Kenya Aquatica

KCSAP Project

Dr. Jacqueline Uku

Dr. Jacqueline Uku

Dr. Jacqueline Uku is a seagrass scientist and conservation leader who works on the ecology and physiology of marine flora with a special focus on seagrasses. She has a special interest on community development having worked extensively with coastal communities during the Kenya Coastal Development Project as the Project Leader. She has diverse working experience working in conservation issues, gender engagement, capacity building and stakeholder mobilization.

She serves as a Senior Research Scientist at KMFRI and is Coordinator of Research at the institution.  From 2011 to 2017, Jacqueline served as the Project Coordinator for the World Bank funded Kenya Coastal Development Project (KCDP).  This project involved seven agencies and was multi-disciplinary in nature. The project focused on the development of the fisheries sector, natural resource management and support for alternative livelihoods. The project also established key infrastructure in the coastal counties and also build capacity by training several beneficiaries at postgraduate and certificate education levels.

Within KMFRI, she has also served in key management positions such as the KMFRI Pension Fund and contributed to the establishment of the KMFRI Performance Contract Secretariat. She continues to lead several committees at KMFRI and to contribute to research and networking.  

Nationally, she has contributed to the development of the National Environmental Policy as a member of the National Steering Committee. She has been a technical member of the National Blue Economy Technical Committee and continues to serve as a member of the technical working group of the Kenyan High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. She is also the National Coordinator for Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in Kenya and is working support the establishment of the MSP Secretariat in KMFRI.

In 2014, she was elected as the President of WIOMSA Board and re- elected in 2017 for a second term. Within WIOMSA she has worked to establish the Network for Women in Marine Science (WIMS) as well as the Western Indian Ocean Early Career Scientists Network (WIO-ECSN). Her vision for the region can be seen on   and

She has also served as a member of the Editorial Board of the WIOMSA Journal of Marine Science and a mentor under the African Women Agricultural Research and Development Programme (AWARD). Jacqueline also serves on the Executive Committee of the Scientific Committee for Oceanic Research (SCOR).

In December 2020, the Global Ocean Science Report 2020 – Charting Capacity for Ocean Sustainability (GOSR2020) was launched ( and Jacqueline served as the Co-chair of the Editorial Board of this report which is based on data collected from IOC-UNESCO member countries. The report provides baseline information on ocean science investments globally (incl. staffing, gender inclusivity, infrastructure, equipment, capacity building, SDG 14 achievements, funding and investments in ocean science, publications and data flow). This important report provides a baseline for measuring and evaluating progress made in these key areas in the course of the Ocean Decade for Sustainable Development.   

Jacqueline is also the recipient of the 2019 NK Panniker Award for capacity building from the IOC-UNESCO General Assembly.

She is currently focusing on the assessment of seagrass blue carbon as a source of benefits to communities. Her other area of interest is seagrass restoration. She also continues to support the enhancement of awareness of ocean issues through engagement in ocean literacy activities.

KMFRI Mombasa Research Centre
Oceanography and Hydrography
Seagrass physiology, Coral reef ecology, Seaweed ecology
Seagrass restoration and ecosystem management, community livelihood development
  • Phd, Msc, BSc

