09 Jan Zeehan Jaafar
Dr Zeehan Jaafar is an instructor with the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore. She received her B.S. Biological Sciences and Ph.D. Biological Sciences from the National University of Singapore. She also engages in broad marine conservation issues through scholarly pursuits and through on-the-ground efforts by volunteering at various marine areas in the region.
Although Zeehan always loved nature and enjoyed animal-watching, she only first realized what Singapore had to offer during her undergraduate years at the National University of Singapore.
It began when she was working on her undergraduate research project on coastal fishes. This brought her to know of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. It was also with the Raffles Museum that she first went to Chek Jawa on a salvage operation. The sheer number of people who chipped in for the salvage operation, and then the massive guided walks before deferment, touched her a great deal. It made her realize that there were actually many people who still cared enough about nature and this warmed her heart greatly.
Zeehan has made several contributions to popular articles published by Raffles Museum as well as one of the key contributors to ‘The Chek Jawa Guidebook’ published by WildSingapore.
She had a two-year stint as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Division of Fishes with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington in 2012. Mysteries surrounding small fishes like mudskippers and gobies – how many species are there? Where do they live? How are they related to each other? – fuel her research efforts during a two-year postdoctoral fellowship. Mudskippers are amongst the most fascinating of fishes as they are able to live out of water, on mudflats, for hours at a time.
Zeehan was invited to contribute two articles for encyclopaedias namely Biomes and Ecosystems, The Encyclopedia and WorldBook.
Her research has brought her to many mangrove forests in Southeast Asia, considered to be among the most endangered habitats globally. Unsustainable fish farms and urban development have contributed to deforestation of mangrove forests annually. Learning more about mudskippers that depend on these mangrove forests will help in the management and conservation of mangrove habitats.
”I see nature as somewhere one can withdraw into, a safe haven which is serene and peaceful. It is a magical feeling knowing that there is something bigger than yourself that is marvellous and intriguing. How I feel when I am in such places attracts me to it. Understanding the ways of ecosystems and helping others understand it as well is very satisfying. Sharing this experience with like-minded people and avid nature lovers makes any trek through storms, mud and unrelenting sandflies worthwhile.
I approach my work by trying the best I can. If one is truly enthusiastic about something, it will just show and the people you talk to will be naturally drawn (pardon the pun) as well. “