Technology Meets Conservation online & field course in 2014 (deadline 15 Nov 2013)

Topics in Tropical Asian Forestry: Technology meets conservation

Course Description
Deforestation in Asia is progressing at a faster rate than any other tropical area, reducing natural forest cover to its lowest level in the Quaternary Period. A variety of modern technologies have been developed that can accelerate and invigorate conservation. This course will focus on how nascent techniques can be used to monitor change in habitats and biodiversity.

We will investigate technological and analytical advances in tropical conservation before developing a group project to implement these methods to monitor species richness or biotic interactions. We expect that group projects will result in at least one multi-authored publication.

The course will consist of two parts: an online lecture/discussion course in Spring 2014 and a four week field course in June 2014 at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) in Yunnan, China, a research institute in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

All travel and accommodation expenses will be paid for 18 graduate students from any graduate degree granting institution in the U.S.A. or tropical Asia, funded by the US National Science Foundation. An additional 12 mainland Chinese graduate students will be funded by the Chinese National Science Foundation.

David Lohman, City College of New York, City University of New York, webpage:
Chuck Cannon, Texas Tech & Chinese Academy of Sciences,

Online Course
Students will watch lecture videos online prior to participating in a guided discussion that will meet online once a week in Spring 2014 (February – May). Students will form partnerships with classmates and perform research projects on specific regions of the Asian tropics. Given the ease of web-based global communication, the students will be expected to develop proficiency in communicating with peers across technological, geographical, and cultural boundaries.

Guest lecturers for the course include Richard CORLETT (XTBG), Rhett HARRISON (Kunming Institute of Botany), Erik MEIJAARD (People and Nature Consulting), Douglas SHEIL (Director, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation), Cam WEBB (Arnold Arboretum/Harvard), and Jianchu XU (Chief Scientific Officer, ICRAF/China).

Field Course
The Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden ( has been performing scientific research and providing agro-forestry outreach and training for over 50 years in the remote southwestern corner of China, near the borders of Laos and Myanmar. With an active community of international scientists and graduate students, XTBG is a leading ecological and botanical research institute in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

All students enrolled in the course will travel to XTBG in June 2014 to participate in field training, taxon-specific survey techniques, and to complete one or more group projects.

4 weeks in June-July 2014 at XTBG, Yunnan, China

To apply, please visit one of the following sites: or The deadline for applications is November 15, 2013. If you have any questions about the course, please email or


Alumni Veera Sekaran featured in SIF publication “Singapore”

Veera is an NUS biology graduate from the late 80’s who setup Greenology in 2008. Lovely to see him featured in Singapore International Foundation’s Oct-Dec 2013 issue of Singapore.

“… he set up Greenology to spread the concept of urban ‘green walls.’ A green wall is found in nature where plants grow naturally on vertical surfaces. Using this concept, plants are introduced into compact living spaces — a vital point as more than half the world’s population now live in cities.

And this is a trend, the World Health Organisation says is going to continue, with seven out of every 10people living in cities by 2050.

Greenology’s big break came when it was commissioned to build a green wall for the Formula 1 Pit Building in 2010.Things were looking up for Veera and it appeared that the business had turned the corner.

However, towards the end of that year he contracted a rare medical condition, Parsonage-Turner syndrome.“It rendered both my arms unusable.They were paralysed, and for six months I couldn’t eat or drink. It also caused tremendous pain.” Because it is so rare,his doctors were uncertain about how it should be treated.”

Click to read
Greening Out Of The Box

Wed, 30 Oct 2013, 10.00am @ SR1: Daniel Ng on “Impacts of climate change on Singapore amphibians”

Daniel NgPhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination
Impacts of climate change on Singapore amphibians

Ng Jia Jun Daniel
Graduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Wed, 30 Oct 2013: 10.00am
@ DBS Seminar Room 1, S2 Level 4
Supervisor: Asst Prof Bickford, David Patrick

All are welcome


“Amphibians are the most threatened of all vertebrate groups and climate change has been partially implicated to their disappearance. Temperature increase and increased rainfall variability are particularly detrimental to them as a result of their unique life history and physiology. Tropical amphibians are especially vulnerable as they are believed to be close to their physiological limits and a small temperature increase will exceed their thermal safety margin. In my study, I assessed which species are most vulnerable to climate change; determined whether drastic declines are also occurring locally; investigated warming vulnerability between different amphibian communities; ascertained the individual effect of elevated temperature and its interactive effect with low pH.

