M‘sian Scientist Shines At TED Women Talk With Her Research On Fireflies

Additionally, she is evaluating the conservation status of fireflies in the 3rd edition of Singapore's Red Data Book.
“Fireflies, I thought they were flames, but where are the embers if they are flames?” (”Kelip-kelip kusangka api, kalau api mana putungnya,”)This line from a pantun reflects the essence of long-lost friendships. But what about the dwindling populations of fireflies, threatened by development?

“This is a beacon of hope. Fireflies need your help and support before they stop lighting up,” said Dr. Wan Faridah Akmal.

Her words received thunderous applause from the audience.

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M’sian scientist shines at TED Woman Talk

Dr. Wan, the co-chair at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Firefly Specialist Group, incorporated Malay elements into her speech at TED Women 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Dr wan faridah akmal jusoh

She quoted the Malay proverb ‘alang-alang menyeluk pekasam, biar sampai ke pangkal lengan,’ (if you start something, you should see it through to the end or put in your best effort), highlighting her continuous efforts to conserve these species.

Being invited to such a prominent event was a great honor for her, providing an opportunity to share her message and knowledge with the public.

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Dr wan ted woman talk 2023_2

In her speech, she mentioned that she originally hailed from Dungun, Terengganu, which she described as a ‘superstitious and conservative community’.

“My siblings and I always had to follow the strangest rules that usually didn’t make sense to me, like not whistling in the house, no nail clipping at night, and we always had to be home before sunset or before it got dark whenever we went out to play.”

“This particular rule made the night seem mysterious to me. I spent my school years admiring the dark but never really got around to exploring it.”

“In the mangrove forests, a simple boat ride at night turned into something unforgettable. Initially scared by the dark and the choppy river, the darkness soon revealed a stunning sight.

The forestry officer had mentioned kelip-kelip, or fireflies, which light up at night.

“The first 15 minutes were really scary,” Dr Wan shared. “But then, as the river got narrower, I saw countless tiny lights blinking on the trees in perfect rhythm.”

This beautiful scene of fireflies dancing in the dark was a moment she would always remember, marking the start of a deep love for these glowing insects.

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You may watch the full video here:

Building a database of 2,000 firefly species

Currently, Dr. Wan is building a comprehensive database of 2,000 firefly species. She and her team are assessing the conservation status of fireflies in Southeast Asia and other regions.

Dr wan at ted talk

Additionally, she is evaluating the conservation status of fireflies in the 3rd edition of Singapore’s Red Data Book.

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It is understood that Dr. Wan previously worked as a National University of Singapore Research Fellow. There are over 2,000 species of fireflies found on every continent except Antarctica.

Besides, she is also a Senior Lecturer in Biodiversity and Conservation at Monash University Malaysia.

She also served as a Senior Program Officer for Terrestrial Conservation in Peninsular Malaysia with WWF Malaysia, where she led a team to conserve the wetlands in Setiu, Terengganu.

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