Seagrass researcher lauded as environment champion

Siti Maryam, 32, marine biologist and NUS PhD student, checking on the health of seagrasses at the Cyrene Reef, near Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom.

SINGAPORE - Ms Siti Maryam's passion for seagrass has drawn ridicule on many occasions from those who've met her but on Saturday, she was among 10 role models cited at the Clean and Green Campaign for their efforts to preserve the environment.

For the past six years, the marine biologist has been leading a team of 200 volunteers on monthly trips to Pulau Semakau and Chek Jawa to track the health of seagrass meadows.

"If you like your seafood - your prawns and your crabs - you have to like seagrass. It is where they hatch their young," the 32-year-old said.

Seagrass meadows are declining world-wide, the National University of Singapore doctorate student said, and the risk of them disappearing in Singapore is "quite high".

The greatest challenge she faces is convincing people about the importance of seagrass.

It is vital to having a vibrant marine ecosystem. Without a healthy level of seagrass, sea creatures with shells - prawns and crabs - will not have a suitable habitat to reproduce.

Her team of volunteers includes students and working adults, and they submit their findings to the National Parks Board.

But why pick seagrass for her research? She said: "If coral reefs are the stars of the marine world, the seagrass is the one at the back, making everything look good."

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