A manager from Malaysia has used a grant from the British American Tobacco (BAT) Biodiversity Partnership to help protect threatened seahorses.
Soon Shuen Tan, a services manager with BAT, enlisted the help of 27 of her work colleagues. In March 2009 the group took part in a seahorse and pipefish survey for Save Our Seahorses (SOS), a non-profit group founded in 2004 which is fighting to conserve what remains in the Pulai River Estuary through collaboration with the government, local communities and developers.
As a student, Soon Shuen was an active volunteer with SOS, but stopped her volunteer work when she began her career in 2006. But on return from an Earthwatch expedition to Vietnam in June 2008, Soon Shuen used a grant from the BAT Biodiversity Partnership to put her project ideas into action and got involved with SOS once again.
Soon Shuen and her colleagues spent two days helping to map and monitor the seagrass bed in the Pulai River Estuary, a mangrove forest in the southwestern corner of Johor State, Malaysia. They recorded data about the seahorses such as sex, size, colour, and evidence of injury or disease.
Seahorses, seagrass and other marine creatures are under threat from surrounding development. The seahorses, which once thrived in the estuary, are losing their habitat and SOS fears they may soon vanish from the estuary altogether.
Soon Shuen says: "The project was a runaway success, thanks to the overwhelming support from BAT staff. Three teams totalling 27 volunteers gingerly treaded the Causeway seabed hunting for seahorses, while braving knee deep waters."
She continues to support SOS appeals to conserve the Pulai River Estuary, and participates in the SOS volunteer programme. She also continues to donate in support of SOS's marine conservation awareness and education programme for local children.
Soon Shuen adds: "Perhaps I can't make a huge difference to biodiversity in my region, but at least I do my part in helping to conserve and enhance the local community's environmental awareness. I feel proud to be given a chance to support global conservation science, no matter how small my contribution is, but I dare to dream that I can make a difference."
As part of the Biodiversity Partnership, BAT staff have opportunities to join Earthwatch expeditions. On their return, they can apply for a grant to support conservation initiatives in their own communities, with advice from Earthwatch on how to make best use of the funds.