ExxonMobil PNG Limited (EMPNG), operator of the PNG LNG Project has provided K350, 000 to support three postgraduate PNG students. The scholarships aim to support the research work carried out to protect and conserve a unique dolphin species, which, for all of the Pacific Islands, are only found within the Kikori Delta of PNG.
The successful Masters recipient is Mr Elizah Nagombi, who will start his Masters with course work at James Cook University (JCU) in February this year. The two successful Honours recipients are Ms Wilma Mavera and Ms Monica Kolkia. Both will start their Honours program at The University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) early this year.
These scholarships are initiated under a collaborative program led by JCU and UPNG to research and conserve the dolphin species, Orcaella heinsohni.
The project also seeks to establish what other marine mammals occur in the Kikori Delta, and work with Papua New Guineans to develop a community-based management plan to enable long-term conservation of marine mammals in the Kikori region.
James Cook University researcher, Dr. Isabel Beasley, said the Kikori Delta was the remotest region in which she has studied inshore dolphins.
"Thankfully, ExxonMobil PNG has funded the project, which allows us to charter a live-aboard vessel to safely conduct surveys, and most importantly, engage numerous local PNG counterparts and students in the project," said Dr. Beasley.
"The Kikori Delta is currently the only region in the Pacific Islands and West Papua where Orcaella heinsohni are found, so the population is considered a regional priority for research and conservation."
UPNG Registrar, Jennifer Popat said The University of Papua New Guinea was proud to partner with James Cook University in this important marine research project.
"Without the support of ExxonMobil PNG for these Honours and Masters Scholarships, the scientific knowledge concerning this species of dolphins would remain incomplete," she said.
EMPNG Managing Director, Andrew Barry said that, investing in these types of research programs is ExxonMobil's long-term approach to preserving Papua New Guinea's unique environment for future generations.
"In addition to the important information gained on inshore dolphins, the partnership with James Cook University and The University of Papua New Guinea is helping young Papua New Guineans to build research and development skills which are important for the preservation of the unique biodiversity of this country," Mr. Barry said.