Thu 18 Sep 2014: 2.00pm @ DBS CR1 – Hou Chia Yi on Modelling infectious disease emergence in the context of conservation, economics and development

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

” Modelling infectious disease emergence in the context of conservation, economics and development”

HOU Chia Yi
Graduate Student,
Dept. of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Thu 18 Sep 2014: 2.00pm
DBS Conference Room 1 (S3 Level 5)
Supervisor: Asst Prof Roman Carrasco
Co-supervisor: John D. Mumford

All are welcome

Abstract: – Infectious diseases are emerging in real time, with the current epidemic of ebola in West Africa taking the headlines at more than 1,900 human deaths over the course of March to September 2014. Infectious disease emergence is a field that spans studies of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans, and is not only relevant in times like this, but also globally important in times of non-crisis. Overall, I will study the linkages between ecological and human systems to understand how these connections and interactions may affect risk of emergence, and ultimately how control and policy may fit in. Factors that are drivers of disease and dynamics may be affected by aspects and behaviors of both human populations and animal populations. The goal is to characterize and manage risk by examining connectedness, risk, and control allocations or actions that may be contributing to disease emergence. In order to capture how various factors may impact risk, this proposed PhD thesis approaches the modeling of the emergence of infectious diseases from multiple scales: global national, continental spatially explicit, regional, and landscape. In the first chapter, global official development assistance will be collated and compared with risk of emergence. The second chapter will look at Africa land use projections as a result of economic development and other ecological factors to understand how development activities may be managed to reduce future risk. The third chapter examines the trade connections in the Southeast Asian region, an area that may be considered a hotspot for biodiversity and development as well as disease emergence. In the last chapter, a case study in Thailand is proposed that follows human movement and connects it to mosquito sampling and clinical records of dengue and malaria in people.

NUS Biodiversity Crew & alumnus at the Society for Conservation Biology (Asia) conference


Marcus Chua reports the list of NUS Biodiversity Crew and alumnus who presented or was present at the 3rd Asia Regional Conference of the Society for Conservation Biology – Asia Section – what a party!

  1. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz
  2. Adeline Seah
  3. Alison Wee
  4. Becky Shu Chen
  5. Catharina Gallacher
  6. Cedric Tan
  7. Dan Friess
  8. Dan Richards
  9. David Bickford
  10. Edward Webb
  11. Enoka Priyadarshani Kudavidanage
  12. Fatma Gözde Çilingir (Gogo)
  13. Felix Lim
  14. Jacob Phelps
  15. Kelvin Peh
  16. Liang Song Horng
  17. Luke Gibson
  18. Madhu Rao
  19. Marcus Chua
  20. Mary Rose “Mingko” Posa
  21. Mary Ruth Low
  22. Nega Tassie Abate
  23. Rachel Oh
  24. Reuben Clements
  25. Richard Corlett
  26. Roman Carrasco
  27. Sarah Papworth
  28. Sheila Poo
  29. Tak Fung
  30. Valerie Phang
  31. Wei Kit Lee
  32. William Symes

Let me know if we missed anyone. Marcus also made a great effort to tweet updates to those of us stuck in campus and has compiled his posts, as well as those of others in this Storify compilation.


Photos by Marcus Chua. Thanks Mary Ruth and Mingko for a bunch of updates!

Fri 19 Sep 2014: 10.00am @ DBS CR2 – Cros Emilie Sidonie on Diversification of Understorey Bird Species of Southeast Asia

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

“Diversification of Understorey Bird Species of Southeast Asia”

Cros Emilie Sidonie
Graduate Student,
Dept. of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Fri 19 Sep 2014: 10.00am
DBS Conference Room 2 (S1 level 3, mezzanine)
Supervisor: Asst Prof Frank Rheindt

All are welcome

Abstract: –

The Sundaic region is recognised as one of the top 5 leading biodiversity hotspots. Because of its geographical complexity and the periodical connectivity of its landmasses due to sea level changes during Pleistocene glaciations, this region is particularly interesting for the study of diversification mechanisms.

