“Please help to bring the dinosaurs to Singapore” – the Raffles Museum’s Diplodocus Family appeal

“Dear Friend,

Once more – the race is on.

A year ago, through your generosity and kindness, we raised the seemingly impossible sum of S$46 million to ensure that a new natural history museum for Singapore will be built. This has not only secured its priceless century-old collections but will offer a large gallery for public education.

One of the many iconic displays we want to place in this gallery is a model of the famous 1800s whale. However, we also realized that in the modern world, what would make a truly world-class gallery that excites a new generation of nature lovers would be the addition of a magnificent display of dinosaurs.

DiplodocusYet, real dinosaur fossils are extremely hard to come by, if at all. As destiny would have it, through a series of unexpected coincidences, the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) was given a unique chance in April 2011 to purchase genuine and near complete fossils of a family of three gigantic sauropod dinosaurs – among the largest animals ever to have walked the Earth! One is rare enough, but a group of three, which includes an even rarer teenage dinosaur, is unprecedented!

Contrary to what many people think, dinosaurs are not “alien” to Singapore’s history! When dinosaurs walked the Earth over 100 million years ago, Singapore was part of a mega continent that had such giants. The educational and research value of dinosaurs is that they greatly help us understand life on Earth. To document the history of life, we must know why dinosaurs were so successful and understand the circumstances that led to their demise. Dinosaurs will help Singaporeans understand the biodiversity, climate change and extinction challenges now facing mankind and the planet.

Throughout the world, dinosaurs are renowned as “catalysts” to get people of all ages excited about biodiversity, natural history and science. Their educational value is, therefore, second to none.

This family of three dinosaurs will be the centre-piece of the new gallery, the “pièce de résistance” which places the new museum and Singapore on the world stage. The HEADLINE stories, which made the front pages of both the Sunday Times & Zaobao on 10 July and “Why we need dinos” on 17 July (attached), are testament to the excitement, interest and value of such an acquisition for the new museum.

We really hope you can help us bring these fascinating and majestic dinosaurs to Singapore. Please join us in donating to the Dinosaur Exhibit at rmbr.nus.edu.sg/dino.

With thanks from the bottom of our hearts.”

Leo, Peter, Swee Hee and Belinda
RMBR Fundraising Committee

Hop over the Raffles Museum News blog for the news and discussion about the motivation to bring the dinosaurs to Singapore – http://rafflesmuseum.wordpress.com.

See also details of the public talk on Fri 29 Jul 2011 at the National Museum of Singapore – “From Whence We Came: The History & Future of Singapore’s Raffles Museum“.


TAs for Environmental Biology modules, AY2011/12 Sem 1 – application open!

Dear graduate students,

Graduate students are invited to apply for part-time teaching positions in the following modules for AY 2011/12 Semester I:

  • LSM1103 Biodiversity
  • LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment
  • LSM3261 Life Form and Function
  • LSM3254 Ecology of Aquatic Environments
  • GEK1515 Environmental Biology (biodiversity background not mandatory, interest in environmental issues important)

The hours, detailed time-tables and registration link is available here:

Closing date: 3rd August 2011.
You will be contacted about your teaching allocation then.

Thank you,


In Memoriam: Navjot Sodhi (1962-2011), “May his soul rest in peace!”

Navjot Sodhi Memorial Slides, 19 Jul 2011
Click to view and download his memorial slides

The department held a simple memorial for colleague, supervisor and friend Navjot Sodhi at Lecture Theatre 32 on Tue 19 Jul 2011. The memorial was attended by department staff, students, the provost and members of the community who knew him and who worked with him. The memorial was observed by his two children whose presence we were honoured to have with us that afternoon.

His long-time lunch buddy Prakash Kumar hosted the memorial and after Paul Matsudaira welcomed us all, representatives stepped forward to celebrate his quirkiness from the time of his recruitment (T J Lam), the development of his academic career (Richard Corlett), his regional field trip escapades (Tommy Tan) and his mentorship of research students (David Bickford).

Student awards in Navjot’s name
The department is working on the following:

  1. The “Navjot Sodhi Award” for top graduating undergraduate student in the faculty’s environmental biology program. The award and a $1000 prize will be bestowed to the best student in the environmental biology major every year during commencement. This award will honour the substantial contributions Navjot made to biology education in general as well as the training of young talents in conservation and environmental biology. Close to $40,000 has been raised from donations within the department thus far and the fundraising activity continues for some time in the hope of reaching a target of $75,000. This would make it an endowed prize to be awarded perpetually, otherwise, as an expendable account, it will be presented until the fund is exhausted, i.e. it will already exist until 2051.
  2. The “Navjot Sodhi Graduate Scholarship in Environmental Biology”will be awarded to the top two students entering into the graduate program in environmental biology. These scholarships will help ensure that his legacy in conservation biology and environmental sciences will be continued by new generations of researchers.

Independently, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has established a Memorial Fund for Navjot Sodhi.

Prakash reflected on his life and ended the memoriam by giving his long-time friend a heartfelt farewell on behalf of us all:

“I take the liberty to try and capture the essence of Sodhi with the following words: Reliable and close friend, proud father, equally proud supervisor, outspoken colleague with an infectious sense of humor (which he tried to suppress), established an enviable international reputation in a relatively short career.

In short, someone we cannot forget at all. Please join me in remembering the great deeds of Navjot Sodhi once more. May his soul rest in peace!”

For thoughts of many others who knew him, see “Remembering Navjot Sodhi: lecturer, mentor, colleague and friend.”

