WCMB 2023

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Meet the keynote Speakers

Prof. Dato' Dr. Zulfigar Yasin

Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia

Zulfigar Yasin is currently an Honorary Professor at the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (CEMACS) in the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). He also heads the Heritage and Urban Studies (HUS) programme at the Penang Institute, a think tank on policy for the Penang State Government. He heads the Marine Environment Programme for the National Professors Council in Malaysia.

Professor Zulfigar was a Dean at the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences (Universiti Malaysia Terengganu) and later the Director of the Institute of Oceanography (INOS) at the same university.

He headed several scientific expeditions investigating the human and climate change impacts on the marine environment. This includes expeditions to the South China Sea and the Coral Triangle, to Antarctica and the Indian Ocean. In the past decade, he was Malaysia’s representatives and facilitator on various scientific working committees in the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-WESTPAC). The global issues addressed in the working committee include the biodiversity attrition, on the impacts of ocean acidification and marine plastic pollution.

His previous research includes studies into the ecology of coral reefs and benthic ecosystems. Some of these addresses issues at various spatial scales and includes the study on coral skeletal growth; coral and benthic community structure along pH gradients and changes of the seawater carbonate chemistry on marine ecosystems in the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea.

Prof. Zulfigar was instrumental in establishing many of Malaysia’s marine parks and is currently involved in establishing an urban marine sanctuary in the northern Straits of Malacca to provide resiliency for the coming impacts of climate change at the local and regional scale.

Dr. Nicole Yamase

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi

Dr. Nicole Yamase is from the islands of Pohnpei and Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). She just received her PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where she studied the ecophysiological responses of native Hawaiian macroalgae. In March 2021, Dr. Yamase became the first Pacific Islander and fourth woman to reach the world’s deepest part of the ocean, Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench. She hopes her love for the ocean and expedition will inspire young Pacific Islanders and other minority students to pursue STEM fields.

Currently, she is the Science Advisor for Blue Prosperity Micronesia, which is a partnership between the FSM Government and the Blue Prosperity Coalition under the Waitt Institute. As an indigenous scientist, she provides the team with unique insight by weaving together her culture and science background.

As a passionate advocate for education and her local community, she is the program leader for The Madau Project which is funded by the U.S. Department of State Young Pacific Leaders Small Grants Program. The Madau Project focuses on reconnecting Micronesian high school students in Hawaiʻi to their navigational heritage through canoe activities, community service opportunities, and educational workshops.

Prof. Dr. Mark Costello

Nord University, Norway

An ecologist specialising in biogeography, Marine Protected Areas, and the effects of climate change on biodiversity. He pioneered ‘ocean biodiversity informatics’; leading the establishment of the World Register of Marine Species and Ocean Biodiversity Information System databases on all 240,000 marine species and 108 million distribution records. Related discoveries concern estimates of how many species exist and are not yet named, evidence of global scale climate change effects on latitudinal gradients, and where to best protect marine biodiversity globally.

Mark has 260 peer-reviewed publications, supervised 66 graduate students, and played leading roles in many international organisations, including the International Association for Biological Oceanography (IABO), Marine Biodiversity Observation Network and being a lead author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th global assessment. He convened the 2020 WCMB.

From Ireland, a fascination with wildlife led to studying in Galway, a PhD based in Ireland’s only Marine Reserve (Lough Hyne), post-docs in England and Scotland, a lectureship in Trinity College Dublin, establishing the company EcoServe, and a term as Executive Director of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in Canada until returning to an academic position in Auckland New Zealand. He is currently a professor at Nord University, Arctic Norway.


The Habitat Foundation

Dato’ Harry Cockrell is the Founder and Chairman of The Habitat Foundation, a nonprofit organisation committed to biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability in Malaysia. The Foundation supports a broad programme of work in both marine and terrestrial landscapes both through its Grants and its Foundation-led initiatives. He is also a Director of Flagstaff Holdings Sdn Bhd which owns and operates The Habitat Penang Hill, the acclaimed rainforest discovery and education destination on Penang Hill. Both organisations played a central role in supporting the nomination of the Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man & the Biosphere Reserve Programme by the Government of Malaysia, and continue to support education, outreach and sustainability programmes on the hill.