Recent studies have shown complex patterns of genetic variation among populations of different landmasses in Sundaland, giving insight that some of those populations may in fact no longer experience gene flow between one another. The study of pattern of gene flow across landmasses in this region during the past ice-age is therefore a unique opportunity to better understand the differentiation and speciation mechanisms of Sundaic biota. Additionally, this region also shows the highest deforestation rate observed among tropical regions.

Habitat conversion reduces population sizes and connectivity between sub-populations. Singapore, which has gone through an extensive loss of natural habitat, is a particularly interesting location to study how habitat modification affects gene flow and connectivity within populations. Since understorey birds are very sensitive to habitat modifications, they are an ideal model to study diversification as well as the effect of habitat modification. To investigate intra- and inter-population genetic variation, we are using new molecular methodologies such as Restriction-site Associated DNA sequencing (RAD seq) methods, which provide high-resolution population-genomic data.

E-waste recycling & hard disk shredding! NUS U Town, Fri 12 Sep 2014: 10am – 4pm

NUS’ Office of Environment Sustainability is organising an inaugural electronic waste (“e-waste”) recycling drive in NUS on Friday 12 Sep 2014: 10am – 4pm. Anyone can drop off their e-waste at the NUS University Town near the bus stop and if you are driven through, there is a drop-off point at the Stephen Riady Centre.

This e-waste drive ensures your unwanted electronics / electrical equipment and accessories are disposed off in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Let your friends know. and make good use of this inaugural e-waste recycling drive in NUS.

This free recycling is provided courtesy of Apple.

I see they offer shredding of hard disks, so peace of mind ensured for your data on old hard disks. See OES’ Facebook page for more.

OES U Town E waste ex

If you are unable to make the date, there is existing e-waste recycling locations in Singapore offered through Funan Digital Mall and Starhub – see details at the NEA webpage.

Thu 11 Sep 2014: 4.00pm @ DBS CR2 – Fatma Gozde on “Bridging Insitu and exsitu conservation of the Burmese roofed  turtle with genetics and stakeholder engagement”

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

“Bridging  insitu  and  exsitu  conservation  with  genetics  and  stakeholder engagement:  a  case  study  of  the  critically  endangered Burmese roofed  turtle (Batagur trivittata)”

Fatma Gozde Cilingir Ceyhan  
Graduate Student,
Dept. of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Thu 11 Sep 2014: 4.00pm
DBS Conference Room 2 (S1 level 3, Mezzanine)
Supervisor: Asst Prof Bickford, David Patrick

All are welcome

NewImageAbstract: – Anthropocene defaunation has been taking place rigorously for 500 years, and turtles are one of the most endangered vertebrate groups suffering these effects. The endangered Burmese roofed turtle, Batagur trivittata, is endemic to Myanmar and has the second smallest wild turtle population in the world and is one of the least studied species.

There have been ongoing ex-situ conservation efforts for a decade, which led to a growth in the number of captive animals in Myanmar. The ultimate goal is to reestablish self-sustaining populations in their natural ranges. To achieve this, there is an obvious need for input from quantitative and multi-disciplinary approaches to formulate conservation management strategies.

This study has three phases, which aim to construct a strategic framework to “maximize conservation benefits while minimizing the risk of unintended consequences”. In the first phase I will study the conservation genetics of the Burmese Roofed turtle. I will construct reintroduction and assurance colonies by choosing individuals based on genetic indices, quantify the degree of genetic bottleneck experienced by the species, and conduct paternity analysis to shed light on the breeding ecology of this enigmatic species. In the second phase, I will conduct social surveys at potential release sites and evaluate the level of awareness and attitudes of local people towards turtle conservation efforts, aiming to contribute to conservation decision-making process and future conservation education schemes. In the third phase, I will build habitat suitability maps based on turtle nest location and use these maps to guide potential future field surveys and suggest a quantitative alternative for qualitatively assessed potential reintroduction sites.

