Joanne & Aisyah on “Investigations into mangrove tree-climbing crab biology: Gastric mills and Larval periodicity”

Communicating research findings to managers and educators – A talk for staff and volunteers of Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve

“Investigations into mangrove tree-climbing crab biology: Gastric mills and Larval periodicity”

By Siti Aisyah Bte Jamal & Joanne Khew
Systematics & Ecology Lab
Department of Biological Sciences, NUS

Saturday 29th May 2010:
11.15am – 12.15pm (with Q & A)
Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve Theatrete

About the talk
Crab digestion is aided by the appearance of hard structures in their stomach which are called gastric mills. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the molar tooth row of mammalian herbivores, Aisyah investigates the diversity of the morphology of gastric mills in tree-climbing crabs and evaluates the conformation of phylogeny compared to diet.

U061772N Gastric mill morphology in grapsoid crabs.pdf (page 25 of 57)

Although most mangrove crabs bear large numbers of eggs which are released as larvae into estuarine waters, little is know about the plankton. Joanne’s investigation sheds light into the morphology of tree-climbing crab larvae, sheds light into their periodicity and abundance and discusses the implications as well as a mysterious disappearance event.

Hons thesis_U061775Y_Joanne_Morphology periodicity and abundance of mangrove tree climbing crab larvae.pdf (page 21 of 79)

About the speakers
Aisyah and Joanne completed their honours year at NUS in May 2010 and are currently awaiting their final results. In their final year, they embarked on research projects into aspects of the biology of tree-climbing crabs under the supervision of Ng Ngan Kee and N. Sivasothi. After a year of mud, tides and dissection, they are no longer strangers to crabs or the mangrove!

Siti Aisyah 034sbwr-high_tide-21aug2009[sun].jpg (RGB)
Joanne Khew 028sbwr-high_tide-21aug2009[siva].jpg (RGB)

Job opportunity: TMSI has two marine biology research officer positions for immediate hire

The Tropical Marine Science Institute is looking to hire two research assistants to start immediately.

Job opportunity: Research Officers (Marine Biology)


  • A good diploma or degree in Marine Biology or Aquatic Science
  • Some practical knowledge of marine biodiversity in Singapore or tropical Southeast Asia would be an advantage.
  • Interest in taxonomy of marine invertebrates will be useful.
  • Candidates must be able to swim and preferably have a Class 3 Singapore driver’s license
  • Must be prepared to work outdoors, and the work may be physically demanding especially during the warm months of the year
  • Candidates should be highly motivated, resourceful individuals with good technical skills
  • Good oral and written English communication skills are necessary


  • Assist with marine biodiversity surveys and/or biofouling projects, in both field and laboratory
  • Assist with data management, analyses, and preparation of reports
  • Regular maintenance of field research facilities and equipment, and coordination of group work activities
  • The primary job location will be TMSI St John’s Island marine laboratory


  • Salary will commensurate with qualifications and experience.
  • The appointment will be for a period of one year and extendable depending upon the candidate’s performance.


  • Interested candidates are invited to email their detailed resume and cover letter to:
  • Please indicate in the subject heading: “RE: Research Officers/Marine Biology”
  • Only short-listed candidates will be notified.
  • Closing date : Open

Tue 25 May 2010: 4pm – “Do apes really not get the point of human communicative behaviour?”

“Do apes really not get the point of human communicative behaviour?”

By Dr Nick Mulcahy

Tue 25 May 2010: 4pm
Seminar room 1 (S2-04-11) (see map)
Block S2, Level 4
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz,
Research Fellow, Terrestrial Ecology Lab

About the talk – Understanding others’ communicative intent is one of the hallmarks of human behaviour. Whether other animals also share this ability has attracted a great deal of research activity. Key to this research is the so-­called object-­choice task in which subjects are required to locate a hidden reward by observing a human’s communicative cue, such as pointing towards the correct location. Dogs can easily use the cue to locate the hidden reward whereas apes typically fail.  One popular explanation for this finding is that the domestication process allowed dogs to evolve a specialized set of cognitive skills for understanding human communicative behaviour.   

I will propose an alternative, albeit prosaic, theory to explain the differences between the dog and ape object-choice data. In support of this theory, I will present new findings from studies conducted with orangutans housed at Singapore Zoo.   

