Introducing Dr. V. Balaji & Iona Soulsby

This month, Mangrove Action Squad (MAS) was very lucky to host to two visiting NGO mangrove enthusiasts  in Singapore from the Asian region; Dr. V. Balaji, the founder and director of OMCAR (Organization For Marine Conversation Awareness and Research) in Tamil Nadu and Ms. Iona Soulsby, team leader for MAP (Mangrove Action Project) Sulawesi, Indonesia. Both individuals have done great work for their respective NGOs and we were thrilled to have them in Singapore.

Iona Soubly measuring the diameter at breast height (DBH) in Mandai Mangroves

Iona is equally happy in and outside of the mangroves

Ms. Iona Soulsby works in South Sulawesi province, Indonesia for almost a year as a team leader for mangrove rehabilitation project for Mangrove Action Project (MAP). Her place of work concentrates on a several small islands of Makasar (capital of Sulawesi) that were made into shrimp ponds (or better known as ‘tambak’ in Indonesian Language). Her work consists of leading a team of working on various fieldwork projects some of  which include monitoring vegetation in these once-natural habitats. Hailing from the land of the Kiwis and having earned a degree in Environmental Science and Development Studies  from Victoria University of Wellington, Iona is a true environmentalist and working in the  mangroves came instinctively to her. Having lived in Bali for a couple of years, this ‘bule’ (Indonesian language for a Westerner) speaks fluent Indonesian and has been nick-named the Mangrove Princess of Indonesia (look at the golden bracelet and the ring in the photo above!) Her visit to Singapore was mainly to learn few mangrove monitoring techniques from Dr. Daniel Friess a.k.a. Mangrove Man to assist her in developing better and cost effective methodologies to monitor the mangroves in Sulawesi! During her stay in Singapore, she has also assisted Rick in his project to map the vegetation of Mandai Mangroves. MAS believes she had a great time in the Mandai and Singapore and we would love to have her back in Singapore in the near future.

Dr. Balaji chilling out at during dinner at Lau Pa Sat (Telok Ayer Market)

Dr. Balaji at full focus while handling the total station in Mandai mangroves

Dr. Balaji (or prefers  just to be called Balaji) is an awesome individual in short.  MAS’ introduction of Balaji is best written from his own foundation’s webpage

” Dr. V. Balaji, founder and Managing Trustee of OMCAR Foundation was born in 13th January 1980 in Pattukkottai, Tamil Nadu.  He has completed his B.Sc., in Zoology (2000), M.Sc., in Marine Biology (2002), M.Phil., in mangrove ecology (2004) and Ph.D in Seagrass Ecology (2009).  His interest in marine conservation was started since his school days that lead to perform his self motivated commitment in insitu conservation practices with local community in northern Palk Bay.  His part time volunteering in local non governmental organizations helped to understand the concepts and to get the field experience since 2000.   At the age of 22, he decided to work independently as a full time social worker and conservation biologist in local coastal areas.  He conducted 1100km of solo bike expedition along the 540 coastal villages for a research and coastal environmental awareness programme in 2002 and sea turtle conservation campaign with WWF in 2003.  He has paddled 600km in a sea kayak from Rameshwaram to Chennai to create awareness on conservation of coastal ecosystems of Tamil Nadu.  He found OMCAR Foundation as a platform to perform his marine conservation, awareness and ecological research  activities through a participatory approach of fisherfolk community”

Excerpt taken from OMCAR

Balaji’s work  in the mangroves of Tamil Nadu , include ecological mangrove restoration, children environmental education programmes, fisher woman empowerment programmes, research and coastal ecology fieldtrips, coastal cleaning programmes and many more activities. Besides mangroves, Balaji is also interested conservation of other coastal habitats such as sea grasses and their fauna and flora found within them. Although he was only in Singapore for three short days, Dr. Balaji was still happy to give help out in Rick’s project in Mandai and also gave short talk on his foundation in NUS. Needless to say, Balaji is truly  a remarkable individual and we enjoyed his short presentation on his foundation’s work at the end of his visit in Singapore.

Balaji (right) being introduced to attendees of his talk by Mangrove Man (left)

Balaji talked about rehabilitation of mangrove trees on edges of a canal

We hope both Iona and Balaji will come back to Singapore and share more stories with MAS and the public. Thank you, Iona and Balaji!



About Mangrove Action Squad

Welcome to the Mangrove Action Squad (MAS) blog. The squad is very passionate about monitoring and conservation of mangroves of Singapore and we love to share our thoughts on the subject of mangroves.

Posted on October 4, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.


    good work,In Tamilnadu Tuticorin District,Koomputhurai coastal village mangrove forest degrading daybyday

    • Mangrove Action Squad

      Sorry Dr. Jeyakumar for the late reply. The Squad would love to visit Tamil Nadu mangroves one day!

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