QE: Sexual selection and the diversity of jumping spider (Chen Zhanqi, 30 Nov 2012: 11:30am)

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

Sexual selection and the diversity of jumping spider
Speaker:           Chen Zhanqi (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:                30 November 2012, Friday
Time:               11:30am
Venue:             DBS Conference Room II (S1 Level 3 Mezzanine)
Supervisor:      Assoc Prof Li Daiqin

Explaining why in many species one sex (usually the male) has evolved more conspicuous ornaments, signals, and weapons than the other is a longstanding question in biodiversity research that has attracted tremendous interest from evolutionary biologists. Sexual selection which is the result of inter-and intrasex competition and for choice occurs not only before copulation (precopulation), but also during copulation (pericopulation) and after copulation (postcopulation), all of which can produce variance in reproductive success. However, it remains controversial whether sexual selection is the driving force that causes most speciation events, although many authors have argued that sexual selection is likely to be important for the origin of new species in arthropods.

Here we will explicitly study morphological and behavioural differentiation across multiple species in jumping spider, which will allow us to directly compare the amount of change in sexually dimorphic and monomorphic features at the time of speciation. This allows us to overcome one of the downside of many empirical studies in sexual selection: most studies focus on only one or a few model species, but this approach does not allow for a comparison of evolutionary rates across different kinds of characters. Furthermore, we propose to study features that are relevant for pre-, peri-, and post-copulatory sexual selection across multiple species which will allow us to determine which aspect of sexual selection is most likely to change during speciation.


All are welcome


QE: Investigating food web and trophic interactions in Singapore’s reservoirs (Liew Jia Huan, 30 Nov 2012: 10.00am)

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination
Investigating food web and trophic interactions in Singapore’s reservoirs
Speaker:           LIEW Jia Huan  (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:                30 November 2012, Friday
Time:                10am
Venue:              DBS Conference Room (S3, Level 5, #05-01)
Supervisor:       Asst Prof Darren Yeo Chong Jinn
Co-Supervisor: Dr Tan Heok Hui


The role of reservoirs in Singapore and their importance as a major source of potable water in the city state includes the preservation of their aesthetics and water quality, traits that are closely linked to the diversity and ecology of the biota in an aquatic habitat. However, aside from species lists and anecdotal information, little is known about the ecology of reservoir aquatic communities and the processes that regulate them. Trophic interactions are an integral part of various ecological processes and have been documented extensively in theoretical and empirical studies.

Here, I use a combination of stable isotope and gut content analyses to investigate the food web structure of selected reservoirs in Singapore by elucidating the directionality and strength of trophic links between ecologically important aquatic organisms. This will allow us to better understand the complexity of food webs by shedding light on often cryptic issues such as source of primary production, dietary niches and selective assimilation of food items, among others. I will also attempt to construct and test predictive models which address questions pertaining to conservation of native freshwater fauna and biological control of pest/non-native organisms.


All are welcome

13 Dec 2012, Thursday: 10am at DBS CF1 – Alex Yee on Regeneration of Tropical Secondary Vegetation in Human-Modified Landscapes

Qualifying Examination

“Regeneration of Tropical Secondary Vegetation in Human-Modified Landscapes”

Speaker: Alex Yee Thiam Koon (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date: 13 December 2012, Thursday
Time: 10am
Venue: DBS Conference Room (S3, Level 5, #05-01)
Supervisor: Assoc Prof Hugh Tan Tiang Wah


Secondary vegetation is a type of vegetation that regenerates through natural processes from previously human- or naturally-disturbed land, degraded land or abandoned plantations. Moreover, secondary vegetation has distinct differences in forest structure and communities as compared to the original condition. Secondary forest is now a major forest type in the tropics, and its area is expanding. Secondary vegetation may be important for species conservation as it can house old-growth forest species. Understanding factors and processes that can affect the regeneration of secondary forest species can help in conservation decision-making. Therefore, I attempt to investigate the species composition of tropical secondary forests, and the processes affecting their regeneration. I will focus specifically on the regeneration of vascular plants in secondary forests of Singapore. I will conduct field observational studies on the regeneration of secondary forests in abandoned plantations and previously cleared land in Singapore. I will also investigate the regeneration of forest that was recently impacted by a strong windstorm in Singapore. Finally, I will synthesize my findings with a literature review and meta-analysis of factors affecting the regeneration of plants in tropical secondary forests.

