TA Recruitment for Environmental Biology modules, AY2011/12 Sem 2 – application open!

Another new teaching semester is approaching! Part-time teaching assistant positions for the following Biodiversity modules (AY 2011/12 Semester II) are now open for application –

  • LSM1103 Biodiversity
  • LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment
  • LSM3272 Global Change Biology
  • LSM1303 Animal Behaviour
  • SSS1207 Natural Heritage of Singapore
  • GEK1536 Darwin and Evolution

For more detailed information about the modules – https://nusbiodiversity.wordpress.com/ta-recruitment/.

Deadline: 3rd Jan 2012.

Our flower specialist TA, Daniel Ng, happily preparing for the LSM1103 Biodiversity practical.

We will inform you about your teaching allocation. Thank you very much! Enjoy your last week of 2011 and have a wonderful 2012!




A writing module recommendation for undergraduates – NM2220 Introduction to Media Writing

As Marcus’ honours year supervisor, I went through his thesis drafts and oral presentations to fine-tune the way in which facts and ideas were communicated. Happily Marcus had a decent grasp of effective writing and while edits were still required, we spent more time on ideas and discussions. His writing skill lessened his thesis burden considerably – just as well since he had to change his field site late in the year!

Now a graduate student, Marcus has TA-ed in modules I coordinate, LSM1103 Biodiversity and LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment. The fundamentals of writing are addressed in these modules with TAs marking twelve essays (1st years) and four reports (2nd years) to provide comprehensive feedback with detailed notes about improving writing. We discuss ideas during the post-mortem and I asked Marcus if NM2220 was a suitable recommendation as he had cited it a few times during our discussions about his thesis. After all that marking, he is ready to recommend the module and this will be forwarded to the 1st and 2nd years in our modules.

Posts by students for students can be viewed in the category students speak – N. Sivasothi

Marcus Chua in his Halloween costume, 2009:
“A 10,000 word essay/assignment/thesis!”

Marcus Chua - Halloween costume 2010: A 10,000 word essay_assignment_thesis!

In a recent blog entry, NUS Provost Tan Eng Chye highlighted the importance of English language proficiency and mulled over the decision to include compulsory communication modules in the undergraduate curriculum. You need not wait for that to become a reality, for Environmental Biology undergraduates, like all others in NUS, have the option of taking writing courses that may meet their needs. I highlight a module I took which I feel was very helpful to me in particular.

NM2220 Introduction to Media Writing is a basic writing module offered by the Department of Communications and New Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences that teaches students the foundation of writing for new and mass media. The skills taught are can be applied to everyday writing and communication. The course is taught by current or former journalists, editors or public relations practitioners and class activities and assignments consist of targeted writing exercises.

Before taking the course, I thought that good writing involved big words and long, complex sentences. The more, the bigger, the better! How wrong was I.

I took the module in my final year as an undergraduate in NUS and found it immensely useful, and it taught me how to adapt my writing for various situations. Some of the most useful tips were keeping writing simple for clear communication and how to write punchy sentences. There and then it hit me that using complex words might appear impressive to me, but it usually confuses the reader and impedes communication. The AP (Associated Press) style taught also has direct relevance to science writing conventions, e.g. when to write or spell numbers and correct punctuation.

All these newly acquired skills culminated in my thesis, which was a departure from most of my previous reports. Even after graduation, the lessons I learnt came in very useful for formal reports, various applications and when writing and editing the Singapore Biodiversity encyclopedia.

Since this is the time when most students would start planning their time tables for the upcoming semester, I would definitely recommend the course to all undergraduates.

Red crab spiders prey on dipteran larvae in slender pitchers – Trina’s honours research published in the Journal of Tropical Ecology

It is known that the crab spiders forage in tropical pitcher plant cups for insect larvae. However, no experimental studies had been conducted until Trina Chua (Hons 2009/10) worked on aspects of this ecology for her honours year project, supervised by Matthew Lim.

Through in-situ and ex-situ experiments during her honours year, Trina’s research illustrates the aquatic foraging ability of the terrestrial red crab spider (Misumenops nepenthicola) as well as its ability to alter dipteran larval abundance (including those of mosquitoes) in the slender pitcher plant Nepenthes gracilis.

