Our associates

Our collective spans the spectrum from individuals to institutions, from more formally-organised groups to looser movements. We are who we are because of community, through our conversations and interactions with the people who shape our values, thoughts and actions.

The Rimba Project

The Rimba Project began in April 2014 as a flagship project for campus greening and biodiversity conservation at the University of Malaya. It is now jointly managed as a campus sustainability Living Lab by the Sustainability Science Research Cluster, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development) and the Institute of Biological Sciences. Based in UM’s Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden, the Rimba Project addresses emerging challenges in urban ecology and conservation by collaborating with UM’s Estates office to improve campus greening and landscape management practices; by supporting education and outreach at Rimba Ilmu; and by undertaking research in urban nature conservation.

Link to the Rimba Project’s Facebook page.

Benjamin Ong

Ecologist by training and explorer at heart, Benjamin is the founder of the Rimba Project, an urban biodiversity conservation programme based at the Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden, University of Malaya. In 2016, he was awarded a Chevening-CIMB scholarship to study Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. There, he won the Chevening Green Volunteer of the Year award for his work with Transition University of St Andrews. He is the author of The Backyard Before You, among other written and visual works. He is UBI’s co-founder and served as operations director from December 2018 through September 2019.

Sugumaran Manickam, PhD

Sugumaran Manickam has been lecturing at the University of Malaya since 2000. Besides lecturing mainly in ecology and botanical-based subjects, he manages the 60-hectare Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden. His interest in research includes higher plant taxonomy, plant ecology and phytochemistry of rain forest plants. Besides this, he has been involved in environmental education to create awareness since he started working at the University of Malaya.

Sofwan Badrud’din

Hailing from Kedah, Sofwan holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons.) in Ecology and Biodiversity, majoring in zoology and minoring in botany, from the University of Malaya. He is enthusiastic when it comes to nature fieldwork as it is his dominant interest, especially entomology. He is currently working as a collection manager for Dato’ Henry Barlow’s private Lepidopteran collection in Genting Tea Estate, Genting Sempah.

Vanessa Ting

As a qualified pharmacist involved in urban biodiversity conservation and education while completing a postgraduate degree in literary studies of the environment, Vanessa regards her varied background as having taught her the value of different perspectives. Her early experience in rural healthcare in interior Sarawak led to an awareness of local identities and the human-environment relationship. Her research interests range from environmental history, ethnobotany and place narratives. Her nature articles and poems can be found online and in print. She served as UBI’s health & safety overseer from December 2018 through August 2019.

Voon-Ching Lim (VC), PhD

A past Rimba Project collaborator, VC is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at University of Malaya for the Blue Communities programme. She received her PhD from the same university, where she assessed the potential of DNA barcoding to understand the diversity of bats and their phytophagous diet in Peninsular Malaysia, particularly in urban areas. Her PhD research was supported by National Geographic and the Malaysian Nature Society. VC also holds a degree and a diploma in forestry science from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Her current research interest is ecosystem services in marine protected areas.

Read VC’s study on the impact of urbanisation and agriculture on the diet of fruit bats, to which volunteers from the Rimba Project contributed, here.

Selam Solomon

Selam is a final-year ecology student. She credits genuine curiosity and storytelling for helping her understand the culturally diverse environment she grew up in and is now set on applying them to ecology. After a few years of teaching, translating and editing in Jeddah, she moved to Malaysia to study marine and forest ecosystems. Fascinated with ingenuity in the natural world and in the individuals who dedicate their lives to studying it, she now writes (as she learns) to share the superb science of these worlds.

Water Warriors

Water Warriors began in 2013, shortly after its co-founders graduated from the University of Malaya (UM). They wanted to give back to the place they’re happy to call their own backyard, the University. The first challenge that they were inspired to overcome was to revive the heart of UM, Tasek Varsiti (the varsity lake). From just volunteers, their efforts were soon recognised by the University. Water Warriors was then upgraded into a Living Lab project, providing more opportunities to collaborate with researchers, development staff and student volunteers. They began to look into protecting other water bodies on campus and to provide solutions for water consumption reduction. The University of Malaya is part of larger watershed that includes the Klang River. Their current efforts include collaborating with surrounding communities beyond the University.

Link to Water Warriors’ website.

Zeeda Fatimah Mohamad, PhD

Associate Professor Dr Zeeda Fatimah Mohamad is an academic at the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS), Faculty of Science, University of Malaya. She holds a BSc in Ecology from the University of Malaya; MSc in Environmental Management and Policy from Lund University; and PhD in Science and Technology Policy from the University of Sussex. Zeeda’s academic interest is primarily to understand the relationship between the development of science, technology and innovation (STI) and environmental protection, particularly within the context of sustainable development and associated challenges to late-industrialising countries. She is also involved in community research and engagement work, particularly through her involvement in UM’s Water Warriors Living Lab.