Zahirah Suhaimi

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Santa Cruz, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9866

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Suhaimi, Zahirah (California, Santa Cruz, U. of) "Emergent Microbial Cultures: Harmful Algal Blooms in the Johor Straits"

Since 2009, the Johor Straits, a channel between Singapore and Malaysia, has been experiencing episodic harmful algal blooms (HABs). Algal species are the base of marine food chains and form the building blocks of coral reefs. In high densities, however, algal species can poison or suffocate all other organisms within range. HABs have caused massive losses to aquaculture industries and the decimation of marine ecosystems, putting scientists under pressure to understand and predict their emergence. Scientists, however, are confounded by why it took so long for a bloom to happen in the highly anthropogenic Straits. Further complicating scientific inquiry is the political tension between Singapore and Malaysia over pollution in the Straits. Meanwhile, the livelihoods of coastal communities in the Straits are related to environmental conditions and organisms that are associated with algal growth and decline. Knowing the historical and everyday patterns of their social and economic practices may hold clues for caused or delayed HABs in the Straits. This project will employ a range of ethnographic methods to puzzle out what causes HABs in the Johor Straits, and why they took longer than expected to emerge.