For over a decade, Zalina’s conservation and research career has taken her from dense jungles to stunning coral reefs. Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Cardiff University, Zalina’s journey began with protected area conservation at WWF-Malaysia, where she studied the faunal diversity of the Ulu Muda forest in Kedah through camera trapping and advocated for its preservation. Zalina’s experience at WWF has profoundly influenced her approach to conservation advocacy and shaped her outlook on working for non-governmental organizations. Apart from this endeavour and a short-lived ambition of becoming an astronomer while in primary school, Zalina’s true passion has always been marine biology, however. She has since embraced this calling and is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Aberdeen, studying population distributions of sharks and rays in Sabah, in partnership with the Marine Research Foundation.

As the Research Coordinator for the Sea Turtle Research Unit at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Zalina’s fascination with sharks led her to spend more time catching and tagging reef sharks than sea turtles at the Chagar Hutang turtle nesting site on Redang Island. This was no surprise, however, as it aligned with her research for a Master’s degree in Marine Biology, which explored the diets of blacktip reef sharks and their predation of turtle hatchlings.

Even though Zalina’s time being attached to the South African Shark Conservancy and working in primate rehabilitation at the International Primate Rescue Centre in South Africa are among the highlights of her career, Malaysia’s marine biodiversity, the allure of its coral reefs and her passion for diving, continuously pull her back home. When not deeply engaged in PhD research, Zalina enjoys traveling or unwinding with crosswords, seeking a balance between her professional and personal life.