Internships, student field assistant opportunities – see Ecotax

There have been three announcements recently which may be of interest to students and part-timers alike.

  • Climate Change Intern, two positions at DHI
  • Student / Laboratory Assistant, four positions @ TMSI EMID-Inland Waters Cluster
  • Part-time field assistant for civet radio-tracking study (Jan-Feb 2014, part-time thereafter)

To view these messages, do one of the following:

The Ecotax Mailing List was set up in Dec 1998 to announce technical seminars, visitors, job opportunities and other similar messages to the community of ecologists and taxonomists in Singapore.


Volunteer field assistants for research projects in biodiversity and ecology

During undergraduate classes, it is evident that students with at least a little field experience are much more aware of nature areas and natural history issues in Singapore and how to handle themselves in the field.

It is quite the difference, so how do you transform yourself?

Well, we are providing you with an opportunity to help field researchers – our honours and UROPS students need help with a variety of work in the field including projects with the common palm civet, mangrove horseshoe crab, long-tailed macaques and birds.

I recommend this as a great way to learn about biodiversity and ecology. While helping them, you will gain exposure to field work, learn about nature areas in Singapore and appreciate how science is conducted in the field. You will also be privy to some eye-opening conversations.

All you have to do is sign up with the form at:

This is open to undergraduates and ‘A’ level students awaiting results, but anyone can apply.

The research students will contact you once you register.

Job: Part-time field assistant for civet radio-tracking study (Jan-Feb 2014, part-time thereafter)

Civet Portsdown GenevieveYeo2013

Field research assistant required to help radio-track civets throughout Singapore primarily in the Central Catchment. This data is for a study investigating factors affecting the translocation of native civet species in Singapore.

Period: 02 Jan 2014 – 20 Feb 2014.
Part-time thereafter.

Job Scope

  1. Record the telemetry signals from translocated radio collared civets on weekday mornings (1 to 3 sites to be visited each day depending on where the animals are located).
  2. Aid in collection of data on travel and location of civets


  1. NUS student or affiliate
  2. Responsible and able to work independently under strenuous field conditions.
  3. Familiar with locations around the central catchment parks and other wooded areas in Singapore.
  4. Able to travel independently to various study sites. Ownership or access to a vehicle required. Some travel will be on dirt roads.
  5. Excellent physical condition. Able to walk and hike long distances. Good hearing.
  6. Knowledge of use of a compass a plus.
  7. Able to commit to 5 days of work 8 hour days from 02 Jan 2014 through to 20 Feb 2014
  8. Work will decline to one day per week until June or July.

Interested applicants, please email your CV to

Christina P. Colon, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Kingsborough Community College

Fri, 29 Nov 2013, 10.00am @ SR1: Nega Abate on “Climate change and species distribution modelling”

Qualifying Examination

Climate change and species distribution modelling: implications for bird conservation in Ethiopia


Nega Tassie Abate

Graduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Friday, 29 Nov 2013: 10.00am
@ DBS Seminar Room 1, S2 Level 4
Supervisor: Asst Prof Chisholm, Ryan Alistair

All are welcome


“Global climate change has large effects on ecosystems, humans, and other species. From both pure ecological and applied conservation perspectives, it is important to study the responses of particular species to climate change. Taking birds as target species, this project aims to investigate (i) global latitudinal shifts in bird distributions; (ii) altitudinal shifts in bird distributions in Ethiopia; and (iii) species distribution modelling of birds of Ethiopia under climate change scenarios. Although the latitudinal shift analysis is still ongoing, our preliminary results show that large shifts in altitude have been recorded for resident bird species of Ethiopia. For the third part we used GIS applications and Maxent modelling on four bird species (Francolinus harwoodi, Cyanochen cyanoptera, Policephalus flavifrons and Corvus crassirostri) to explore the relative influence of different abiotic factors on their distributions. We evaluated the accuracy of models by using the area under the curve (AUC) describing the relationship between true positive and false positive probabilities of occurrences. Model accuracies in order of decreasing magnitude are: Francolinus harwoodi (0.95 ± 0.032; mean ± standard error), Cyanochen cyanoptera (0.87 ± 0.049), Poicephalus flavifrons (0.86 ± 0.048) and Corvus crassirostris (0.75 ± 0.055). The most important environmental factors affecting the species’ distributions, identified by a jackknife procedure, were monthly and quarterly temperature and precipitation of the driest quarter. Under future climate scenarios, Policephalus flavifrons and Corvus crassirostris show a change in their predicted distributional range. However, Francolinus harwoodi and Cyanochen cyanoptera were similar to their current distributional range. Although these two species appear not to be very vulnerable to climate change, other bird species across the world have been shown to be vulnerable and so detailed study of other bird species in Ethiopia is important for conservation and management. In future work, as part of the thesis, we propose to analyse over 400 Ethiopian bird species using similar methodology.

