In addition to our partners in the field, the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project draws on the expertise and passion of a team of conservationists who are awestruck by the biodiversity of our planet and have committed their lives to the species and habitats they love.

The ‘Team’ as we call them, is divided into the Project Coordination Team located in Abu Dhabi; the Executive Steering Committee, whose work impacts conservation legislation on a global scale; and the Project Technical Advisors, whose depth of experience working with dugongs, seagrass and conservation issues is truly awesome.

Executive Steering Committee

Frederic Launay

Acting Director General of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

Fred is the Acting Director General of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund – a significant philanthropy providing financial support to species conservation projects worldwide. He is also a senior adviser to the Office of the Secretary General of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. He is the former CEO of the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort. Fred Launay is a biologist with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the conservation of the biodiversity of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, conducting research on ornithology, animal reintroduction and migration. Fred is actively involved in the global conservation movement as a member of the IUCN/SSC Steering Committee and Chair of the IUCN/SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group.He holds a PhD in animal ecology.

Max Zieren

GEF Regional Focal Point Asia United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Mr. Max Zieren joined UNEP in early 2004 - first based in Nairobi, and the Asia and Pacific Regional Office since February 2007. He works with Asian countries and a global network of technical partners towards GEF V project identification, project design and development, and partnership building to implement the projects. Through his broad expertise he works on invasive alien species, sustainable land management and poverty alleviation, access and benefit sharing, regional water management, climate change & wetland conservation, integrating a green economy approach to sectors such as forestry and agriculture, protected area networks, biodiversity conservation & landscape connectivity, as well as the global expansion and use of voluntary certification systems such as by Rain Forest Alliance in tea, cocoa and coffee or FSC-based forest certification for ecosystem services like carbon, water, genetic resources, and recreational values.

Donna Kwan

Programme Manager - Dugongs, MoU on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range

Donna Kwan is the Programme Manager responsible for the implementation of the Dugong MoU of the Convention on Migratory Species. She holds a PhD in dugong reproductive biology and has spent all of her professional career working in research, conservation and management of dugongs. Her specific areas of expertise include population biology, collaborative research, conservation and management with local communities as well as policy development and implementation at local, national and international levels.
Technical Advisors

Amanda Hodgson

Research Fellow, Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit

My key research interest is population assessments through aerial surveys and I am developing techniques to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) for surveying marine mammal populations to assess marine mammal abundance and distribution, particularly of dugongs and humpback whales. I have also researched dugong behaviour and responses to human activities, particularly boat traffic and ‘pingers’ or acoustic alarms designed to reduce marine mammal entanglement in nets.

Chris Cleguer

Research assistant, College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University

Chris Cleguer has broad research interests in spatial ecology and conservation of marine mammals with a particular interest in dugong (Dugong dugon) ecology, conservation and management. Chris has worked closely with resource managers and local communities in New Caledonia to inform the conservation and management of dugongs at several spatial and temporal scales. Chris has a strong experience in using a range of tools including aerial surveys, GPS-satellite tracking technologies and GIS to investigate the abundance, distribution, movement patterns, habitat use of dugongs and the activities that threaten them. Chris completed his MSc in Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and his PhD at James Cook University in Townsville (Australia) in 2015. Chris is a Research Fellow at the College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University in Townsville, Australia and he is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) in Nouméa, New Caledonia.

Helene Marsh

Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science, James Cook University

Helene Marsh is Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and the Dean of Graduate Research Studies at James Cook University. The focus of her research has been dugong population ecology, and she is internationally recognized as an authority on dugongs, providing scientific advice to governments and NGOs in numerous countries. Helene is a Fellow of the Australian Academies of Science and Technological Sciences and Engineering and has received several international awards for her research.

Josh Donlan

Director, Advanced Conservation Strategies (ACS)

Josh leads Advanced Conservation Strategies (ACS) by building interdisciplinary teams to tackle problems in novel ways. He founded ACS in 2006. Trained as a scientist, Josh holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and an M.A. from University of California. He has worked on environmental and social issues in over a dozen countries, including the management of invasive species, environmental restoration, conservation finance, and incentive-based approaches to environmental conservation.Josh served as the Chief Scientist for Project Isabela in Galápagos Islands, one of the world’s largest island restoration project. His current interests are focused on discovering where entrepreneurship, design, and human behavioral change can intersect to create and scale new ventures that improve the environment and the lives of people.

Len McKenzie

Principal Research Officer, James Cook University

Len has over 20 years experience as a research scientist on seagrass ecology, assessment and fisheries habitats. This includes experience within Australia and overseas in seagrass research, resource mapping/ assessment and biodiversity. He has provided information on seagrass communities that has been vital in management of seagrass resources of the Great Barrier Reef and also at the state, national and international levels. He has also advised on fisheries and coastal resource-use issues for managers, fishing organisations, conservation and community groups. Len is the Principal Researcher and Program Leader of Seagrass-Watch, a non-profit seagrass research organisation that conducts research is 17 countries. Len is also the Secretary of the World Seagrass Association.

Nicolas Pilcher

Executive Director, Marine Research Foundation

Nicolas Pilcher has spent the last 25 years working on marine research and conservation projects throughout the Indo-Pacific, but based full-time in Malaysia. His work primarily focuses on reduction of bycatch of endangered marine turtles, as well as providing management-related data to improve conservation and management of marine species. He holds a PhD in marine conservation, and was the Co-Chair of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group from 2003 to 2015, the world’s authority on sea turtle conservation and biology. He is also a member of the IUCN Sirenian Specialist Group, as well as Technical Advisor to the UNEP-CMS MoU on Dugong conservation.

Richard Unsworth

Marine Ecologist, Swansea University

Richard is a marine ecologist based at Swansea University and a founding Director of the conservation charity Project Seagrass. His research focuses on the ecosystem services of seagrass meadows and the factors driving their loss and degradation.
Project Coordination Team

Maya Bankova-Todorova

Project Manager

Maya is our project manager. Able to keep a cool head under great stress, Maya keeps on plugging away at all the details of the project. She is originally from Bulgaria, but is increasingly able to call Abu Dhabi 'home.'

Mariam Yacout

Project Associate

Mariam has lived across the world and is a long-time resident of Abu Dhabi. She speaks several languages including English, Arabic and French. Mariam is the project associate on the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project - with a touch for details and remembering names, Mariam is the glue that holds our project together.

Kirk W. Duthler

Communication Manager

Kirk is a communication specialist with the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project and the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi. Having lived in worked in Abu Dhabi for more than 10 years, Kirk specializes in telling conservation stories in as many formats as he can get his hands on. Kirk holds an MA and PhD degree in communications form the University of Kentucky and a BA from Hope College. Kirk has an awesome family and leads a great life, thanks in part, to the great people of the UAE.