WHO WE ARE
A brainchild of Dr. Louisa Ponnampalam and Fairul Izmal Jamal Hisne, MareCet is the first and only non-profit NGO in Malaysia that is dedicated to the research and conservation of marine mammals in Malaysia.
Established in 2012 and run by a small yet competent and passionate team of researcher-conservationists, our core focuses are increasing scientific knowledge through research, conservation-based outreach and education, strengthening policies, and developing capacity for this field of work. MareCet strives to work to protect marine mammals and their fragile habitats, provide a platform for building local conservation leadership talent, work with stakeholders to optimise conservation outcomes for all involved, and promote ocean stewardship within society at large in Malaysia.
The name MareCet (pronounced ma-rei-set) is derived from the combination of the words Mare and Cetacean. The word 'Mare' in Latin means ocean, while 'Cetacean' is the scientific grouping of whales, dolphins and porpoises. By combining the two words into MareCet, the name signifies the two main focus of the organization: (1) The ocean, in general and (2) marine mammals, in particular.
MareCet is registered as a non-profit, non-governmental body with the Registrar of Societies Malaysia and has tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Board of Malaysia.
Sustaining the future, by conserving the ocean of the present, through increased understanding and appreciation for marine mammals.
MareCet focuses on improving our understanding of marine mammals so as to conserve the marine environment through the undertaking of scientific research, education, empowerment for marine stewardship, promoting ocean advocacy and training future leaders.
MEET THE TEAM
Dr. Louisa Shobhini Ponnampalam
Chairperson & Co-Founder / Executive Director
Dr. Louisa S. Ponnampalam is a cetacean ecologist living a childhood dream. She began her education in marine science at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hawaii. She then went on to pursue her Ph.D. on a prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship at the University (London) Marine Biological Station in Millport, Scotland, researching small dolphins in the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Louisa is a Member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean and Sirenia Specialist Groups and currently also a Research Associate of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
Her research work on cetaceans and dugongs has taken her to the Bering Sea, across the North Pacific Ocean, the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, South China Sea, Sulu-Sulawesi Sea, the Gulf of Thailand. Nonetheless, her true passion lies in increasing the scientific knowledge of marine mammals in her native Malaysia and to advocate for a greater awareness on marine mammal conservation among the Malaysian public. That passion led her to co-founding MareCet in 2012.
In 2014, Louisa became the first Malaysian to be awarded with the prestigious Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation by the Pew Charitable Trusts in the USA, and the Malaysian government honoured her with the 2014 Anugerah Perdana Belia Negara (National Premier Youth Award). In 2018, she was a finalist at the Women of the Future Awards South East Asia. With a dedicated team working alongside her, Louisa established the Langkawi Dolphin Research Project, Matang Dolphin Research Project, Dugong Research and Conservation Project, and Sea, Science and Schools Programme that MareCet runs.
One of Louisa’s biggest aspirations is to groom homegrown researchers who will be the next generation of ambassadors for the conservation of marine mammals and the marine environment in Malaysia through hands-on participation in MareCet’s efforts. In her free time, she loves being outdoors in nature’s paths, the performing arts, hanging out with her furkids and sometimes gives in to the bite of the travel bug.
Fairul Izmal Jamal Hisne
Vice-Chairperson & Co-Founder
Fairul Izmal Jamal Hisne found his calling at 10 years old when he observed his first whale migration and has never waivered since. He began his education in Medical Laboratory Sciences in PTPL College, Malaysia, where he was involved in pathological analysis and medical forensics. He continued his education at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, to pursue a Bachelors of Science degree in Marine Sciences.
He has been involved in the environmental sector since 2008, participating in conservation, policy development and advocacy, and environmental consulting. In 2012, he co-founded MareCet to further scientific knowledge on marine mammals and their habitats in Malaysian waters, and to spread
awareness on their conservation needs to the general public. Since then, he, along with the MareCet team, have represented MareCet at national and international forums spread information gained from MareCet’s work.
Fairul was appointed as a member of the Joint IUCN-WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Area Taskforce, serving as Co-Coordinator for the North Indian Ocean and South East Asian Seas region, in 2017.
Fairul also works as an environmental consultant and is experienced in leading environmental studies worldwide for a variety of industry sectors including oil and gas, energy, infrastructure, tourism, finance and telecommunications.
His main aim is to foster better collaboration between all parties, including government, the private sector, and the general public in improving environmental management and stewardship. Through MareCet, he hopes to be able to empower his fellow citizens of all ages to share his interest for
marine mammals and the oceans they live in, through enhanced participation of the private sector and the general public in conservation activities.
Ng Jol Ern
Honorary Secretary / Outreach and Education Coordinator
Ng Jol Ern has a deep passion for animals, particularly dolphins and whales, ever since she was a kid. She had always dreamt of working with animals after watching wildlife documentaries during her childhood, but never imagined that she would one day be living and breathing it!