Undergrad opportunity: Forest field assistant required

Title of project: Examining plant traits in regenerating forests
Job Description: Vegetation Survey Field Assistant

Position: Part time
Start date: Immediate
Frequency: about 3-4 times a week.
Pay: $8/hour

Nature of work: Setting up vegetation plots in CCNR & BTNR, monitoring microenvironment, data entry.

Requirements: Must be able to hike comfortably in the forests and able to withstand long hours in the field. We will be working at times in secondary forests, which can have rather thick undergrowth/ferns.

Perks: Learn about forest plants, field techniques for surveying vegetaion and about tropical forest regeneration

Interested applicants, please contact CHUA Siew Chin at scchua@berkeley.edu

Wildlife Research, Protection, and Legislation: A discussion with Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall recently visited Singapore and some of us had the opportunity to attend a panel of discussion organized by The Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law, NUS and the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore (JGIS).  The main focus of this panel was wildlife protection and bringing various organizations together for such an effort in Singapore. A diverse group of people ranging from researchers, to members of NParks, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), Nature Society Singapore (NSS), to environmental law faculty participated.

The meeting involved discussion of a wide range of topics, from general wildlife conservation to primate conservation in Singapore and the matters of youth empowerment and education. Prof. Rudolf Meier started the ball rolling by raising the possibility of translocation as a means of bringing extinct or rare wildlife back to Singapore, e.g. cream-colored giant squirrel and banded leaf monkey. Nick Baker discussed potential problems but also highlighted the contributions by students like Marcus, Andie, and Amrita who gather critical ecological information on these species with the support of NParks, WRS, and NGOs.

Dr. Goodall and Andie

Dr. Goodall and Amrita

Dr. Goodall stressed the importance of youth empowerment in any conservation project. Giving examples of her own rich experiences, she encouraged members in the panel to actively support youth-driven projects like the JGIS Roots and Shoots programme. This allows youth to initiate campaigns and make a difference. JGIS president Beng Chiak and Dr. Shawn Lum were also positive about the gradual changes in our curriculum, as we see a greater emphasis on our natural heritage and its preservation, beyond just the brown issues like recycling.

Mr. Wong Tuan Wah and Mr. James Gan from NParks were particularly concerned with the long-tailed macaque management in urban Singapore. This led Dr. Jane Goodall to discuss how similar the problems were in Asia and Africa, where she has done a lot of work on baboons which are commonly involved in human-monkey conflicts. This led to a discussion of the problems, such as ownership of these animals, and a number of suggestions were brought up. For example, Singapore’s macaque expert Crystal Riley (a former student of Dr. Michael Gumert of NTU) and NUS biology graduate Fam Shun Deng favored the idea of a central agency responsible for all macaque issue. Mr. Biswajit Guha from the Singapore Zoo described how to increase public awareness and educate the public to harmoniously interact with macaques in Singapore. At this time, our Prof. Meier suggested the creation of a monkey app: Snap a monkey photo, share sighting stories, promote education and awareness!

Dr Goodall mentioned that she was intrigued by the inclination of humans to feed monkeys, and ended the inspiring 2-hr session with a dissertation idea: “Is feeding monkeys part of human nature?? Any takers, aspiring biologists from NUS?

Rudolf Meier promoted to full professor – congrats!

Congrats Rudolf!

We received this message today:

From: “Andrew Wee T S (Dean, Science)”
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 18:34:46 +0800
Subject: Dean’s message 14/11: Promotion

Dear colleagues

I am pleased to announce the promotion to full Professor of:

A/P Rudolf Meier, Department of Biological Sciences (with retrospective effect from 1 Jul 2011)

Congratulations Rudolf!


Professor Andrew WEE
Dean, Faculty of Science
National University of Singapore

And from the head,

—–Original Message—–
From: Matsudaira, Paul Thomas (Head, Biological Sciences)
Sent: Saturday, July 09, 2011 7:29 AM

For all DBS staff and students

Please join me in congratulating Rudolf Meier upon his promotion to Professor. Rudolf is a leader in evolutionary biology and was recognized by the international community by his election as President of the Willi Hennig Society.

Equally noted is his excellence in teaching with numerous awards including the Faculty of Science Teaching Honor Roll. He chaired DTEC, just stepping down last year, and has served other important roles in the department. Rudolf’s promotion is richly deserved!

Paul Matsudaira

As you will realise from the messages above, Rudolf has been up to much mischief honourable, scholarly pursuits since he joined the department. What will he be up to next?

Rudolf Meier - 13nus_biod_lunch-08aug2007.jpg | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

This photo was approved by his grad students.

Department memorial for Navjot Sodhi, 19 Jul 2011: 2pm @ LT32

Navjot Sodhi - Outstanding Reseacher 2004 Message from the head of department, Paul Matudaira

‘The department is planning a memorial for Prof. Sodhi on July 19, 2011 at 2PM in LT32 and all are invited to attend. His family will also be present. We intend to honor his memory in several ways.

In addition, as you know, Navjot had a huge impact on tropical conservation science through his many publications, but he was also active in capacity building in developing countries and keen to ensure that the voices of tropical biologists were heard on the global stage.

At the time of his death he was a council member of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, which is the largest organization dedicated to tropical biology and conservation, with 1500 members around the world.

ATBC is raising money for a Navjot Sodhi Memorial Fund to pay for a ‘Navjot Sodhi Award for Tropical Conservation Science’ for developing country students. If anyone wants to make a donation to this fund they can do so on the ATBC website at: www.tropicalbio.org./

Navjot Sodhi passed away on 12 Jun 2011 and is sorely missed by one and all, see “Remembering Navjot Sodhi: lecturer, mentor, colleague and friend“.