Ambition takes Elizah to places

Weekender

ExxonMobil PNG has supported a Papua New Guinea biologist to obtain a Master’s of Science degree at James Cook University, Australia this March.
“I was very ambitious as a child. I had a very curious mind, achieved good results, and there were so many things that interested me,” Elizah Nagombi says.
“Growing up, I wanted to be a pilot, a medical doctor or a priest! As I progressed onto high school, those ambitions changed. I got fascinated with computers and technology, and thought that was a brilliant option – ‘me a computer nerd’.
“The thought of being a biologist and a researcher never crossed my mind. But I found myself leaning towards this field when I couldn’t meet the grade point average (GPA) to make it into medical school at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) in 2010. Once I had my foot in biological science, I never looked back.”
Nagombi, 27, from East Sepik knew he had the potential for something greater; with an open mind, he adjusted easily into studying biological science when his dream to study medicine didn’t work out.
After completing his undergraduate studies in biological science from UPNG in 2013, one opportunity led to another and he found himself working as an intern with the Department of Environment Conservation, now known as the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA). During his internship, Nagombi became involved in the James Cook University (JCU) Pidu project, a study of rare Australian snubfin and humpback dolphins that exist in the Kikori Delta of Gulf, working alongside JCU researcher Dr Isabel Beasley.
Working on the Pidu project raised Nagombi’s interest in marine mammal research. Recognising this, Dr Beasely encouraged him to apply for further studies in biology.
In 2014, Elizah was awarded an honours scholarship with New Guinea Binatang Research Centre in Madang to conduct research on the response of frog communities to tropical lowland forest disturbances and fragmentation. His study was through UPNG.
“Just prior to completing my honours programme, JCU advertised the Pidu scholarships for honours and master’s degree studies. I applied for the master’s degree programme and was successful,” he said.
“The JCU scholarship for my masters is called the PNGLNG-Pidu Research Scholarship. Pidu is the local Kikori name for the rare humpback and snubfin dolphins in the Kikori Delta,” explains Nagombi.
He began his studies at JCU in June 2016, and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Science, majoring in Tropical Biology and Conservation in March this year. His study was made possible by funding from ExxonMobil PNG, operator of the PNG LNG project.
“With the knowledge from my studies, I am able to do proper scientific research and understand this particular field.
Volunteering to assist other students with their PhD projects and learning from them was very helpful in building my professional network and skills in research,” he explains
The scholarship didn’t just open pathways for Nagombi’s career; it also gave him the opportunity to experience a different culture and see the environment in a whole new perspective.
“I have learnt a lot from the Australia culture, the way they live and the way they do things, especially how they care for the environment has truly inspired me.
With these experiences, I want to teach my family and community on the importance of protecting the environment through simple things like educating them about the damage littering can do to the environment and change our way of thinking,” he says.
Nagombi is thankful for the opportunity and aims to contribute meaningfully to research in Papua New Guinea. He says there is still a need for more awareness in the local and national level on unique species that exist in the country and how these species and the environment can be protected.
ExxonMobil PNG has a strong focus on conserving Papua New Guinea’s unique environment and protecting its biodiversity, therefore the company has also been working closely with the Mamagraun Conservation Trust Fund and the University of Papua New Guinea by funding four Masters in Science students in 2017.
ExxonMobil PNG’s dedication to understanding and preserving the environment is setting new environmental benchmarks for future developments in PNG.

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