Ong Say Lin to be appointed Director of ACRES Laos PDR

ACRES announced the long-awaited news yesterday, “A warm welcome to Say Lin to ACRES. He will be the Director of ACRES Laos PDR!”

Ong Say Lin, one of our 3rd-year life science undergraduates was in Laos PDR for the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Singapore) (ACRES) and Laos Zoo for the establishment of the first Wildlife Rescue and Education Centre there.

You can read all the news reports on WildSingaporeNews.

Say Lin & Louis
Say Lin and Louis in Laos PDR. Photo by ACRES.

Say Lin is completing his third year this semester (including his wild boar UROPS) and after a reservist stint with the Singapore Armed Forces, will be on his way to Laos to take up his duties to setup the wildlife rescue centre there. During his undergraduate years, Say Lin interned at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), minored in Environmental Biology with University of Toronto, interned at The American Bear Association’s Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, resuscitated NUS PEACE, spoke up at and later eventually chaired sessions at the Animal Welfare Symposium.

He follows in proud footsteps – his boss at ACRES, Louis Ng, is a biology graduate too and presented at the Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club way back in 2002, when he was still a student. He spoke out for animal welfare, started ACRES and has kept it going and motivated others all these years.

Congratulations Say Lin, we are all proud of you and will look forward to your updates!

Students who are interested in helping out at the ACRES Laos PDR can contact Say Lin at

See “Where is pigboy?!” By N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks…, 30 Mar 2012.


Is bigger, better in European dung flies? Nalini and colleagues think so, in Evolution

When not lurking the corridors of the department, Nalini Puniamoorthy is a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at University of Zurich.

She just send news that she has a spring in her step (pun intended) with a recent paper published in Evolution. You can see the early view here: Puniamoorthy, N., Schäfer, M. A. & Blanckenhorn, W. U., 2012. Sexual selection accounts for the geographic reversal of sexual size dimorphism in the dung fly, Sepsis punctum (Diptera: Sepsidae). Evolution. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01599.x

She sent her best wishes to all at home here in Singapore with the press release she coughed up to explain her research findings, and which you can read in the pdf here

Closure of Lab 7 from Reading Week to Sem 1 AY2012/3 (mid Apr – early Aug 2012)

A dreadful message for Tommy Tan about the beloved Life Sciences Lab 7 where we conduct classes, workshops, meetings and video screenings:

“LS Lab 7 will be closed from 16 April 2012 to early Aug 2012. It is being use to store LS Lab 1 & 2 equipment and consumables as both will labs will be renovated during the holiday period.

We will try to store everything in LS Lab 7A. If possible, we will then open LS Lab 7 B & C for use.”



It’s time to frantically relocate sessions scheduled during this period *groan* – so far this has included IBO, ICCS, Toddycats training and workshops and a hastily dumped idead about hosting Educamp SG.

Temporary closure of Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research collections May/Aug 2012 – Feb 2014

In preparation for the shift to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum of the National University of SIngapore, an extensive inventory and maintenance on the collections of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research will be conducted.

In order to facilitate this, the museum’s collections will be closed to visitors and loans of specimens will be suspended. Users who have loaned out specimens are urged to return these before the stock-taking.

The closure dates are:

  • 01 May 2012 – Herbarium (SINU)
  • 01 Aug 2012 – Zoological Reference COllection (ZRC)

The collections are expected to be accessible once again in Feb 2014 at the earliest.

RMBR-ZRC_Herbarium_Closure-May_Aug2012.PDF (1 page)

Remembering Navjot Sodhi on his birthday

In February, Marjorie Castelletta-Gacon wrote me, saddened by the news of the departure of her old supervisor Navjot Sodhi’s departure. Marjorie was one of Sodhi’s first grad students in NUS who studied forest avifauna extinction (which my students are citing) and TA-ed his animal behaviour course.

Marjorie Castelletta-Gacon with Navjot Sodhi

She wrote so fondly and beautifully. With her permission, I am sharing this with all his students, friends and family, in memory of his birthday on the 19th of March when they would have been celebrating with Navjot.

“Dear old NUS friend,

I am deeply sad and I can’t believe he is gone, he was really important to me and to so many people I could see on his facebook page

I find very beautiful the tribute people have expressed to him and his loved ones and especially yours, It is important that he’ll never be forgotten.

To me he was a father-like teacher, very patient, very constructive; he was always telling me when I was too afraid to do my research: “You’ll learn, Marjorie.” I was so young (22) and I had this incredible luck to meet him and work with him and all his team in NUS.

These were wonderful years.

And he was right – I learnt everything in 4 years in Conservation Biology and most importantly I learnt Life!

After I finished my thesis, I kept in touch with him, and each time I went to Singapore I could hear his hyena-like laught for my great pleasure.

Last time I saw him, it was in 2009, he was so happy because he had spent a year in his favorite American University.

He was such a multi-talented man, and although he was a superstar of conservation biology, he remained the same man, passionate in research and teaching and devoted to his family.

It is such a huge loss to me.

After I finished my thesis, I followed Bertrand, my husband, to Geneva. We had a second child. Then I tried to find a post doc in Switzerland but I did not succeed. So I did part time teaching in high schools and private schools in Geneva. Then we had a third chid in 2008 (and Navjot told me that he hoped I’ll stop after that!) and we had a fourth kid in 2010 (I did not dare tell Navjot).