All are welcome

Volunteer opportunities as Field Assistants for Honours Field Projects. Dec 2012 – Mar 2013


Email sent out to LSM1103, LSM2251 and LSM3261 students:

Dear students,

Our honours students need help with small mammal trapping, civet and squirrel surveys, frogging, hunts for forest termites, mangrove horseshoe crab measurements in the mangrove, and other projects.

This is a great way for undergraduates to gain exposure to field work, explore nature areas in Singapore and learn about how science is conducted in the field.

To help on field trips which will be conducted between Dec 2012 and Mar 2013, please apply at: http://tinyurl.com/hons-fieldwork

After you register, various Honours students will contact you with their field trip schedule.
It’s not a blanket period, you will be able to pick and choose dates.



N. Sivasothi (Mr) • Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences • Research Associate, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research • National University of Singapore • 14 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117543 • Office – S2-04-20; Lab – S2 02: at • Map: http//map.sivasothi.com • Phone: +65-6516 8869 • Fax: +65-6779 2486 • Email: sivasothi@nus.edu.sg, sivasothi@gmail.com (IM) • Web: http://www.sivasothi.com • Blog: http://blog.sivasothi.com • Modules: LSM1103, LSM1303, LSM2251, LSM3261, LSM4262, MW5201/2 • Staff Advisor, NUS PEACE, http://blog.nus.edu.sg/nuspeace • Coordinator, Raffles Museum Toddycats, http://toddycats.rafflesmuseum.net/ • Coordinator, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, http//coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg

Job: P/T Outreach Coordinator, “Mapping Nature, Mapping Memories In Tanglin Halt” (immediate)

“Mapping Nature, Mapping Memories In Tanglin Halt” is a part of an NUS/NTU research project, “Bird People in Tanglin Halt” to investigate relations between humans and birds in the Wessex Estate/Queenstown/ Green Corridor area.

Magpie Robin by Paul Huang, Singapore Botanic Gardens
The magpie robin is the project mascot. It is making a fragile comeback but is also being trapped by poachers from the neighbourhood. Photo by Paul Huang from naturestops.com

Outreach Coordinator Position
The outreach and logistics coordinator would be tasked to independently develop a strategy for outreach and online community/school participation in our project in liason with the research team.


  1. The coordinator would be tasked to make contact with and attempt to draw in participation from at least one Tanglin Halt/Wessex/Queestown, school alongside on and offline residents and community partners into a project to:
    • Monitor/map plant and animal life in the neighbourhood.
    • Record stories and memories of plants and animal life in the neighbourhood.
  2. Pilot a small scale “citizen science” project revolving around sightings of and stories about garden birds such as the magpie robin.
  3. Expand the project to include mapping other wildlife in the area.
  4. Bringing the community and schools to map sightings of birds and other wildlife via an online, googlemap recording system with pop- up windows in which the community can both upload sightings of wildlife alongside stories, memories of encounters with wildlife in the area..

Job Scope
The job scope of the outreach and logistics coordinator would be to oversee the following:

  1. Contact with schools and other relevant community institutions in the Queenstown-Tanglin Halt area.
  2. Liaise with biology/history teachers and assist in the initiation of small scale projects with schools involving mapping of bird and or other wildlife and/or memories of birds and wildlife in the Tanglin Halt/Queenstown/Green corridor area.
  3. Where possible (together with team members) involve members of the Tanglin Halt Queenstown population who already have an interest in bird life (songbird lovers) etc in this process.
  4. Oversee the setting up of an online googlemap page where citizens of the area can record wildlife sightings and stories of wildlife.
  5. Co-organise and participate in (together with the project group as a whole )in a professional bird mapping survey and integrate the results of this survey into the online googlemap system.
  6. Formulate/refine key criteria and objectives by which these initiatives can be measured and evaluated.

