Hawis Madduppa: “The scholarship gave my career a major boost.”
Name: Dr Hawis Madduppa
Lives in: Bogor, Indonesia
Home country: Indonesia
Period in Germany: October 2008 to March 2012, Bremen
Training and research institute: University of Bremen
Occupation: Head of a molecular genetics lab at Bogor AgriculturalUniversity in Indonesia
His doctoral studies at Bremen University focused on the clown anemonefish – the little fish with a big screen presence. Four years on, former DAAD scholarship holder Dr Hawis Madduppa is Head of the Marine Biodiversity and Biosystematics Laboratory at Bogor Agricultural University in Indonesia. Since obtaining his PhD in Bremen with support from the DAAD, he has made a name for himself as a specialist in biodiversity research and marine conservation.
Dr Madduppa, for your PhD at the University of Bremen, you studied the clown anemonefish, immortalised in the film Finding Nemo. What made you choose to study this particular Indonesian species so far from your home country?
Hawis Madduppa: I chose the University of Bremen because it enabled me to explore a range of new techniques in molecular genetics with supervision from experts and using leading-edge technology. For my research, I went on diving expeditions around Indonesia’s coral reefs to capture clown anemonefish. I removed tiny skin samples from their tail fins and then released the fish back into the wild. I took the samples back to Bremen for analysis.
Today, you are active in numerous marine conservation organisations in Indonesia, including a whale shark project. You are also an advisor to a fishing organisation which aims to establish a sustainable prawn fishery. What was the purpose of your doctoral studies on the clown anemonefish?
Hawis Madduppa: The clown anemonefish is one of the most popular fish in the aquarium trade – and live captures have increased since the film was released. I used genetic analysis to determine whether the anemonefish populations migrate or stay in one place. I found that it is generally the latter, which means that the species is at risk of being completely eradicated by ornamental fishery in some areas – in fact, this has already happened in some cases. The situation is acute around some of the coral islands where fishing is especially intensive.
Before your stay in Germany, you had never lived abroad before. How did the experience change you?
Hawis Madduppa: Actually, it changed my image of Germany. In my mind’s eye, I had imagined an industrialised, heavily built-up landscape. But now I know that it has beautiful countryside. And I really came to appreciate the excellent public transport system. As for my scientific work, I learned how to set up and lead a research group and how to produce a paper for successful publication. I also built up a very good network of contacts, which is extremely important. As the head of a laboratory, I maintain very close links with Germany and have now established a good relationship with the University of California as well. These contacts are very useful in ensuring that I keep up with the latest technological and theoretical developments in my field of expertise.
Since returning to Indonesia, you have built up a reputation as one of the country’s leading marine conservation experts. Could you tell us a little about your work over the past four years?
Hawis Madduppa: What is important is that I was able to set up my own molecular genetics laboratory. When I arrived at Bogor University, I was provided with an empty space. So I had the freedom, but also the obligation, to set up a laboratory of my own from scratch. I started off with loaned equipment and, over time, gradually built up a stock of equipment of our own. Our university had never had a laboratory of this type before. In fact, we are one of the very few laboratories in Indonesia to conduct genetic research on marine biodiversity and population shifts in marine organisms as a contribution to the conservation of species richness. For example, we study manta rays, corals and nudibranchs – a kind of brightly coloured sea slug.
To what extent is your work important for marine conservation in Indonesia?
Hawis Madduppa: Indonesia is one of the world’s most species-rich marine regions. It has 600 coral species and the highest diversity of reef fish in the world. An estimated 90 per cent of the coral reefs are currently at risk to a greater or lesser extent. So we have a lot of work to do. Our aim is to study these habitats before they are destroyed.
Would you say that the time you spent in Germany laid the foundations for your work in Indonesia?
Hawis Madduppa: Not only that. I also particularly value the DAAD’s work with its alumni and the support it provides for former scholarship holders. In Indonesia, we alumni work in a wide range of fields but we maintain close links with one other. Last year, I won a DAAD alumni award, which enabled me to host a national alumni meeting here in Bogor. All this has helped me to make a name for myself as a researcher and raise my profile. And last but not least, I also appreciate the DAAD’s generosity in providing me with an annual grant to purchase specialist literature, keeping me at the leading edge in my field.
At 37, you already head up a lab and a team of 65 staff. To what extent do you encourage your team members to engage with the international scientific community?
Hawis Madduppa: I have established very good partnerships with universities in other countries, which means that I can send students to other laboratories on a regular basis. This gives them valuable experience and enables them to work with technologies which I don’t have available here in Indonesia at present. I encourage my staff to apply for DAAD scholarships as well. To this day, I am proud to have had that opportunity. The scholarship undoubtedly gave my career a major boost.