She has been fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved with marine mammal research and conservation work and pursue her career in marine conservation with MareCet upon graduating with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Biology from Universiti Sains Malaysia in 2012.
Through her role as an Outreach Coordinator, Jol Ern hopes to inform people about the beauty and value of our marine biodiversity. She has been working on multiple approaches including the development of infographics for social media and informative posters, students and public engagement through talks, exhibitions and workshops, as well as the development of marine education programmes in order to spread the important message about marine conservation. Through her work, she hopes to spark people’s interest and appreciation towards nature and subsequently inspire them to be proactive for the environment.
Lim I-Lin has had a passion for diving since she was exposed to snorkeling at 12 years of age. After her first trip to Perhentian Island, Malaysia, she has never stopped loving the sea and its rich underwater marine life.
In 2004, she finally picked up diving after saving enough and has never looked back.
She feels that more needs to be done to promote awareness on marine conservation among the public and hopefully through her involvement in MareCet, she can help achieve this and enable better preservation of the rich marine biodiversity found in our world.
I-Lin is currently attached to a corporate company and carries with her several years of experience in investment banking. She enjoys her work and above all appreciates the salary which allows her to pamper herself with one overseas diving trip a year. In her spare time, I-Lin tries to squeeze in some outdoor activities in order to recharge and get her sanity back after a hectic week at work.
Dr. Vivian Kuit
Council Member / Scientific Officer
Vivian Kuit had her first snorkeling experience through a marine education program in Lankayan Island in Sabah in 2008. Completely mesmerized by the beauty of the underwater world, she wished she had explored the ocean earlier. Her interest in marine life grew and she went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Science at the National University of Malaysia (UKM). She then picked up scuba diving so that she could get closer to the amazing marine creatures and spend longer time underwater.
Her first exposure to marine mammal research in Malaysia came in 2010, when she volunteered for the Langkawi Dolphin Research Project. Though sightings were rare and weather was not always ideal, she learnt that each cetacean encounter is the fruit of hard work, teaching her to appreciate every moment of it.
Vivian obtained her Ph.D. from Universiti Malaya in 2021, having studied the ecology of coastal cetaceans in Matang, Perak. She is now appointed as MareCet's Scientific Officer, where her role is to assist with MareCet's scientific research activities in terms of robust study design and oversee data analyses, and provide scientific inputs on behalf of MareCet during relevant discussions and platforms at the national level. She enjoys working with people that she admires, and sightings of cetaceans always keep her heart pumping and her senses alive. Besides sharing her passion for cetacean with others, she hopes to encourage more people to look beneath the ocean’s surface and play our parts in protecting the marine environment.
Sandra Teoh’s affinity for marine life started to develop during her childhood days, when her parents brought her to the beach, where she dug up holes in the sand only to be fascinated by creatures burrowed in it. At age 12, her passion for marine mammals burgeoned after her first encounter with a dolphin on a ferry ride. Following her passion, she began her education in marine science at University Malaysia Sabah.
Sandra is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Universiti Malaya, studying the social ecology of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin in the Langkawi Archipelago and adjacent Perlis-Kedah mainland coast, Malaysia. In 2016, she was awarded the Future Conservationist Award by the Conservation Leadership Programme for her research work. She was also selected as a participant for the former President Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Generation Oceans Regional Exchange Workshop 2016 in Jakarta, Indonesia. At the workshop, her team and her clinched the winning pitch to implement a community-based conservation project. In 2019, she earned a competitive Early Career Grant for her research from the National Geographic Society. She wishes to inspire young people to do great things for nature.
Sharon had what she thought was an uncommon love of dolphins and whales growing up, and at one point, dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. However as life happens, she ended up becoming an interior designer cum business graduate and was over the moon to discover the existence of MareCet in Malaysia. The opportunities provided to assist in various volunteer activities, not to mention participate in a survey and see her favorite animals in real life reignited her childhood excitement for marine life.
Sharon loves all things beautiful and dreams of traveling the world to the natural wonders our earth has in store. She is also very happy to find that she is not alone in her love of the friendly mammals of the sea!
She is currently working as an independent design creative in interior and graphics, in which she has been practicing for over 10 years, and hopes to always share the need for wildlife conservation and research.
Lalita Gomez’s journey in the field of wildlife trade research began in 2015, studying the exploitation
of species for meat, medicine and pets in Southeast Asia. This has involved field research, online
trade research, data analysis, legislative reviews and reporting to raise the profile of species being
exploited by illegal trade, to support law enforcement action, identify weaknesses and loopholes in
wildlife regulations, support development of conservation action plans and identify measures
needed to enhance protection for species.