Dato’ Harry Cockrell is a Director of The Pacific Tiger Group of Companies which is a privately-owned investment enterprise based in Hong Kong. Formed in the 1980s, the group focuses on the acquisition, financing, development and management of a wide range of businesses and assets in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand and the United Kingdom. The investment portfolio of the group includes real estate, hotel and resort ownership and management, yacht chartering, food processing and distribution, packaging products and services, securities, multi-media services and information technology among others. Recognising the seriousness of the global environmental crisis, The Pacific Tiger Group has embarked on a journey to actively transform its business practices and systems to prioritise environmental and social sustainability and demonstrate that businesses can be a force for positive change.

dr. silvana n.r. birchenough

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS, Lowestoft) UK

Dr. Silvana is a marine ecologist and the Director of the UK Blue Belt Programme. Her research is focused on the understanding the potential effects of climate change and human activities on marine species and the resulting consequences for biodiversity and food security. She has studied the ecological impacts of dredging, aggregate extraction, offshore windfarms, and oil and gas, as well as the effects of multiple-stressors on commercial species. Her work has generated science-evidence of the likely effects of climate change to inform fisheries, monitoring, and management activities. She has experience working across the North Sea, Caribbean Sea, and Pacific Ocean, and have been assessing the vulnerability of fishing and climate of two Caribbean species, the spiny lobster and Queen conch in Belize since 2015. Previously, she worked on in-situ techniques to assess changes in marine organisms, which helped to develop indicators of seabed integrity in support of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Dr. Silvana is also an active member of ICES and PICES networks and has been a co-author of the II World Ocean Assessment and the forthcoming OSPAR QSR 2023. She was also elected as the former chair of the ICES Benthos Ecology and Ecosystem Process and Dynamics Steering Group and is an associate editor for the ICES Journal of Marine Science.

Dr. Audrey Darnaude

CNRS, MARBEC joint research unit, Montpellier (FRANCE)

Audrey Darnaude is a marine scientist working for the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), in the MARBEC (Center for MARine Biodiversity, Exploitation & Conservation) joint research unit, which gathers scientists from varied French research institutes (CNRS, Ifremer, IRD, INRAE) at the Montpellier University (France).

Originally specialized in fish ecology, she has studied the life-history diversity (growth, feeding and migration strategies) of varied marine species, as well as food-web structure in many regions of the world, mainly through the use of individual biogeochemical markers.

Besides chairing a vast international initiative aiming to advance research on Marine Connectivity (the European COST Action & UN Ocean Decade project SEA-UNICORN), she currently studies the life strategies and population structure of various fish of high economic value, in link with coastal food web functioning and habitat connectivity at the sea-continent interface.

She also teaches fish ecology, food web structure and biogeochemistry at Montpellier University, and is involved in varied national and international expert groups, engaging in providing guidance on biodiversity conservation and sustainable maritime spatial planning, in relation to connectivity issues.

Prof. song sun

Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOCAS)

Professor Song Sun is a former director of the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dean of the College of Ocean Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, President of the Chinese Society of Oceanology and Limnology, and Vice President of the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR). He has long been committed to research and technological innovation in the field of ecology in bays, coastal seas, polar seas, and the deep sea. He has played leading roles in the development of theories and methods related to marine ecosystem evolution, studies of both the mechanism and the comprehensive prevention and control of marine ecological disaster occurrence, and deep-sea exploration and research system construction. He has published more than 280 peer-reviewed scientific papers, of which 147 have been published with him as the lead author and corresponding author. He has published seven monographs, and he has won four awards (ranked 1st), including the “Chinese Academy of Sciences Outstanding Achievement in Science and Technology Award” and “Marine Engineering Science and Technology Award”. He has supervised forty-four graduate students, including 30 doctoral students.

Prof. Hiroaki Saito

Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo

Hiroaki is Professor at Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, the University of Tokyo. He studies the role of marine organisms on food-web dynamics and biogeochemical cycle. His main targets are phytoplankton and zooplankton but covering from virus to whales. He’s also keen for scientific contribution of ocean-related social issues and engaging international activities related to UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN SDG14 “Life under Water”. One of the activities is a research and education project CREPSUM (Collaborative Research and Education Project in Southeast Asia for Sustainable Use of Marine Ecosystems, JSPS).