Tue, 26 Nov 2013, 10.00am @ SR1: Neo Mei Lin on “Giant clams in Singapore: Past, Present, and Future”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination

Giant clams (subfamily Tridacninae) in Singapore: Past, Present, and Future

Neo Mei Lin
Graduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013: 10.00am
@ DBS Seminar Room 1, S2 Level 4
Supervisor: Asst Prof Peter A. Todd

All are welcome


“Giant clams, the largest bivalve molluscs in the world, are both ecologically and commercially significant across the tropical Indo-Pacific. However, population declines due to exploitation and habitat degradation have been reported throughout their range, including in Singapore. In my study, I made a comprehensive assessment of the giant clams in Singapore, examining key questions that will serve to facilitate conservation of the existing populations and prioritise their protection on Singapore’s reefs.

I first reviewed the ecological roles of giant clams on coral reefs, and explained how they are significant contributors to reef productivity, providers of biomass (for food), calcium carbonate and water filtration, as well as their ability to provide microhabitats to reef organisms and zooxanthellae. I also reviewed their history, research, and conservation in Singapore, and provide evidence that the reefs once supported five species: Hippopus hippopus, Tridacna crocea, T. gigas, T. maxima, and T. squamosa. I next examined the present population status and connectivity of giant clams in Singapore through reef surveys (which covered 87,515 m2 and encompassed 29 sites), population genetics, and dispersal modelling using Delft3D. Only three species (T. crocea, T. maxima, and T. squamosa) were found to be present in Singapore waters, and only in extremely low densities. Analysis of T. crocea and T. squamosa genetic structures showed high genetic diversity but low nucleotide diversity for both populations. Model predictions showed that local and regional connectivity are weak and larval settlement is dependent on the low residual flows that encourage larval retention. Overall, my results suggest that local populations are probably already functionally extinct as they are reproductively isolated (component Allee effects) and are unlikely to fertilise conspecifics.

Additionally, I reassessed and updated the local conservation statuses of the five species known to have been present at some time in Singapore. Finally, I conducted various larvae-based experiments to better understand the early life autecology of the fluted giant clam, T. squamosa. I examined the procedures of spawning inductions and larval rearing, and performed two studies examining the effects of micro-algal diets, and the combined effects of temperature and salinity on the fertilisation success and development of larvae. I also conducted three other studies to close other knowledge gaps in giant clam larval ecology: fertilisation success in relation to gamete age, larval swimming speed, and settlement competency, and then discussed the potential effects and their parameterisation on larval transport predictions. Data arising from these studies will contribute to the enhancement of both mariculture operations and biophysical models. Together, my results provide novel insights into the ecological significance of giant clams on reefs, their history in Singapore waters, their status and connectivity, and their larval ecology, all of which will be important for ongoing conservation efforts.

Nalini on an Early Mobility Postdoctoral Fellowship with Scott Pitnick at Syracuse University

Nalini writes,

“I am currently on a new postdoc at Syracuse University in upstate New York. I applied for and was awarded an Early Mobility Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Swiss National Science Foundation to pursue research with Dr. Scott Pitnick.

I’ll be working on post-copulatory sexual selection and speciation, in particular, using transgenic flies to resolve mechanisms of competitive fertilisation.

This means engineering sepsis flies with GFP and RFP tagged sperm heads and using them to document sperm-female interactions in vivo among populations of the widespread species, Sepsis punctum that are likely undergoing incipient speciation.”

This means she will still be collecting cow dung in some field some where, some time!

nalini collecting dung

Syracuse looks lovely!

Syracuse University

Check out her webpage too!

Nalini Puniamoorthy