I was looking for Navjot’s research papers when I found out what happened. I am currently trying to go back to conservation biology and most precisely I have an interview at WWF Switzerland and for the memory of Navjot I will do more than my best to achieve; he was telling me he wanted me to stay in sciences.”

Marjorie Castelletta Gacon and family
Marjorie remarked – “I know it is his birthday as on the 19th
it is my son’s birthday and also Darwin’s!”

Some hopeful news for coral reefs: evidence of adaptation to thermal stress provided by James Guest et al in PLoS ONE today!

James Guest, until recently, was a Lee Kuan Yew post-doctoral research fellow with the Marine Lab. All this while he has been working to understand the extent of spatial and temporal variation in thermal tolerance of corals, as this information would be crucial to the design of marine protected areas against climate change.

He shares the good news that PLoS ONE has published a paper today (date in USA is 09 Mar 2012) which he submitted about adaptation by corals in mass coral bleaching sites in Singapore and Malaysia.

As he says, “the research provides solid field evidence that certain coral taxa in Singapore and Malaysia have the capacity to adapt/acclimatise to thermal stress.”

The image from the paper below shows the different bleaching responses from their three study locations in Sumatra, Malaysia and Singapore. The photos indicate a reversed response of Acropora in Singapore and Malaysia.

James told me enthusiastically he hopes these stunning images “provides a bit of hopeful news among the general climate change doom and gloom!”

Contrasting coral bleaching patterns during 2010. Bleached Acropora colonies from (A) Pulau Weh, north Sumatra, Indonesia where patterns in bleaching susceptibility were normal. Reversals in bleaching susceptibility gradients in (B) Singapore and (C) Tioman Island, Malaysia, where healthy Acropora colonies were found adjacent to bleached encrusting, foliose and massive colonies: corals which are usually relatively resistant to bleaching.

Download the paper here; citation: Guest JR , Baird AH , Maynard JA , Muttaqin E , Edwards AJ , et al. (2012) Contrasting Patterns of Coral Bleaching Susceptibility in 2010 Suggest an Adaptive Response to Thermal Stress. PLoS ONE 7(3): e33353. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033353

PLoS ONE: Contrasting Patterns of Coral Bleaching Susceptibility in 2010 Suggest an Adaptive Response to Thermal Stress


Background: Coral bleaching events vary in severity, however, to date, the hierarchy of susceptibility to bleaching among coral taxa has been consistent over a broad geographic range and among bleaching episodes. Here we examine the extent of spatial and temporal variation in thermal tolerance among scleractinian coral taxa and between locations during the 2010 thermally induced, large-scale bleaching event in South East Asia.

Methods/Principal Findings: Surveys to estimate the bleaching and mortality indices of coral genera were carried out at three locations with contrasting thermal and bleaching histories. Despite the magnitude of thermal stress being similar among locations in 2010, there was a remarkable contrast in the patterns of bleaching susceptibility. Comparisons of bleaching susceptibility within coral taxa and among locations revealed no significant differences between locations with similar thermal histories, but significant differences between locations with contrasting thermal histories (Friedman = 34.97; p 0.001).

Bleaching was much less severe at locations that bleached during 1998, that had greater historical temperature variability and lower rates of warming. Remarkably, Acropora and Pocillopora, taxa that are typically highly susceptible, although among the most susceptible in Pulau Weh (Sumatra, Indonesia) where respectively, 94% and 87% of colonies died, were among the least susceptible in Singapore, where only 5% and 12% of colonies died.

Conclusions/Significance: The pattern of susceptibility among coral genera documented here is unprecedented. A parsimonious explanation for these results is that coral populations that bleached during the last major warming event in 1998 have adapted and/or acclimatised to thermal stress. These data also lend support to the hypothesis that corals in regions subject to more variable temperature regimes are more resistant to thermal stress than those in less variable environments.

James GUEST field photo

James is now a research fellow at University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) working with Prof. Peter Steinberg’s group in the Centre for Marine Bio-innovation (CMB), who is co-director of the marine ecology group within NTU’s Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre (AEBC), where James is now a visiting research fellow. James helps run a multi-disciplinary group of scientists, including geneticists, microbiologists, chemists and ecologists to tackle problems facing tropical marine ecosystems in Singapore and the region. You can email him at

Registration is now open for LSM4263 – Field Studies in Biodiversity (deadline 30 May 2012)

Message from Life Sciences Undergraduate Program Committee, 5 March 2012:

“Dear students,

Registration is now open for LSM4263 – Field Studies in Biodiversity, Special Term IV.

Registration ends 30 May 2012.

This 4MC module will be conducted in Semester IV, AY2011-12. Though a detailed timetable will be available later, class begins Mon 18 June and ends Fri 20 July, 2012.

To qualify, students must be:
– continuing into their Honours year in AY2012/13;
– concentrating in Environmental Biology or Specializing in Biology and;
– possess a CAP of 3.5 or above;
– expected to cover part of the module cost (not amounting more than SGD400).

The field trip is tentatively scheduled on Tue 3 July 2012.

Class size is limited to 30 students and preference given to students with Biodiversity (LSM1103) and Ecology (LSM2251).

To register, complete the form at

The list of successful applicants will be announced after the release of final examination results.

Best wishes,
Life Sciences Undergraduate Program Committee

LSM4263-tioman01 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Photo from drowgirl@Flickr