IInternational Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate our inspiring women researchers on campus. Dr Wong Ee Phin, an alumnus and an Assistant Professor of the University of Nottingham Malaysia is the principal investigator of a project entitled Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME).
Dr Wong, a wildlife scientist, has over 16 years of experience in Malaysia's wildlife conservation field and in the past eight years she has been working mainly on the research and conservation of wild elephants in Peninsular Malaysia. She completed her PhD in 2017 and immediately joined UNM’s School of Geographical and Environmental Sciences’ teaching force. Subsequently, she was made the deputy-principal investigator of MEME and took on the challenge to chart the path for MEME to work on human-elephant conflict (HEC) issues. After securing the grant from Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) for 2020-2022, with a focus on working with communities to manage HEC, Dr Wong took over the role of principal investigator from Professor Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, thus achieving both MEME and YSD’s goal of having a Malaysian to lead the project.
Prof Deborah Hall, Vice Provost (Research and Knowledge Exchange), University of Nottingham Malaysia said: ““Ee Phin is a passionate advocate for wild Malaysian elephants and I’m delighted to see this work go from strength to strength under her dedicated leadership and guidance.”
Dr Wong strongly believes that science is important for enabling conservation efforts. This was the driving force for her to do her Masters and PhD in the field of wildlife conservation. Her personal study interest is on the development of non-invasive techniques (to study hormones, parasites, microbial etc.) for wildlife monitoring as this is an emerging field that allows researchers to study the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on wildlife health.
Her love of the conservation field was ingrained in her as a child who grew up in several plantations with exposure to the great outdoors. She reckons that it was her childhood connection with nature that has somewhat led her to become the wildlife researcher she is today.
Research on human elephant conflict
Human-elephant conflict is often a complex issue, resulting from competition for space and food between elephants and humans. In Malaysia, HEC complaints are mainly on elephants eating crops in farms and plantations, causing loss of economic income. The conflict is often exacerbated by habitat fragmentation and infrastructure development that impede elephant movements between forest patches.
“This is a real issue and is very challenging to solve. There are ways we can try to save elephants and help people, but for it to be effective, we need a collaborative effort with the community and other stakeholders,” she explained.
“I am privileged to be part of the academic community at UNM and to be given the opportunity to work with leading researchers. As a student, I looked up to many of them and now as a member of staff, I take great pride in exposing my students to the research work that we do and this includes undergraduate students as well,” she said.
Last year, Dr Wong was the local organising committee chair for the Society for Conservation Biology’s 29th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) held from 21 to 25 July 2019 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, which attracted 1,300 delegates from 87 countries, mostly conservation practitioners and academics.
Work and life
During the last year of her PhD, Dr Wong got married and started a family and found that juggling study, life, career and family could be a bit of a challenge. In February 2018, when she finally attended her graduation after the birth of her son, the university asked her to give a speech during the ceremony. This is when she shared about her PhD journey in UNM, which had been an eventful and fulfilling journey that had allowed her to pursue her life-interest in wildlife conservation and push her to greater heights.
“I like to thank our family members, lecturers, university management and support staff for providing the environment for us to grow, for giving us their encouragement and support, and for their friendship and love,” she said at her graduation speech.
“After the birth of my son, I am more appreciative of mothers. I understand better now why it is often said that motherhood itself is a full-time job. I am lucky that our society nowadays is more supportive of mothers who want to continue their career, and I am thankful for a support system that allows me to juggle the many roles I hold in life as a mother, wife and daughter, an academic and a researcher. I feel women can contribute a lot to society and in my case, to wild elephant conservation,” Dr Wong reflects.
For media enquiries please contact Josephine Dionisappu, PR and Communications Manager at University of Nottingham Malaysia.
The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the 2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 25 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer, proud of our Athena SWAN silver award, and a key industry partner- locally and globally.
Posted on 6th March 2020