Wed 11 Aug 2010: 11am @ TLL – Chua Kaw Bing on “The ART, The SCIENCE and The GRACE Behind The Discoveries of Nipah Virus”

“The ART, The SCIENCE and The GRACE Behind The Discoveries of Nipah Virus”

By Prof Dr Chua Kaw Bing
International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur and
National Public Health Laboratory, Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

Wednesday, 11th August 2010: 11am

The Auditorium [Map],
Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory,
1 Research Link,
National University of Singapore

Chua Kaw Bing

About the virus – In 1999 what seemed to be another outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis began spreading through Malaysia. However, the disease was different and was transmissible from pigs to humans and caused approximately 100 human deaths over six months.

This previously unrecorded viral disease and was implicated by laboratory testing in many of cases of febrile encephalitic and respiratory illnesses among workers who had exposure to pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. The virus was isolated by Dr Chua Kaw Ping, of the University Malaya and on 10 Apr 1999 was officially called the Nipah virus, after one of the villages affected by the outbreak – Sungai Nipah in the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan. More than 1,100,000 pigs in the affected areas were destroyed to contain the outbreak, representing approximately 40% of the swine population within Malaysia in 1999.


Note of thanks and special highlights from 2009/2010 civet work

Over the past year, I have been conducting a study of the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) as part of my honours thesis. I am very grateful for your help in supporting and responding to the civet awareness survey – thank you very much!

Let me take this opportunity to share with you some interesting highlights from the project:

Only one common civet today
Since the 19th century, nine species of civets have been recorded from Singapore, however, only the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is common in Singapore today and is even present in some urban neighbourhoods.

A very special hotspot
Siglap/Opera Estate is a special area in Singapore and was identified as a hotspot for the common palm civets. It is here that we conducted visual transects, camera trapping, civet faeces analysis and spatial analysis modeling.

Activity and diet
We found that urban civets in Siglap were unusually active in the day (compared to forest civets elsewhere). Urban civets ate a wide variety of animals (including rats and squirrels) and fruits (mangoes, bananas and Rain tree (Samanea saman) seed pods).

Relocate but not fearful
The online/mail-back survey results revealed that 70% of respondent would choose to relocate civets if they were found in their homes, however, a majority (92%) did not deem civets to be harmful.

Research and education efforts continue
The research still continues and we (my thesis supervisor N. Sivasothi, myself and future honours students) will further examine the diet of the civet in urban and forest environments. We will also continue to collect civet sighting records through the public feedback form at: Talks and exhibitions will be conducted to help educate people about Singapore’s last urban native carnivore, the Common Palm Civet.

Thank you for helping us learn more about the urban civets. We hope to find ways to allow humans and civets to co-exist peacefully and celebrate the very special continued existence of the Common Palm Civet in Singapore.

I hope you will enjoy the pictures of Mr Kinky-tail and one of the baby civets we encountered during the survey!

Xu Weiting

Banded Leaf Monkeys, RMBR, mangroves in beMUSE

Get your hands on the latest copy of beMUSE, the quarterly magazine published by the National Heritage Board! There are plenty of interesting articles in this issue, including one written by Andie from our lab, on the banded leaf monkeys of Singapore (Living treasures in the treetops: A fresh look at Singapore’s banded leaf monkeys). In it, she discusses the ecology of the banded leaf monkeys, their natural heritage value and relationship to the greater question of biodiversity conservation in Singapore, as well as the banded leaf monkey’s long term prospects for survival, It’s accompanied by plenty of lush photographs, (as are all the other articles in the magazine). She also discusses the fate of some other charismatic animals of Singapore, including Marcus’ mousedeer, along with a picture he took of the shy, nocturnal creature.

You can enjoy more of his photography in the following article on mangroves (Rainforests by the sea: Celebrating Singapore’s mangrove forests), written by Jean Yong, Joanne Khew (from Plant lab) & Ng Yan Fei, which includes an useful comparative mangrove guide sheet. Last but not least, there is also an article on RMBR (Learning from looking: The natural history collection of the former Raffles library and museum). Written by Clement Onn from the Asian Civilisations Museum, it not only offers a good read, but also includes a very useful timeline of the RMBR’s history.

