Plea to save mangrove forests wins Don sci-communications award

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ATTELETH DON was crowned the FameLab Malaysia National Final 2020 Champion, coming up tops against 11 other science communicators from across the country. In accordance with prevailing SOPs, the championship was held in the limited presence of participants and attending judges at the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT). The event was streamed live on YouTube.

Don’s winning talk was titled ‘Save our Homes by Saving our Mangroves’. ‘Mangrove forests form a dense barrier along our coasts and become our first line of defence against natural disasters such as tsunamis as they absorb and reduce impact, saving lives and homes,’ he said.

After eight years studying in the field of marine science and oceanography, Don built an interest towards science communication to engage people through interactive approaches. Through jokes, stories and even drama, he uses everything in his arsenal to build public awareness and understanding on the environment.

Don further explained: ‘Mangrove forests are also home to migratory birds seeking refuge and rest during rough weather, and to small juvenile fish seeking protection in their dense root system underwater, while the muddy ground is a social site for male crabs to mingle with females. Mangrove forests don’t just save lives and our homes, but also various plants and animal species living within them too. Through conservation and proper forest management, we can coexist with nature for generations to come.’

Don receives a RM3,000 cash prize and will represent Malaysia at the FameLab International Final later this year. He also wins a trip to the UK sponsored by MIGHT, One Team Networks and the British Council worth RM11,500; the EURAXESS ASEAN Prize 2020 worth EUR600 which offers the unique opportunity to visit a research lab or university anywhere in the UK or the 27 European Union member states; and a visit to Cardiff and Eureka Robotics Lab sponsored by Cardiff Metropolitan University worth GBP1,000.

Sarah Deverall, Director Malaysia, British Council, said: ‘Through our work in science communications and FameLab, the British Council taps on international networks to support researchers to use their skills in bridging the gap between science and society and enhancing equality and diversity in science. Our work creates new relationships, builds inclusive societies, strengthens capacity, facilitates collaborations for international research and creates a supportive environment for science development, translation, and innovation. We are proud of the Malaysian talents displayed this year, building on the excellent standards Malaysia has become renowned for in recent years. Congratulations to all the finalists and of course to the 2020 Malaysia National Champion, Atteleth Don.’

Datuk Dr. Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, President & CEO of MIGHT highlighted: ‘FameLab is a unique, entertaining platform to nurture and showcase the communication skills of young professionals and researchers to the masses. The young communicators will share their research and knowledge in a light and lucid manner to promote science literacy, research findings and science diplomacy. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the important role of a ‘science communicator’ to heed science with the right facts and as a solution provider, and to use science and technology to overcome the world’s fragility. If done well, it can save lives and provide comfort and ease to the public.’

FameLab was started by Cheltenham Science Festival in 2005 and has grown into a global phenomenon in partnership with the British Council since 2007. It is a competition aimed at finding, developing and mentoring young science and engineering communicators. FameLab requires the participants to engage audiences in a three-minute presentation on scientific topics and concepts. Every presentation is judged according to the golden rules of the 3 Cs: content, clarity and charisma. The competition consists of national heats and finals, followed by an international final in the UK at Cheltenham Science Festival.

The British Council collaborates with MIGHT to deliver FameLab in Malaysia, with sponsorship partners One Team Networks Sdn Bhd, EURAXESS ASEAN and EUREKA Robotics Lab, Cardiff School of Technologies, Cardiff Metropolitan University. Supporting partners are the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MoHE), The Petri Dish, and Science Media Centre (SMC) Malaysia.

Dr Siti Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah was crowned the 2018 FameLab International Champion at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK. She followed in the footsteps of Professor Dr Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam, who was the first Malaysian to win the title ‘World’s Best Science Communicator’ in 2016.

This year’s competition in Malaysia attracted 53 applicants, with a total of 12 finalists selected from the Regional Heats held in January and February 2020. The finalists were equipped with science communication skills through a two-day masterclass organised by the British Council, delivered by Quentin Cooper who is one of the most familiar and popular UK voices of science and technology. He is a hugely experienced moderator, interviewer, trainer, lecturer and the host for FameLab International.

Since its inception at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005, FameLab has grown into the world’s leading science communication competition. The partnership with the British Council has seen the competition go global with more than 10,000 young scientists and engineers participating to date.

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The Petri Dish is malaysia’s first dedicated science newspaper. Through The Petri Dish we aim to engage the public on the latest developments on biotechnology.