Marine Research Foundation Core Team

Dr. Nicolas J Pilcher

Executive Director

August 2013 – Present

Mrs. Carmen Leong Pilcher

Office Manager

August 2013 – Present

Conservation Officer

March 2017 – Present

Conservation Officer

May 2019 to present

Research Assistant

July 2021 to present

The Marine Research Foundation is a non-profit research and conservation organisation based in Sabah, Malaysia

MRF was incorporated under the Sabah Trustees Act (1951) and established to improve our understanding of marine ecosystems and their associated diverse flora and fauna, across Southeast Asia and other Indo-Pacific sites. Our work is designed to support the aspirations and intent of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and is implemented at local, National and Regional levels.

MRF was set up to further the understanding of marine ecosystems and functions, and conserve the abundance and diversity of marine flora and fauna through research, conservation and education activities.

Meet the Executive Director and Founder, Dr. Nicolas Pilcher

The Foundation’s Executive Director, Dr. Nicolas Pilcher, has been involved in the Indo-Pacific region for over twenty five years, and has working experience in Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Australia; in Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Timor Leste and Indonesia; in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran and Oman; in addition to lengthy projects in the Maldives, and numerous working visits to places like Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and countless more. Working with local communities and on a broad cross-section of projects from pure research to management plan development and management-oriented solution finding, Dr Pilcher has acquired a breadth of experience in habitat and species conservation, community relations, pure and management-aimed research, and marine protected area management. He has a PhD in marine turtle conservation and is a past President of the International Sea Turtle Society and past Co-Chair of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. He is also on the Editorial Board of several journals and a review editor for numerous others, the author of a couple of books and dozens of peer-reviewed journal manuscripts. In addition he has written National and Regional Sea Turtle Action Plans, and developed risk assessment processes for sea turtle populations across the Pacific. Dr. Pilcher is currently is a Technical Advisor to the UNEP-CMS Dugong Secretariat and a member of the advisory boards of a number of international organisations. In his spare time he is a husband, a father, diver, a boat captain, and even a small airplane pilot.

Read about what MRF does and where

The Marine Research Foundation is a non-profit research foundation based in Sabah, Malaysia and established in 2003. The overarching goal of our projects is the sustainable use of natural resources with a practical approach to conservation, and we provide efficient solutions to concerned stakeholders. MRF has invested more than 15 years in the conservation of marine turtles and their habitats, running community-based turtle conservation projects, in-water research and tracking studies and aerial survey projects to support conservation efforts.

The Marine Research Foundation carries out a number of projects related to biodiversity assessment and conservation, providing management-oriented solutions to Government administrations and conservationists. Some examples of MRF’s project include working in partnership with the Department of Fisheries Malaysia to develop sustainable fishery practices and reduce bycatch in shrimp fisheries; working with the Sabah Wildlife Department on rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles; deploying time-lapse GPS-linked cameras to assess the magnitude and distribution of shark and ray bycatch; developing a  tri-national approach to seascape-level conservation in the Sulu Sulawesi region, including the design of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) and reduction of poaching of sea turtles by Chinese and Vietnamese vessels; conducting aerial surveys for sea turtles in Palawan (Philippines); using laparoscopy to determine gender ratios of turtles on foraging grounds and link these to management practices at hatcheries; working in the Middle East to investigate impacts of climate change on sea turtles; working with local communities in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to conserve critically endangered leatherback turtles; working with the CMS Dugong Secretariat to implement a GEF dugong conservation project across multiple nations in the Indo-Pacific; developing a Regional Action Plan for Sea Turtles in the Arafura and Timor Seas; spearheading a risk assessment project for all sea turtle species and all regional management units across the entire Pacific ocean, and a suite of other smaller initiatives.

Alongside this, MRF works with NGOs in several other countries (e.g. Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Indonesia) to promote conservation of sea turtles and dugongs, and provides technical support to NGOs, governments and industries that wish to improve environmental stewardship.

MRF is a tax-exempt non-profit organization registered under the Trustees Act (Sabah) 1967. As such, MRF has a similar standing to a US-based 501(c)3 organization. MRF conducts several long-term programs in Malaysia and overseas, and hosts a number of interns and volunteers each year to build capacity within Malaysia. The Foundation is governed by a Board of Trustees that meets annually to determine key objectives and priorities for the Foundation, developing an operating budget, reviewing financial statements and plans for future projects and funding. MRF is goal oriented and has not failed in the delivery of a single project – of which there are many since our founding days. MRF has a number of operating policies relating to finance management, gender equality, transparency, anti-bribery, sexual harassment, health & safety, ethics in research, etc. These documents are reviewed annually, are public, and available upon request.