Thurs, 29 Jul 2010, 4pm @ NUS DBS SR1 – Ken Krauss on Stress Physiology and Water Use of Tidal Freshwater Forested Wetlands and Mangroves of the Southeastern United States

Stress Physiology and Water Use of Tidal Freshwater Forested Wetlands and Mangroves of the Southeastern United States

By Ken W. Krauss

U.S. Geological Survey, National Wetlands Research Center,
Lafayette, Louisiana USA

29 July 2010, 4pm

Seminar room 1 (S2-04-11) (see map)
Block S2, Level 4
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

About the speaker – Dr. Ken W. Krauss is a Research Physiological Ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. Ken’s current research focuses on the effects of different climate change phenomena on mangroves and tidal freshwater forested wetlands in the southeastern United States. Ken focuses on whole-tree physiological stress with flooding and saltwater intrusion, and the consequences of that stress on stand-level water budgeting. Ken also focuses on the vulnerability of coastal swamp forests to sea-level rise, and on how science can inform management of wetlands within the coastal zone. Research ranges from the influence of crabs in structuring coastal forested wetland ecosystems to discerning the relative balance of greenhouse gas emissions from tidal freshwater swamps.

Ken’s talk today will focus on differential vulnerability of mangroves to sea-level rise and disturbance, contrast two different types of mangrove ecosystems (i.e., high island versus atoll), and describe studies that attempt to understand the local effects of root and plantation density in affecting sedimentation and elevation change.

About the talk – Sea-level rise and anthropogenic activity promote salinity incursion into tidal freshwater forested wetlands, while hydrological modifications have altered the structure and function of many mangrove wetlands along sub-tropical coastlines of the Americas.  Most of our understanding of the stress physiology of these ecosystems comes from decades of research on seedlings and saplings, often within controlled environments.  While these data are important, scaling responses to mature trees and stands is decidedly more difficult without measuring trees within targeted field settings.

In this seminar, I will describe a series of studies from two tidal ecosystems along the southeastern United States coast that attempt not only to relate stress responses to individual trees, but also to relate the consequences of that stress to stand-level water budgeting.  These data are important to consider for engineers charged with budgeting water resources, and are useful for furthering our general understanding of the interface between the ecology of a forest and water movement through an ecosystem

Self-nominations invited for new graduate student committee (deadline 12 Aug 2010)

With over 300 graduate students and over 150 post-doctoral fellows and research staff, the Department of Biological Sciences has the largest graduate community in the Faculty of Science. However, a formal representation mechanism within the department is missing.

The department leadership is receptive to the development of a DBS Graduate Representation Committee (as does exist in some other departments) and Jacob Phelps is working to initiate this. Jacob is a PhD student with the Applied Plant Ecology lab and was recently appointed the DBS Graduate Representative to the Faculty of Science.

Self-nominations for representatives to the new DBS Graduate Representation Committee are invited from DBS graduate students. The submission deadline is Thursday, 12th August 2010. Please submit your nomination here:

Nominations should include a concise public statement of less than 300 words which will be displayed on the DBS website. Graduate students will be able to view this to help make a voting decision during an online election planned for mid-August.

Nominees are invited to represent one of seven DBS communities:

  1. Cell and Molecular Biology
  2. Biodiversity,
  3. Biophysical Science
  4. NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering
  5. Research Centre of Excellence in Mechanobiology
  6. Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory / Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology
  7. Post-Doctoral Fellows Community.

The demand on the Committee will be sustainable – likely involve two meetings per semester and with Department leadership as needed. The first representatives will shape the course of new body and the initial objectives include:

  • Represent and be elected by the DBS graduate students and post-doctoral fellows;
  • Have clear bylaws and be formally recognised by the Department, Faculty and GSS;
  • Collect student feedback on a range of graduate welfare issues from each of the seven communities;
  • Focus on bridging the gap between students/post-docs and the Department through dialogue sessions and representation at relevant meetings, and by making recommendations based on the collective student experience;
  • Help support Ms. Reena and Ms. Priscilla to address basic student welfare issues by ensuring that students are fairly represented in the Department and have access to relevant university services (career, health, counseling), and by ensuring that these services are addressing graduate student needs;
  • Include Ms. Reena as a staff representative and Prof. Henry Mok as a faculty representative;
  • Explore whether it would like to organise any events within the Department.