About the Speaker – Nick studied evolutionary psychology before gaining his PhD in ape cognition at the Max-­Planck Institute, in Leipzig, Germany. He has published research in areas of future planning, causal understanding, communicative behaviour and  insightful tool use. Nick is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Wanted: flowering plants with weaver ants visited by pollinators

Rodríguez-Gironés, a visiting researcher in Richard Corlett’s laboratory gave a lovely seminar last week about evolution in pollination networks. It began with an overview of the larger subject and went on to mention and discuss ideas he and his team have grappled with over the years, including mentions why so many bird flowers are red, the evolution of nectar concealment and the evolution of deep corolla tubes.

At the end of the seminar he asked for help for studies he is currently engaged in. I figured the macro-photography nature community as well as the plant and insect naturalists might be able to help him. Here is his “Wanted Poster” with some details:

“Please let us know if you happen to see plants satisfying the following conditions:

  • The plants are flowering now.
  • The flowers are visited by pollinators (bees, flies, moths…) sufficiently often that you will see some pollinators visiting the plant if you observe it for a couple of minutes.
  • There are weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) at the plant or its immediate vicinity.

Please send us a brief note (to or give us a call (on 9690 4531; ask for Ahimsa) to let us know

  • the plant species (if known),
  • the precise location, and
  • the time of day at which you noticed that the flowers were visited by pollinators.

Thank you very much for your help!”


Fri 14 May 2010: 4pm @ NUS LT20 – Benito Tan on “The importance of bryophytes in plant biology study”

“The importance of bryophytes in plant biology study: lessons learned and misconceptions corrected”

Benito C. Tan
Keeper of Herbarium, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore,
Adjunct Associate Professor, DBS, NUS

Lecture Theatre 20
Block S3/4, Faculty of Science
National University of Singapore


About the talk – The recent progress in the studies of diversity, evolution, phylogeny and conservation of bryophytes, with a focus on the moss subgroup, will be reviewed and presented. Important biological lessons learned from the study of bryophytes, past and present, and the correction of misconceptions given to this group of spore producing and non- vascular plants, will be discussed. Finally, hot topics of research in bryology will also be introduced.

14 May 201 - Benito Tan

Jobs at Dept Biological Sciences and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (deadlines in May)

A reminder about the job opportunities at the museum and department:

  • The Full-time Teaching Assistant (FTTA) for Life Science (Biodiversity & Ecology) undergraduate courses @ Department of Biological Sciences, NUS. Deadline: 23 May 2010
  • Education Officer at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. Deadline extended to 14 May 2010

For details, please see:

Tue 11 May 2010: 3pm @ DBS – William Laurance on “Strategies for writing and publishing scientific papers”

How to be more prolific: Strategies for writing and publishing scientific papers

By William F. Laurance
School of Marine & Tropical Biology,
James Cook University, Cairns, Australia

Tue 11 May 2010: 3.00pm – 4.00pm
DBS Conference Room
(see map)
Block S3, Level 5
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Professor Navjot Sodhi.

About the talk – Why do some scientists struggle to write whereas others publish prolifically? In this talk I reveal a lifetime of hard-won secrets for increasing your scientific productivity. I explain how to put yourself in the mood for writing, detail dozens of tricks for writing effective papers, and highlight strategies for dealing with prickly editors and hostile reviewers. Such tricks can literally double or triple your scientific productivity.

About the speaker – William Laurance is Distinguished Research Professor in the School of Marine & Tropical Biology at James Cook University. Laurance received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989 and then held research positions with the CSIRO and Wet Tropics Management Authority in north Queensland, before joining the Smithsonian Institution where he was , based in Brazil and Panama. After 14 years there, he joined JCU He is also a research associate at Harvard University.

Professor Laurance’s research focuses on the impacts of intensive land-uses, such as habitat fragmentation, logging, and wildfires, on tropical forests and species. He is further interested in climatic change and conservation policy. He works in the Amazon, Africa, Southeast Asia, and tropical Australia, and has published five books and over 300 scientific and popular articles. A leading voice for conservation, Dr Laurance believes that scientists must actively engage policy makers and the general public, as well as other scientists.

He is a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and former president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world’s largest scientific organization devoted to the study and preservation of tropical ecosystems. He has received many scientific honors including the prestigious BBVA Frontiers in Ecology and Conservation Biology Award, regarded by many as the ‘Nobel Prize’ for environmental conservation.