Being one of the three women recognised for her research efforts that may potentially save the lives of millions by tackling large-scale global challenges, Dr Teh Su Yean is a huge advocate for unifying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Dr Teh's dedication bagged her a position as L'Oreal-UNESCO's Women In Science 2017. Her first focus and priority is to protect Malaysia's coastal resources. We sit down with the self-proclaimed introvert to discuss the local marine environment, women in STEM, and common misconceptions.
Tell me about your current research project.
The overarching objective of my proposed research is to inspire more people to specialise in STEM subjects by providing an example of how science, technology, engineering and mathematics researchers can come together to address the consequences of global climate change.
Achieving agricultural, food and water security is vital in a country’s adaption to climate change (CC). Declining water resources coupled with salinity intrusion into surface and subsurface water will pose threats to water security. Water scarcity, soil degradation and loss of cropland worldwide will have a profound influence on food security. Worldwide, about 1.5 to 2 billion people rely on groundwater as a main drinking water source. Salt intrusion into aquatic ecosystems, wetlands, low-land agriculture (rice) and coastal plain groundwater systems pose a threat to freshwater resources, whole ecosystems, food production and livelihoods.
My current research enables us to predict if saltwater intrusion will have a long-lasting effect on our freshwater supply and on vegetation. Understanding the coupling of surface and subsurface water is crucial in achieving sustainable water resource utilization, particularly under the threat of CC. Therefore, we are confident that this research will offer a useful tool for sustainable management of our coastal resources and provide useful insights on protection of coastal resources from threats and emerging threats from CC to aid our country’s adaptation to CC.