The Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III held in NUS on 24 Sep 2011 was organised by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (NUS) and the National Biodiversity Centre (NParks) as a platform for the public and students to be updated on the biodiversity and nature community. It also served as an opportunity for the community to meet up and exchange and discuss ideas on biodiversity in Singapore.
This time, the theme is “The Next Generation”, and various emerging members of the community in various sectors were featured as speakers, along with more seasoned personalities. A large number of the NUS Biodiversity Crew were speakers or chairs in various sessions divided into Community Impressions and the key habitats found in Singapore: 1) Terrestrial, 2) Freshwater and 3) Marine.
Community Impressions kick started the symposium proper after a speech by guest-of-honour, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower, Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin and presentation of symposium awards. This session gave a review and raised issues regarding the terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems in Singapore and was chaired by Dr Zeehan Jaafar.
BOSS III organiser and DBS lecturer, Siva kick started the Community Impressions with voices from the ground regarding terrestrial issues namely the regulation of visitor impact to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve as well as looking beyond culling as a management practice for human-wildlife conflict.
Assoc Prof Darren Yeo represented the freshwater community and talked about the gems of Singapore’s freshwater habitats as well as the challenges, including habitat loss and modification, exploitation and introduced species.
The terrestrial session featured two graduate students from the NUS Biodiversity community and chaired by alumni Yong Ding Li.
Phd candidate, Chong Kwek Yan from the Plant Systematics Lab talked about “Why would anybody want to be a botanist in Singapore?” He talked about how the lab has moved on from being a producer of plant systematics research into being end users in Singapore. Various ongoing research in the lab were also highlighted.
Mammal researcher Marcus Chua from the Systematics and Ecology Lab gave an account of mammal research in Singapore and how current research has changed to reflect the issues such as existing status, conservation and co-existence of mammal species in Singapore.
Maxine Mowe and Adam Quek from NUS, chaired the freshwater session, which featured amongst two members of the research community from NUS.
Chong Jun Hien from the Tropical Marine Science Institute talked about freshwater macro-invertebrates, their relationship with the environment and how they can end up in our soup. He also introduced the concept of biological monitoring for freshwater environments in Singapore to measure water quality.
Dr Tan Heok Hui, a lecturer based in RMBR and managing editor of the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, talked about non-native fish species in Singapore and the need to understand the ecology of these fishes to understand how they interact with our environment.
The marine session, chaired by graduate student, Alison Wee and Nanthini Elamgovan from NParks, featured a bumper crop of three speakers from the Biodiversity crew.
Soo Wai Kit from the RMBR Education Unit spoke about Project Semakau, a community-based monitoring and conservation project on the world’s first landfill island. Wai Kit shared about the new discoveries, records and findings from the project as well as how volunteers helped to make this possible.
Karenne Tun from the Marine Biology Lab spoke about the rich coral reef life abound in Singapore’s waters and the ongoing research efforts to study this diverse ecosystem. She delighted the audience with stories about coral spawning so much that even moss man, Adjunct Assoc Prof Benito Tan got interested during the Q&A session.
Post-doctoral research fellow Dr Dan Friess from the Applied Plant Ecology Lab delivered the last talk of the day on Mandai mangroves, the multitude of research that has taken place there and challenges that threaten the future of the mangrove patch. Dan also spoke of the ongoing effort to map and study the effect of sea level rise on Mandai mangroves.
In a special session, Dr Tan Swee Hee gave an update on the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Musem project that he is overseeing. He spoke about the three diplodocid dinosaurs funded through public donations and unveiled plans for the new natural history museum.
Outside the Lecture Theatre
Food was catered and the extra long tea breaks (1 hr each) allowed plenty of time for meeting, chatting with attendees and viewing of the posters put up by students and nature groups. The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research set up a mobile store selling mechandise and the Toddycats! and NParks also had an on-site exhibitions on the biodiversity of Singapore.
Judging from the response, the ‘crew certainly enjoyed sharing about their work with the community at BOSS III and making new friends at BOSS III and are definitely looking forward to the next Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium!
All photos kindly taken by Kenneth Pinto.