A very exciting part of my current work is my close collaboration with the Myanmar Coastal Conservation Lab (MCCL) – part of the social innovation lab and training center, Point B Design + Training. This unique, innovative group builds skills and develops solutions for the future of coastal conservation in Myanmar, with a focus on youths.
MCCL was founded by 3 bright young researchers who have been trained in Design Thinking, have experience working on diverse human-centered projects, and are passionate about improving conservation and environmental management in their country. We have been working together since 2016, beginning with various small projects as part of my postdoc; the three co-founders were so inspired by their experience studying coastal issues that they formed MCCL within Point B. Over the next 2 years, we solidified our partnership as collaborators on the Gulf of Mottama Project, and now continue our work together with me acting as a Research and Conservation Advisor consultant.
Together, our work spans research, training, and outreach, based on core values of Design Thinking – creativity, human-centered thinking, empathy, systems, and critical thinking. Highlights include:
- Developing and implementing an intensive internship and student internship program to train recent graduates and graduate/undergraduate students from Bago and Mawlamyine Universities in core research skills, technical skills, field research, and outreach to support their confidence and capacity as aspiring conservation researchers. So far, we have trained at least 18 interns/student interns, plus dozens more students and faculty through intensive workshops, Reading Discussion groups, and field experience.
- “Discovering” (to science) subpopulations of Indo-Pacific Finless porpoise, Irrawaddy dolphin, and Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin in the Gulf of Mottama (working with local communities, who knew of their existence long before!) and launching the only active marine mammal research project on Myanmar’s coastline (at the time)
- Implementing Most Significant Change qualitative evaluation of Gulf of Mottama Project’s impacts to communities
- Assessing stakeholder perceptions of process and inclusion in the formation of Locally Managed Marine Areas in the Myeik Archipelago, for FFI
Their current areas of work also include considerable efforts in plastic waste research and reduction, and providing technical and field support to local university research teams. Their founding members include a Chevening Scholar and an ASEAN Youth Biodiversity Leader; they were awarded the J. Stephen Leatherwood Award at the 2019 World Marine Mammal Conference for most outstanding presentation related to marine mammal conservation and research in Asia!
I am thrilled to be a part of MCCL as they grow into an important hub for training the future of marine conservation in Myanmar. I want to emphasize that my role is only a part of the magic that they work. We are moving more toward implementing Design Thinking in marine mammal conservation and plastic waste reduction efforts this year!