For queries or a discussion, email Jacob at

Part-time teaching opportunities for graduate students in AY 2010/11 Semester I

TAs are invited to apply for part-time teaching positions in the following modules for AY 2010/11 Semester I. To sign up, please fill in the form here by 28 Jul 2010:

  • LSM1103 Biodiversity – Fridays 2pm-6pm; 20 hours/session (two sessions max) [Detailed Time-Table]
    • Kent Ridge
    • Plant Diversity (lab)
    • Animal Diversity (lab)
    • Changi Beach
    • Singapore Zoo
  • LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment – even week Mondays 2pm-6pm; one evening and one Saturday morning practical; total 24 hours/session (two sessions max) [Detailed Time-Table]
    • Maps, Google Earth, Field Trip prep, Extinction Game (Facilitation)
    • Project consultation
    • Labrador Rocky Shore (Mon evening)
    • Pulau Ubin (Sat morning)
  • LSM3261 Life Form and Function (Zoology section: 3 practicals) – even week Thursdays, 2pm-6pm; 12 hours [Detailed Time-Table]
    • Zoological specimen examination
    • Singapore Zoo to observe vertebrates
    • Arthropod dissection: Scylla spp.

Sale of the Sultan and the Mermaid at the Wallace Talk this Friday

The Wallace Talk, “An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles,” by Paul Spencer Sochaczewski will be held at this Friday 16th July 2010: 6pm @ NUS LT22. Register for free at

The talk is co-organised by the National Biodiversity Centre, National Parks Board and the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore.

The National Biodiversity Centre folks are hospitably providing light snacks. So if you are rushing down from work, you can stave off your hunger pangs, grab a bite and share a chat Paul and friends.

Paul’s 2008 book, the Sultan and the Mermaid Queen will be on sale at a special price of S$18. You can read about the book here.

Sultan and the mermaid_cover

How to get to LT22
For a map of LT22 and surroundings, see the attached map or use the navigable map at:
Walk up Science Drive 2 towards the Science Library/Raffles Museum and turn right to reach LT22.

To get to NUS
You can take No. 95 from from Buona Vista MRT and alight at the second bus-stop (outside LT27) after the bus turns into Lower Kent Ridge Road.
If you take buses 97, 197, 198 or 963, alight at the bus-stop outside/opposite ITE Dover (you can see the NUS field). Cross the field to reach Lower Kent Ridge Road.

You can park at Car Park 10, off Lower Kent Ridge Road, opposite LT27. The car park entrance is situated opposite Medical Drive 1 (refer to the map).

Map to LT22
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Nalini Puniamoorthy awarded a STRI pre-doctoral short-term research fellowship

Facebook | Photos of Nalini PuniamoorthyNalini Puniamoorthy who is now a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich has been awarded a Pre-doctoral short-term research fellowship by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

This fellowship ‘provides funding for short-term research projects in the tropics in areas of STRI research, under the supervision of STRI Staff Scientists and Research Associates. The projects, of up to 3 months, are usually complete in themselves. Exceptional exploratory projects or pilot studies with well-defined goals are encouraged.’

Nalini’s project proposal title which was awarded the grant is “A comparative study investigating the population differentiation of reproductive behavior and sexual dimorphisms in the neotropical sepsid fly Archisepsis diversiformis or if you prefer, ‘Diferenciacion geografica entre poblaciones de la mosca Archisepsis diversiformis en cuanto a su comportamiento y morfologia’.

Her supervisors during this stint will be William G. Eberhard and John Christy.

Thanks to Janice who informed Nalini in typical style to say, “Hi babe, I asked Siva to help announce your stint at the Smithsonian Institute.