  • N. Uku & K. M. Mavuti 1994. Comparative limnology, species diversity and biomass relationship of zooplankton and phytoplankton in five freshwater lakes in Kenya. Hydrobiologia 272: 251 - 258. 
  • N. Uku 1997. Savannas under the sea. SWARA magazine. July/August 18- 19.
  • N. Uku 1998. Marine grasslands: A whole new world for East Africa. Window Newsletter 9(1): 2-3.
  • Bjork, M., J. Uku., A. Weil & S. Beer 1999. Photosynthetic tolerances to desiccation of tropical intertidal segrasses. Marine Ecology Progress Series 191: 121 – 126.
  • Uku & M. Bjork. 2001. The distribution of epiphytic algae on three Kenyan seagrass species. South African Journal of Botany. 67: 475 – 482.
  • R. McClanahan, J. N. Uku & H. Machano. 2002. Effect of macroalgal reduction on coral reef fish in the Marine National Park, Kenya. Marine and Freshwater Research. 53: 223 – 231.
  • Uku & M. Björk 2005. Productivity aspects of three tropical seagrass species in areas of different nutrient levels in Kenya. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 63: 407 – 420.
  • Uku J, S, Beer, M. Björk 2005 Buffer Sensitive Photosynthetic Carbon Acquisition by East African seagrasses. Marine Biology 147: 1085 – 1090.
  • N. Uku. 2005. Seagrasses and their epiphytes: Characterization of abundance and productivity in tropical seagrass beds. PhD thesis. Botany Department, Stockholm University. ISBN 91-7155-036-4
  • Uku J., M. Björk , B. Bergman & B. Diez. 2007. Characterization and comparison of prokaryotic epiphytes associated with seagrasses Journal of Phycology 43 (4): 768 – 779.
  • N. Uku, S. Ndirangu, C. Muthama, A. Kimathi, N. Magangi, F. Waithera. 2008. Seagrass loss and its impacts on fish dynamics in the Diani-Chale Lagoon. Samaki News. Pg. 50 – 52.
  • J.S. Eklof, M. de la Torre-Castro, M. Gullstrom, J. Uku , N. Muthiga , T. Lyimo, S. Bandeira. 2008. Sea urchin overgrazing of seagrasses: A review of current knowledge on causes, consequences and management. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 79: 569–580.
  • S. Eklöf, S. Fröcklin, A. Lindvall, N. Stadlinger, A. Kimathi, J. N. Uku, T.R. McClanahan. 2009. How effective are MPAs? Predation control and ‘spill-in effects’ in seagrass–coral reef lagoons under contrasting fishery management. Marine Ecology Progress Series. Vol. 384: 83–96.
  • N. Daudi, C. Lugomela, J. N. Uku, M.De Troch 2012. Effect of nutrient enrichment on seagrass associated meiofauna in Tanzania 2012. Marine Environmental Research. 49–58.
  • Abubakar, C. Mwangi, J. Uku, and S. Ndirangu 2012. Antimicrobial activity of various extracts of the sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla (Echinoidea). Afr. J. Pharmacol. Ther. 1(1): 19-23.
  • Y.W. Shaghude, J. W. Mburu, J.Uku, J.Ochiewo, N. Nyandwi, H. Onganda, C. Magori,  I. Sanga and R.S. Arthurton. 2013. Beach Sand Supply and Transport at Kunduchi in Tanzania and Bamburi in Kenya. Western Indian Ocean J. Mar. Sci. Vol. 11. No. 2, pp. 135-154.
  • L.N. Daudi , J.N. Uku & M De Troch. 2013. Role of the source community for the recovery of seagrass associated meiofauna: a field colonisation experiment with seagrass mimics in Diani Beach, Kenya, African Journal of Marine Science, 35:1, 1-8
  • Uku, J. 2015. Ocean Sourced Carbonate Production (. In UNEP-Nairobi Convention and WIOMSA. The Regional State of the Coast Report: Western Indian Ocean. UNEP and WIOMSA, Nairobi, Kenya, 546 pp.
  • C.M. Aura, F. Hassan, M. Osore, G. Morara, J. Uku. 2015. A Comprehensive public-private partnership concept for resources sustainability from a mega project management multi-level perspective. International Journal of Management and Sustainability, 4(11): 218-236
  • Wallner-Hahns, M. la Torre-Castro,J. .Eklöf, M. Gullström, N. Muthiga, J. Uku. 2015. Cascade effects and sea-urchin overgrazing: An analysis of drivers behind the exploitation of sea urchin predators for management improvement. Ocean & Coastal Management. 107:16-27
  • L. Daudi, J. Uku, M. De Troch. 2020. Pigment and fatty acid profiling reveal differences in epiphytic microphytes among tropical Thalassodendron ciliatum meadows. Aquatic Botany. 166. August 2020. Article 103253
  • Claudet, L. Bopp, W.Cheung, R. Devillers, E. Escobar-Briones, P. Haugan, J. Heymans, V. Masson -Delmotte, N. Matz-Luck, P. Miloslavich, L. Mullineaux. M. Visbeck, R. Watson, A. Zivian, I. Ansorge, M. Araujo, S. Arico D.  Bailly, J. Barbiere, C. Barnerias, C. Bowler, V.  Brun, A. Cazenave, C. Diver,  A. Euzen, A.  Gaye, N. Hilmi, F. Menard, C. Moulin, N. Munoz, R.  Parmentier, A. Pebayle, Hans-Otto Portner, S. Osvaldina, P.  Ricard, R. Santos, Marie-Alexandrine Sicre, S. Thiebault, T. Thiele, R. Trouble, A. Turra, J. Uku, and F. Gaill3. 2020. A Roadmap for using the UN Decade of science for sustainable development in support of science, policy and action. One Earth, Vol. 2 Issue 1: 34 – 42
  • Okafo Yarwood I, Kadagi NI, Miranda NAF, Uku J, Elegbede IO and Adewumi IJ. 2020. The Blue Economy-Culutral Livelihood-Ecosytem Conservation Triange: The African Experience. Front Mar. Sci. 7:586.doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00586
  • Roberts, S., Uku, J., Isensee, K., Déniz-González, I., von Schuckmann, K., Escobar Briones, E., and Aricò, S. 2020. Ocean science for sustainable development. IOC-UNESCO, Global Ocean Science Report 2020–Charting Capacity for Ocean Sustainability. K. Isensee (ed.), Paris, UNESCO Publishing, pp 175-195
  • Uku, L. Daudi, V. Alati, A. Nzioka, C. Muthama (2021) The status of seagrass beds in the coastal county of Lamu, Kenya. Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management, 24: 35–42
  • Uku, L. Daudi, C. Muthama, V. Alati, A. Kimathi, S. Ndirangu (in prep.) Seagrass restoration trials in tropical seagrass meadows of Kenya.


