to explore the distribution, relative abundance, movement and patterns of habitat use utilizing visual, acoustic and underwater surveys. Her research will also assist other scientists working to protect dugongs worldwide.
Ponnampalam is cofounder of the grassroots NGO, Malaysia’s first nonprofit organization dedicated to research, conservation and increasing public awareness of marine animals.
Known for her passionate dedication to helping marine mammals, she is also vice chair of the International Consortium for Marine Conservation and serves as a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean and Sirenian Specialist Groups.
Her new Marine Conservation Fellowship is from the PEW Charitable Trust. The PEW Fellows Program in Marine Conservation funds projects that address critical challenges in ocean conservation.
Each year, five marine fellows are selected based on the strengths of their proposed projects, including the benefit their research will provide in protecting ocean environments.