Overall, I will study a broad spectrum of questions on the Burmese Roofed turtle, extending from genetics to reintroduction to fill the gap between ex-situ and in-situ conservation attempts. This multi-disciplinary approach will enhance current conservation practices of the Burmese roofed turtle and guide future conservation efforts for other endangered species.

Fri 05 Sep 2014: 3.30pm @ DBS Conf Rm 2: Toh Tai Chong on “The use of sexually propagated scleractinian corals for reef restoration”

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral ExaminationTai Chong

The use of sexually propagated scleractinian corals for reef restoration”

Toh Tai Chong
Graduate Student,
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS
Supervisor: Prof Chou Loke Ming

Fri 05 Sep 2014: 3.30m
DBS Conference Room II (S1 Level 3, Mezzaine)

All are welcome

Abstract – 

“Increasing anthropogenic pressures coupled with global climate change have resulted in the rapid degradation of coral reefs, necessitating the implementation of active measures to assist the recovery process. Recent advancements have facilitated the use of sexually propagated scleractinian corals to supplement reef restoration initiatives, by capitalizing on the ability of corals to produce large numbers of genetically diverse propagules. The main objectives of my thesis were to assess and improve the feasibility of using sexually propagated scleractinian corals for reef restoration.

Attempts at transplanting sexually derived corals are limited and have been restricted to the use of the fast-growing species. This is the first study to rear two species of slow-growing Faviid corals from larvae through to transplantion to the reef. My results demonstrated that this technique is technically viable for reef restoration and the key bottleneck of this approach resided in the initial ten months of the ex situ mariculture phase, which had the highest juvenile coral mortality rate.

To improve the feasibility of this approach, I have demonstrated that introducing the sea urchin Salmacis sphaeroides and the gastropod Trochus maculatus as biological control agents were useful in regulating macroalgae proliferation and augmenting the post-settlement growth and survival of coral juveniles in mariculture facilities. Subsequently, I have showed that nutritional enhancement significantly increased the ex situ growth of coral juveniles. This had significant flow-on effects even after transplantation to the reef, as coral transplants which were fed had higher growth and survival rates than those which were not.

Taken together, my research provided key empirical evidence to support the use of sexually propagated corals as source material for transplantation to degraded reefs. The initatives proposed in this study can be incorporated into future reef restoration programmes to improve the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of transplanting sexually propagated corals.”

Mon 25 Aug 2014: 9.00am @ DBS Conf Rm 1: Lucas Garrett Gibson on “The fate of biodiversity in modified tropical forests”

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination

“The fate of biodiversity in modified tropical forests

Lucas Garrett Gibson
Graduate Student,
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS
Supervisor: Asst Prof Bickford, David Patrick

Mon 25 Aug 2014: 9.00m
DBS Conference Room (S3 Level 5)

All are welcome

Abstract – 

“Tropical forests hold half of all species on the planet, but are being rapidly lost or disrupted by agricultural expansion, logging, and other human enterprises. In my thesis, I examined the fate of biodiversity in modified tropical forests in three original ways. First, I compiled data from published studies around the global tropics and used a meta-analysis to assess the relative biodiversity value of regenerating, logged, and other disturbed forests. Second, I surveyed small mammal communities in forest fragments over multiple time periods to measure the rate of species loss – and thereby gauge the time available to avert extinctions in fragmented forest landscapes by implementing conservation actions. Third, I modeled projected biodiversity impacts of various scenarios combining different levels of deforestation and forest restoration to assess the potential of regenerating forests to offset biodiversity loss due to deforestation. My results highlight the vulnerability of tropical forests to substantial and rapid biodiversity loss and also identify the best strategies to stem this loss – by preserving remaining expanses of undisturbed forest, protecting modified forests with highest biodiversity value (e.g., logged forests), and rapidly restoring forest connectivity in fragmented landscapes.”