Fri 03 May 2013: 3.00pm @ S1A SR: Tang Qian on “Origin and spread of the German cockroach, Blattella germanica”

Qualifying  Examination


Origin and spread of the German cockroach, Blattella germanica (Blattodea: Blattellidae)

Graduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Fri, 3 May 2013: 3.00pm
@ S1A, #02-17
Supervisor: Assoc Prof Evans, Theodore Alfred

All are welcome


“The German cockroach (Blattella germanica) is likely to be the world’s most widespread domestic pest, from large cities to rural areas, on all continents (except Antarctica) and across most latitudes.

How this situation transpired is unknown, even the origin of this species is unknown; the name indicates where it was named, as an invasive species. Historical records and morphological phylogeny suggest that the German cockroach is of African or Asian origin.

Considering the evidence from both sources, I hypothesize that the German cockroach and its Asian relatives share a common ancestor out of Africa, and that the ancestors of the German cockroach was brought to Europe and domesticated there.

Adaptation to buildings allowed for transportation by humans, and thus spread to the rest of the world.

I will test my hypothesis using different genetic markers on cockroach samples collected from over 100 cities or regions.  I will use various genetic analyses to trace the history of the Genus Blattella (ribosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA) and the species B. germanica (microsatellites). 

This study may also provide evidence for the expansion of B. germanica and suggest processes of domestication by pest species in the urban environment.”

Undergrad part-time field/lab assistants wanted (Apr – Dec 2013)

Update: Positions have been filled as of 8 May 2013. Thank you for your interest!

One or more part-time assistant(s) are required to help with experiments, sampling  and sample processing in Singapore reservoirs from April to Dec 2013.

PUB: Local Catchment Water
PUB: Local Catchment Water

Project description: Sampling and processing of samples from Singapore’s reservoirs as well as subculturing and aiding in experimental work on cyanobacteria in the laboratory.

Job Scope

  1. Work when needed on experimental days (every 2 days) and one full day for filtration of reservoir samples.
  2. Most work will be conducted on weekdays, but some experimental collection days may be on weekends and public holidays
  3. Filter water samples, record and weigh freeze dried water samples
  4. Assist in collection of samples for experimental work in the laboratory as well as filtration of samples on weekdays or weekends.


Candidates should be:

  1. Meticulous and careful with samples
  2. Be able to come into the lab on a need to basis.
  3. Knowledgeable about phytoplankton and sterile techniques is useful, but candidates with no prior knowledge can also apply as training will be provided.




Please contact Maxine Mowe, Graduate student, Freshwater and Invasion Biology Laboratory, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Email: or call 6516-4255.

Current research strengths in Environmental Biology (or what the Biodiversity Crew is doing)

The Biodiversity Crew is formally the Environmental Biology group within the Department of Biological Sciences. The other two strengths of the department are Biomedical Sciences and Cell & Molecular.

At the recent department retreat, Theo Evans put up some slides for analysis which provide a quick idea of the research interests in this group.

Data source: department webpage.

Here they are:

EB analysis - Staff retreat 2013 - for Siva.pptx

EB analysis - Staff retreat 2013 - for Siva.pptx

EB analysis - Staff retreat 2013 - for Siva.pptx

EB analysis - Staff retreat 2013 - for Siva.pptx

FTTAs at digital literacy classes!

Aussie John Larkin is one of my Macintosh buddies whom I worked with in the 90’s. He’s back in town to conduct some classes at CDTL.

The FTTA’s, Sylvia Law, Cai Hongxia, Xu Weiting and Amanda Tan, are enjoying a teaching break during Reading Week and used the time to sign up for John’s classes.

He was escorted to class today by my Mac buddies Laurence and Kenneth who sent me this photo after the first session:

L-R: Sylvia, Hongxia, John, Laurence, Weiting and Amanda.

Teaching staff including the FTTAs are always learning, seeking new ideas for implementation into lessons, skills which we think undergrads would find useful, techniques for more interesting lesson delivery or admin techniques which free up time for everyone.

We’re not trigger happy about implementation though. Each idea needs to be evaluated and tried out. So even as semester ends, we are sniffing out new ideas to wrestle with in the months ahead, before the tough Semester I begins.

And not all this learning is over formal sessions. Some of the best learning takes place informally over a meal!


Hunkered down at the Department Retreat

We’re all at the annual department retreat during which we review the progress and direction of the department and discuss plans for the future.

We kick off with a state of the department review by the head.

Sometimes the news is good, sometimes it can be gloomy. As with everything in Singapore, it’s interesting to observe the influence of the economy on the status of the department and projections for the future.

It’s an intense schedule of short presentations and discussions so its impossible for anyone not to be clued into reality, defying the ability to be isolated in an ivory tower.

Science in a modern era is tiring this way but the exposure is unavoidable. Some of that reality should trickle down to students who ultimately do feel the effects.

It’s not all gloomy though. We tend to compare with the best objectively and the department is not half bad. And when comparative metrics are produced, debate invariably emerges as far as time allows. And then you get to observe personalities.

Which is the bonus when sitting through long meetings!


Paul Matsudaira starting with the state of the department review

The NUS Biology Crew at their breakout session at the department retreat.

The NUS Biology Crew at their breakout session at the department retreat.

Chloe Tan’s three months in the Philippines begins on Earth Day!

Chloe Tan did her honours thesis on the “Diversity and distribution of small mammals across forested and urban areas in Singapore” and graduated determined to work in conservation directly.

She is one of several students who wish to contribute to regional efforts to protect and conserve. Since a job is not immediately available, getting involved as a volunteer is an excellent way to learn the ropes and be at the right place when an opportunity presents itself.

Chloe has been looking since she graduated last semester and thanks to Ng Bee Choo, wrote me recently with some wonderful news:

“Hi Siva,

I’ll be a volunteer on the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme (PBCP) under the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (PBCFI).

For this three month stint (22 Apr to 22 Jul), I’ll be in the field helping out with biodiversity surveys, working in breeding and rescue centers in Negros and Panay, and possibly assisting with threatened species reintroduction projects on Negros, Panay and Cebu Islands.

Negros, Panay and Cebu, together with Masbate, make up the West Visayas – a region of PBCFI considers a conservation priority. The long-term goal of the PBCP is to establish a continuously developing network of Local Conservation Areas (LCAs) in the country.

For the first week in the Philippines, I’ll be helping [Ng] Bee Choo at the 6th International Hornbill Conference in Manila. During which I will meet the PBCP field personnel and firm up my itinerary, then tag along as they return to the field sites.

Thanks Siva!”

Chloe Tan

Happy Earth Day Chloe! Thanks for helping to make the world a better place!