The main findings suggest that while some species may be more tolerant than previously hypothesised, others appear to be vulnerable. In addition, synergistic interaction between high temperature and low pH can reduce survival. These findings will have implications on their future survival and how conservation efforts should be directed towards them.”

Job: Part-time student research assistant in freshwater invasion biology

Update: Positions have been filled as of 01 Nov 2013. Thank you for your interest!

Part-time student research assistant wanted

Part-time student research assistant required to help collect data on visitors to selected water bodies around Singapore. This data is for a study investigating factors affecting the distribution of an alien species in Singapore. Start date negotiable.

Job Scope

  1. Record the number of visitors to selected bodies within a particular time frame on 20 weekday mornings (1 to 3 sites to be visited each day).
  2. Aid in collection of water samples from the survey sites.


  1. NUS undergraduate student.
  2. Responsible and able to work independently.
  3. Familiar with locations around Singapore and able to travel independently to various study sites.
  4. Able to commit to 2 to 3 hours of work for 20 weekday mornings (not including public holidays).




Please contact Ng Ting Hui, Freshwater and Invasion Biology Laboratory, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Email:

Thu, 24 Oct 2013, 3.00pm @ CR1: Grace Blackham on “Ecological degradation and recovery in tropical peatland ecosystem”

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination
Ecological degradation and recovery in the former Mega Rice Project tropical peatland ecosystem, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

Grace Blackham
Graduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Thu, 24 Oct 2013: 3.00pm
@ DBS Conference Room, S3 Level 5
Supervisor: Assoc Prof Webb, Edward Layman

All are welcome


“Forested tropical peatlands in Southeast Asia are being rapidly converted to agriculture or degraded into fire-prone non-forest vegetation. Although large areas have been abandoned, little is known about the natural regeneration ability of this ecosystem. To fill this knowledge gap, this study explored the natural regeneration potential of woody vegetation in an area of degraded tropical peatland by investigating how the current vegetation related to the impacts of forest clearance, fire and changes to the natural hydrology that caused the degradation. Other potential filters to recovery including seed dispersal and post-dispersal seed predation, were also examined.  This work was carried out in the former Mega Rice Project area in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.”

Wed, 16 Oct 2013, 10.00am @ SR1: Alison Wee on “Genetic connectivity of four mangrove species from the Malay Peninsula”

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination
“Genetic connectivity of four mangrove species from the Malay Peninsula”

Alison Kim Shan Wee
Graduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Wed, 16 Oct 2013: 10.00am
@ DBS Seminar Room 1, S2 Level 4
Supervisor: Assoc Prof Webb, Edward Layman

All are welcome


“Mangroves are threatened globally by land conversion, habitat degradation and climate change. The challenge in maintaining sufficient genetic diversity and evolutionary potential within species in an increasingly fragmented landscape places great importance on the genetic connectivity among populations. This thesis investigated the effects of reproductive traits, physical barrier and ocean currents on the genetic connectivity of four major species from the Malay Peninsula (MP)—Avicennia alba, Sonneratia alba, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Rhizophora mucronata.

A comparative analysis was conducted to examine the effects of physical barrier and reproductive traits on genetic connectivity. Convincing evidence from the study showed that the MP is a selective “filter” to gene flow—genetic discontinuity was more distinct in A. alba and S. alba than in B. gymnorhiza, and not at all in R. mucronata. The relative propagule dispersal potential across species provided a compelling explanation for the genetic pattern observed.

A more detailed study involving ocean circulation simulation on R. mucronata provided evidence that the gene flow in R. mucronata is maintained by ocean current-facilitated propagule dispersal. This thesis offered valuable insights on the factors influencing gene flow among populations, which are useful in understanding how increasing anthropogenic disturbances may threaten mangrove communities.”