The results are amongst the first to reveal the influence of a terrestrial phytotelm forager on the abundance of pitcher organisms via direct predation. The yellow crab spider, Thomisus nepenthiphilus, however, did not appear to play such a role.

The paper was published online last week as: Chua, T. J. L. & M. L. M. Lim, 2011. Cross-habitat predation in Nepenthes gracilis: the red crab spider Misumenops nepenthicola influences abundance of pitcher dipteran larvae. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 28(01): 97-104.

Chua and Lim fig 3
Part of what Chua & Lim (2011) did for the field study.

Congratulations to them both! You can find out the details at the abstract page in the Journal of Tropical Ecology

Cambridge Journals Online - Abstract - Cross-habitat predation in Nepenthes gracilis: the red crab spider Misumenops nepenthicola influences abundance of pitcher dipteran larvae

Trina and her honours year project supervisor, Matthew Lim

QE: Can Next Generation Sequencing help with obtaining ecological information about endangered species? (Amrita Srivathsan, 9 Dec 2011: 10.00am)

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

Speaker:     Amrita Srivathsan  (Graduate Student, Dept.of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:          9 December 2011, Friday
Time:         10am
Supervisor:  Prof Meier, Rudolf


When an endangered species is elusive and rare, obtaining ecological data by field observations can be difficult and time consuming. However, this information can be supplemented by evaluating fecal samples that contain the DNA of the endangered species (from shed cells from the gut lining), food items (incompletely digested by the consumer), parasites, and microbes (residing in the intestine). Using next generation sequencing, one can thus simultaneously obtain information on the feeding ecology, population genetics, parasites, and the gut microbiome of the endangered species. I propose to use this approach to study fecal samples from the critically endangered Singapore population of the banded leaf monkey (Presbytis femoralis).

My study started by testing existing techniques that are used for species identification based on DNA barcodes and I am currently developing new alignment-free methods. I then tested the suitability of different genes to deliver species-level identifications for plants. Currently, I am generating a DNA barcode database for ca. 250 species of trees and lianas in the habitat of the banded leaf monkeys. My study will conclude with next generation sequencing runs for the fecal samples and the analysis of the data. The data will provide new insights into the diet of banded leaf monkeys. I will also be able to use these data for developing microsatellite markers and understanding the parasite and microbial communities of this endangered population.


QE: The contribution of Integrated Coastal Management to the sustainable development of China’s coastal area (Ye Guangqiong, 2 Dec 2011: 10.00am)

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

The contribution of Integrated Coastal Management to the sustainable development of China’s coastal area
Speaker:              Ye Guanqiong (Graduate Student, Dept.of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:                     2 December 2011, Friday
Time:                    10 AM
Venue:                 DBS conference Room  ((S3, Level 5 #05-01)
Supervisor:         Prof. Chou Loke Ming

Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) is an integrated management approach for coastal governance to promote sustainable coastal development, which has been initiated in over 100 nations around the world. In China, over ten coastal cities have adopted the ICM framework to tackle with the environmental and management challenges. However, few studies have been done to assess the ICM contribution linked to the sustainable development in those cities. The main objective of this doctoral study is to evaluate the progress and effectiveness of ICM towards the goal of coastal sustainability in two coastal cities: Quanzhou and Qingdao. These two cities are the most developed ICM cities in China, experiencing high environmental pressure but possessing strong governance capacity, scientific techniques and public finances for coastal environment protection. By conducting case studies in these two cities, positive implications could be provided for scaling up and developing the ICM frameworks in other coastal cities.

In the two case studies, the progress and effectiveness of ICM performance in each city is evaluated by using an index system which includes three subsystems: socioeconomic sustainability, coastal ecosystem health and governance capacity. Based on the evaluation, I will compare the ICM performance of these two cities, to generalize the common factors leading to the effectiveness of ICM. As Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is considered as a more practical way to implement ICM, a spatial management study under ICM framework will also be conducted in Quanzhou Bay and Jiaozhou Bay in Quanzhou and Qingdao, respectively.