As a programme officer, first with TRAFFIC and now with Monitor, Lalita has since assessed the impacts of illegal trade on a wide variety of species including bears, pangolins and serow exploited for traditional medicine, marine turtles for their meat and shells, otters for the exotic pet trade and more recently have begun to delve into the exploitation and trafficking of lesser known species groups such as reptiles and birds.
Before embarking on a career researching illegal wildlife trade, Lalita worked in the field of environmental consulting for 10 years, managing and delivering environmental related projects such as environmental impact assessments, ecological studies, environmental management plans, environmental scoping studies, environmental planning blueprint, environmental and social baseline and monitoring surveys and regulatory reviews covering both the onshore and offshore environments as well as various industries to meet relevant regulatory requirements in Asia.
Member / Bioacoustician
Saliza is a passionate individual and enjoys discovering the marine mammal world. She began her dream
to study marine mammals by starting her undergraduate degree in Marine Science and graduated from
James Cook University, Townsville, Australia in 2016. During her undergraduate days in Australia, she
volunteered for various institutes such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Murdoch
University Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU, now known as Aquatic Megafauna Research Unit) and also
assisted researchers in Townsville on dolphin photo-identification boat surveys. During her volunteering
in MUCRU, she discovered the fascinating world of marine mammal acoustics.
Saliza then continued to further her studies specifically on acoustic research and graduated with a MSc
in Biological Science from the Lighthouse Research Station, University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Her
research focused on the impacts of offshore wind farm construction on harbour porpoise in the Moray
Firth, Scotland using acoustic detectors. Along with the research team, Saliza managed to become a co-
author of a scientific paper entitled “Harbour porpoise responses to pile-driving diminish over time”
published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal in 2019. Her acoustic research in Scotland led her
wanting to know more on the dolphins’ acoustic in her home country, Malaysia.
She is currently pursuing her PhD in Kyoto University, Japan researching on the acoustic ecology of both
the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins in relation to human activities and
environmental parameters in Langkawi and adjacent mainland waters, Malaysia. She is learning the
acoustic application from her Japanese supervisors, in hopes to fill in the knowledge gap on dolphin
acoustics in Malaysia.
Saliza seizes every opportunity to network with other ocean lovers around the world and managed to
become one out of five Malaysian representatives for the ASEAN Plus Three Youth Environmental Forum
held in Phuket, Thailand in September 2019. At the Forum, she met other ASEAN youths passionate
about conserving the ocean. Saliza hopes to inspire young people or youths in Malaysia to believe in
their dreams and aim for the sky!
Joel Ashervin Zachariah
Joel’s passion for the environment began when he was 7 years of age, from watching Jeff Corwin’s
humour and Steve Irwin’s enthusiasm. Although he was too young back then to handle snakes he did
handle and care for many earthworms. Throughout years he was exposed to the outdoors through his
involvement with the Royal Rangers. This led to gaining many skills and outdoor skills which he applies
today in his favorite sport, rock climbing. Joel has also climbed a number of the highest peaks in
In 2016, after two weeks of mechanical engineering, Joel knew that his heart wanted something more
specific which led him to switch courses and pursue his Aquatic Science degree in UCSI University. This
was where knew he could finally learn and apply knowledge to help the marine environment in any way
he could. At the end 2019 where he graduated, he also had the opportunity to intern with MareCet
where he had finally seen marine mammals in Malaysia for the first time!
Joel is currently pursuing his Masters in Science by Research (Applied Science) in UCSI University, still
with that same passion. He remembers that tagline by National Geographic which was to “live curious”
and hopes that many young ones too, will fall in love with the environment too because they lived
Dr. Ravinder Kaur
All creatures in the sea and on land have always fascinated Ravinder Kaur since her childhood days. Thus, she pursued Conservation Biology in University Malaysia Sabah. Upon graduation, she began
her career in conservation in Malaysian Nature Society as a Conservation Officer. She became a part of the MNS Hornbill Conservation team, and decided to pursue a Masters in Science (Animal Behavior).
Ravin obtained her Ph.D. from Universiti Malaya in 2020. She studies hornbills alongside with her wildlife photographer husband, Sanjitpaal Singh. Together, they established jitspics.com, a photography website. They hope through photography, they can encourage the love for nature and all its splendour.
Ravin also enjoys writing about nature and her work has been published in several local and international magazines.
The MareCet logo was designed by Toh Han Ming and Adam Miranda, two very talented creative individuals, and portrays the spirit of our lively oceans.
Four animated splashing water droplets represent the seas that are pure and full of energy; an environment where sea life thrives. Hence the four droplets come together to form the tail of a whale, gracefully diving back into the deep.
Marine mammals are sentinels of the health of the seas, therefore MareCet cares for the sea by also caring for marine mammals. As such, this logo design explores the concept of clean water being the source of a healthy marine ecosystem, which is also why the whale tail is surrounded and formed by the droplets. The water droplets also come together to subtly form the letter ‘M’, which represents MareCet, making us an organization that is both professional and recognizable.