Wildlife disease ecologist Debby Ng joins Mongabay board of directors

Bringing a diverse skillset, experience and unique perspective, Mongabay is excited to welcome Debby Ng to its Board of Directors.

“It’s an honor to have Debby Ng join the Mongabay board,” said Rhett Butler, Mongabay Founder and CEO. “Debby is an accomplished scientist, journalist, and educator who has worked on a range of issues across a diverse array of ecosystems, from reefs around Singapore to the Himalaya. She will bring a lot of expertise to Mongabay, which will help inform and guide strategy as we expand into new markets and embark on new projects.”

Ng grew up close to nature. Until age 8, she lived in a village within Singapore’s last remaining wilderness. These were formative years. For her as a child, she remembers it being a stimulating and exciting way to live, but for her elders she knows it was difficult. Living remotely in the jungle, it was constant work and high risk. For instance, instead of simply turning on a faucet, Ng’s grandmother had to carry water from afar, and their house was vulnerable to floods.

She recalls another experience of catching a juvenile crocodile while net fishing on the river with her father. Ng was fascinated by the lizard-like creature, but for her father it was terrifying, as there were likely mature crocodiles nearby.

“As a child you’re not always aware of all the dangers, but I think growing up there helped me realize how nature means different things to different people based on their experience,” she said. “It’s important to understand these perspectives and how people value nature differently.”

After moving to the city, Ng still sought time in nature hiking and backpacking. These were activities her grandmother, who was very happy to finally have the comforts of urbanization, couldn’t understand. “‘Why would you voluntarily go sleep on the ground and carry your water?’” Ng says she would ask.

Ng’s persistent curiosity about nature and interest in understanding diverse perspectives led her to a career in environmental journalism. A one-month writing assignment in Nepal landed her in the Himalayas, where she began researching red pandas, and then embarked on a seven-year journey to become a wildlife disease ecologist. Inspired by her research in the Himalayas, the Himalayan Mutt Project –  a community-led effort to monitor and manage infectious diseases in wild and domestic animals in Nepal – was born.

Back home in Singapore, Ng spearheads the Hantu Blog ­– an educational site about scuba diving focused on conservation of Singapore’s coral reefs. Well-recognized within the journalism field, she also is a National Geographic Explorer.

Most recently, Ng joined Mongabay’s board of directors where she hopes to apply her array of professional experiences, as well as her personal perspective as a woman working within the journalism and science sectors in Southeast Asia, which is a major geographic focus of Mongabay.

Ng first learned about Mongabay around 2008 when its founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler gave a presentation at a conference Ng was attending.

“It was mind blowing to me, the growth of Mongabay and the influence that one media outlet could have,” she said. “It was really inspiring to hear the story of Mongabay, and how simple ideas can get big and make a difference.”

Ng’s joining Mongabay’s board of directors is grounded in her belief that positive change necessitates understanding different values and perspectives. A specific information gap Ng sees Mongabay filling is access to information in multiple languages. Quality journalism is often limited to Western populations, she said, but Mongabay helps get people factual information in their own languages.

“We all experience the world differently,” she said. “It’s really important to understand peoples’ perspective on laws and regulations, and why they have certain interpretations of governance. The bridge that environmental journalism helps build is between science, governance and people. These are the pillars of humanity.”

Learn more about Debby Ng at her website.
Photos courtesy of Wallace Woon and Debby Ng.