Project development
Further details and breakdown of the jobscope/honorarium can be developed by the successful candidate. We will also permit a candidate to further creatively develop the project in liaison with the project group members. The coordinator will be offered a market-rate, part time honorarium for this project.

Alternatively, we are also open to this project becoming part of an official, independently-developed citizen-science research initiative on the part of an MA student.


  1. We are ideally looking for an MA or honours student with experience in both wildlife monitoring, organization and outreach.
  2. We would like this project to commence as soon as possible.

Interested candidates are to send a short bio and details of your experience and interest in this project to:
Lucy Davis,
PI Bird People in Tanglin Halt Project

26 Nov 2012, Monday: 10am at DBS CF1- Tay Ywee Chieh on Connectivity of coral populations within the Singapore Strait

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination

“Connectivity of coral populations within the Singapore Strait”

Speaker: Tay Ywee Chieh (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)

Date: 26 November 2012, Monday

Time: 10am

Venue: DBS Conference Room (S3 Level 5) #05-01

Supervisor: Asst Prof Peter Alan, Todd

Co-supervisor: Prof Chou Loke Ming




The marine environment is a dynamic system that facilitates movement of organisms between populations, a process required for sustaining healthy communities and ensuring their continued propagation. In this study, I examined the predicted and realized connectivity patterns, and the genetic diversity of coral populations within the Singapore Strait. Using different tools, e.g. hydrological simulations and genetic markers, this study aimed to (1) enhance our knowledge on coral population dynamics, and (2) assess the long-term viability of the populations. The population genetics of two hard coral species with different reproductive strategies, Platygyra sinensis and Pocillopora damicornis, were analysed and compared to get a broader perspective on the coral population connectivity dynamics. A set of newly-developed microsatellite markers for P. sinensis was also described. Identification of population connectivity patterns can help prioritize conservation efforts to target key reefs, and determine vulnerable versus stable populations. This is the first detailed study on the connectivity of Singapore’s coral reefs. The findings of my research can support local coral reef managers’ decision-making processes, especially in light of Singapore’s need to balance economic and environmental concerns. Through the course of this assessment, I also compared and discussed some of the different strategies used to make these assessments.

All are welcome!

Faculty of Science Awards 2012

This just in from the Dean of Science!

Congratulations to everyone who keeps the department ticking, for the recognition of your fine efforts!

Commendation Award 2012

  • Abdul Rahim Bin Ramad
  • Ng Quee Kee

Outstanding Service Award 2012

  • Ang-Lim Swee Eng
  • Chan Yee Ngoh
  • Lai Soh Fun
  • Lau Li-Cheng, Lisa
  • Li Xingzuan
  • Lim Miah Kyan
  • Mok Lim Sum
  • Nursyidah Binti Mansor
  • Reena Devi a/p Samynadan
  • Soh Siew Eng
  • Subha, N
  • Tan Han Tong, Tommy
  • Tan Siong Kiat
  • Tan Swee Hee
  • Wang Luan Keng

Teaching Assistant (Part-time) Award AY2011/2012

  • Chong Kwek Yan
  • Chua Aik Hwee, Marcus
  • Huang Xiaoqian
  • Lam Kuen Kuen, Millie
  • Martin Graf
  • Maxine Allayne Darlene Mowe
  • Neo Mei Lin
  • Sindhuja Sridharan
  • Toh Tai Chong
  • Wee Kim Shan
  • Xie Zhicheng
  • Yee Thiam Koon, Alex