Fri 16 Jul 2010: 6pm @ NUS LT22 – The Wallace Talk: “An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles,” by Paul Spencer Sochaczewski

In conjunction with the International Year of Biodiversity 2010, the National Parks Board & Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore jointly present a public talk:

Alfred Russell Wallace - reversed woodcut image“An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Theory of Natural Selection”

By Paul Spencer Sochaczewski

Friday 16th July 2010: 6.00pm – 7.00pm
Please register for the talk with the registration form at this link:

Lecture Theatre 22, Faculty of Science
Science Drive 2, National University of Singapore

Click for map to LT22

About the talk
“The 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species was celebrated in 2009. It was a landmark book which dramatically changed how we think about ourselves and the world in which we live.

Charles Darwin has been lionized as one of the giants of western thought for his theory of evolution. But what about Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin’s who independently developed the theory of natural selection during his eight-year sojourn in Southeast Asia? Why did Darwin become a household name while Wallace became a historical footnote?

I’ve been following Alfred Russel Wallace for some 30 years, retracing many of his voyages in the Amazon and Southeast Asia. In this presentation I will also review the nine productive months Wallace spent in Singapore collecting thousands of beetles in Bukit Timah and investigate the importance of Wallace’s “faithful companion”, Ali.

Malay Archipelago woodcut - 'Orang Utan attacked by Dyaks'Wallace was a self-taught (he left school at 13) naturalist, a self-described “beetle collector” who traveled some 14,000 miles in the mid-19th century through what are now Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. His travels through the Indonesian archipelago helped him develop his theory of island biology. He theorized that the animals he found in western Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia were different to those in eastern Indonesia because of changing sea levels and a combination of shallow seas and deep oceanic trenches. This east-west boundary came to be known as the “Wallace Line”, the dividing point between Southeast Asian fauna (elephants, tigers, monkeys and apes, hornbills) and Austro-Malayan realm fauna (kangaroos, birds of paradise, marsupials).

During his epic eight-year journey Wallace caught, skinned and pickled 125,660 specimens of “natural productions” including 212 new species of birds, 900 new species of beetles and 200 new species of ants. Consider just the logistics — how could one man, on a limited budget and without governmental or organizational support, living rough in rainforests, mount and transport 8,000 bird skins and 100,000 insects?

Who was this man? What drove him? How did he break the cool Victorian mould by writing passionately about finding new butterflies and birds? How could he adopt an infant orangutan and raise it like a child (he orphaned the little critter when he shot the mother, one of 17 he killed) and then, in order to obtain a commercially-viable skeleton, calmly boil the animal’s bones when the baby died?

And what led Wallace to develop his contributions to the theory of evolution, first the Sarawak Law (written with the support of the White Rajah of Sarawak, James Brooke), and then the famous Ternate Paper in which he outlined the concept “the fittest shall survive.” Wallace sent the Ternate Paper to Darwin (who up to that point had not published one word on evolution) and at that point the conspiracy theorists get involved. Did Darwin and Wallace arrive at their similar ideas independently? Or did Wallace inadvertently give Darwin the “key” to evolution and subsequently get ripped off by the more prominent and well-placed Darwin?”

About the Speaker

Paul Spencer SochaczewskiPaul Spencer Sochaczewski joined the U.S. Peace Corps in 1969, following graduation from George Washington University with a degree in psychology. He served as an education advisor in Sarawak and then worked as a creative director of JWT advertising agency in Singapore and Indonesia, living 13 years in Southeast Asia.

He joined WWF International as head of creative services in 1981 where he created international public awareness campaigns to protect rainforests, wetlands, plants and biological diversity; and also helped create various fundraising campaigns and strategies. He then managed the WWF Faith and Environment Network. From mid-1992 to mid-1993 he wrote articles on environmental problems in the Pacific for the Environment Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu (under a MacArthur grant). He now writes and advises international NGOs on fundraising and communications – his clients include McCann Healthcare, BirdLife, Sarawak Biodiversity Centre, and Singapore Health Promotion Board.

He has lived and worked in some 70 countries, speak Bahasa Indonesia and French. Currently resident in Bangkok, Thailand, he has more than 600 by-lined articles published and co-authored (as Paul Spencer Wachtel with Jeffrey A. McNeely), Soul of the Tiger: People and Nature in Southeast Asia (1988), Eco-Bluff Your Way to Instant Environmental Credibility (1991) and published a collection of about 70 articles penned over the years as The Sultan and the Mermaid Queen (2008).