  • N. Uku, E. E. Martens & K. M. Mavuti 1996. An ecological assessment of littoral seagrass communities in Diani and Galu Beaches, Kenya. In M. Bjork, A. K. Semesi, M. Pedersen & B. Bergman (eds). Current trends in Marine Botanical Research in the East African Region. A SIDA publication. 280-302.
  • Uku, Wakibia, J., Ndirangu, S., Muthama, C.& Kimanthi, A. 1998. Macroalgae and Seagrasses of Mida Creek. In G. K. Mwatha, E. Fondo, J. Uku & J. Kitheka. (eds). Biodiversity of Mida Creek, Kenya. Final Technical Report Submitted to Kenya Wildlife Service and Funded by the Netherlands Wetlands Program. 99 – 113
  • K. Mwatha, E. Fondo, J. Uku & J. Kitheka. 1998. Biodiversity of Mida Creek, Kenya. Final Technical Report Submitted to Kenya Wildlife Service and Funded by the Netherlands Wetlands Program. 197pp.
  • Uku. 1999. A survey of macroalgae in Kenyan Lagoons within the framework for the EU-INCO project. Activity report of the EU-INCO GROFLO Project. Anthropogenically Induced Changes in Groundwater Outflow and Quality and Functioning of the East African Nearshore Ecosystems (1996-1999) Final Report.
  • Obura, J. N. Uku, O. P. Wawiye, S. Mwachireya & R. Mdodo. 2000. Kenya, reef status and ecology. In D. Souter, D. Obura & O. Linden (eds). Coral reef degradation in the Indian Ocean. Status report. Published by SAREC Marine Science Programme, Stockholm, Sweden. 25 – 34.
  • Uku & S. Ndirangu. 2001. Seagrass Habitats of the Diani-Chale area. In N, Muthiga (ed). The Biophysical and Ecological Profile of Diani-Chale. An ICAM project.
  • Ochieng, C. A. 2001. Seagrass Beach Cast: The environmental implications of its removal. In Uku, J. N. (ed). KWS Report Coast Regional Headquaters, Mombasa, Kenya.
  • Uku & J. Kitheka (eds) 2002. Mida Creek. The Physical and Biophysical Aspects. KWS Technical Series Report.
  • J.Uku, S. Ndirangu & C.  Muthama.  2002. Trends in the distribution of Macroalgae in a Bleached Kenyan Reef Ecosystem. In O. Linden, D. Souter, D. Wilhelmsson & D. Obura (eds).  Coral reef degradation in the Indian Ocean. Status report 2002. Published by CORDIO, Sweden. 61 – 69.
  • M. Muthama & J. N. Uku 2003. Macrofaunal assemblages of littoral seagrass communities. In J. Hoorweg & N. Muthiga (eds). Recent Advances in Coastal Ecology. Studies from Kenya. African Studies Center Research Report 70.  51 - 63.
  • Uku, S. Ndirangu, C. Muhtama & A. Kimathi. 2005. An evaluation of the effect of sea urchin herbivory in the Diani-Chale lagoon. Preliminary report No 1.A KMFRI/CORDIO collaborative project report. 8 pp.
  • Uku, S. Ndirangu, C. Muthama, A. Kimathi & J. Kilonzi. 2007. An evaluation of the effect of sea urchin herbivory in the Diani-Chale lagoon: recovery potential of the seagrass habitat. Preliminary Report II. A KMFRI/CORDIO collaborative project report. 13 pp.
  • J N. Uku & J. Francis 2006. Educational Needs Assessment for the Western Indian Ocean Region. An assessment study undertaken by WIOMSA on behalf of the UNEP-GEF WIO-LaB Project entitled ‘Addressing land-based activities in the Western Indian Ocean Region’
  • J N. Uku & J. Francis 2006. Training Needs Assessment for the Western Indian Ocean Region. An assessment study undertaken by WIOMSA on behalf of the UNEP-GEF WIO-LaB Project entitled ‘Addressing land-based activities in the Western Indian Ocean Region’ 


  • N. Uku .1995. An Ecological Assessment of Littoral Seagrass Communites in Diani and Galu Coastal Beaches, Kenya. M. Sc. Thesis. University of Nairobi. 185 pp.
  • N. Uku. 2003. Productivity of Tropical Seagrasses and their Epiphytes. Licentiate Thesis. Botany Department, Stockholm University
  • N. Uku. 2005. Seagrasses and their epiphytes: Characterization of abundance and productivity in tropical seagrass beds. PhD thesis. Botany Department, Stockholm University. (See