Teaching Assistant (Full-time) Award AY2011/2012

  • Law Sze Joo, Sylvia
  • Low Yi Lian
  • Xu Weiting

Honour Roll AY2011/2012

  • Dr Lam Siew Hong

Faculty Teaching Excellence Awards

  • Prof Ip Yuen Kwong, Alex
  • Assoc Prof Kunchithapadam Swaminathan
  • Dr Peter Alan Todd
  • Dr Yeo Chong Jinn, Darren
  • Dr Zeehan Jaafar

Job: Two Research Assistant positions for project on ‘Enhancing Singapore’s Coral Reef Ecosystem’ (deadline: 16 Nov 2012)

“Enhancing Singapore’s Coral Reef Ecosystem in a Green Port, including Assessment of Sites for Reef Restoration”:
Two Research Assistant Positions (deadline 16 Nov 2012)

The first phase of a project “Enhancing Singapore’s Coral Reef Ecosystem in a Green Port, including Assessment of Sites for Reef Restoration” will begin soon. The project will be administered by the Tropical Marine Science Institute with Prof. L.M. Chou as the Principal Investigator.

The first phase lasting one year will assess sites suitable for the translocation of corals to restore 1) a non-reef area and 2) a degraded reef, and determine which coral communities at the impacted site can be used to monitor coral resilience to the impact.

This phase will lead on to a larger second phase lasting three years that addresses the following research questions: a) will coral translocation succeed at an area that previously did not support corals? b) by how much can translocation enhance a degraded reef, and c) will corals at the impacted site survive?

The research assistants will participate actively in all aspects of the project.
Field work forms a major component of the project.


  1. At least a B.Sc. or B.Sc. (Hons) in biology, ecology or marine biology, life sciences (majoring in environmental biology) or other related fields.
  2. Scuba diving qualification (PADI advanced open water or equivalent).
  3. Experience in reef restoration work.
  4. IT competency and report writing ability.

Salary will be commensurate with academic qualification and research experience. Earliest availability will be taken into consideration.

Interested candidates should e-mail

  • an updated curriculum vitae,
  • names of three referees and
  • a statement indicating his/her suitability for the position

to: Mr. Toh Kok Ben (dbstohkb@nus.edu.sg) by 16 Nov 2012.

12 Nov 2012, Monday: 10am at DBS CR1– Anuj Jain on Habitat Enrichment for Tropical Butterflies

Qualifying Examination

“Habitat Enrichment for Tropical Butterflies”

Speaker: Anuj Jain (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)

Date: 12 November 2012, Monday

Time: 10am

Venue: DBS Conference Room (S3 Level 5, #05-01)

Supervisor: A/P Webb, Edward L


Habitat degradation and fragmentation in the tropics, especially in South East Asia, poses great threat to tropical butterflies. Forest dependant butterfly species get worse hit as they lose original habitat and are often unable to colonize degraded habitats due to lack of species specific resources in such habitats. If scarce resources limit populations of threatened butterflies, then chances of survival of these species can be improved by enhancing habitats with key resources. Furthermore, many threatened insects cannot maintain their own populations and need intervention in the form of habitat enrichment.  By using Singapore as a model system, the study first maps hotspots of butterfly diversity in Singapore, identifies areas which hold species of conservation concern and hypothesizes bottlenecks for the survival and reproduction for rare and threatened butterfly species. Next a habitat enrichment strategy using larval host plants (juvenile food resource) and nectar plants (adult food resource) is proposed to quantify the effect of habitat enrichment and identify real bottlenecks for butterflies by 1) maximizing populations in native habitat 2) improving sub-optimal habitat quality and 3) improving connectivity of fragmented native habitat by establishing resource rich stepping stones in between them.  Finally, using capture-mark-recapture techniques the study will test if creating these stepping stones can increase exchange between forest fragments thus increasing long term viability of fragmented metapopulations. The study will be the first to identify bottlenecks and quantify the effects of habitat enrichment  for butterflies in the tropics and give specific recommendations for conservation planning.

All are welcome