Wed, 29 Jan 2014, 10.00am @ CR1: Brett Scheffers on “Frog life in the canopy: how wet loving species survive hot and dry habitats”

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination

Frog life in the canopy: how wet loving species survive hot and dry habitats
Brett R. Scheffers

Wednesday, 29 Jan 2014: 10.00amGraduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

@ DBS Conference Room, S3 Level 5
Supervisor: Assoc Prof Evans, Theodore Alfred

All are welcome


“Biodiversity is spatially organized by climatic gradients across elevation and latitude. But do other gradients exist that might drive biogeographical patterns? Using data from tropical rainforests, I showed that rainforest’s vertical strata provide climatic gradients much steeper than those offered by elevation and latitude. I explored one hard-to-access-area, tropical rainforest canopy, and examined frog distributions along two nested climate gradients:  forest height within elevation.

I proposed a novel “arboreality hypothesis” based on empirical data to explain the vertical shift in species distributions in the rainforest strata with shifts with elevation, due to changes in climate up trees relative to up mountains. I explored how microhabitats, especially Asplenium bird’s nest ferns, within the forest strata ameliorate abiotic conditions and promote canopy biodiversity. My research suggests that ferns provide thermal buffering dependent on their state of hydration. Lastly, I determined the critical thermal maxima for various species of frogs and lizards, at different life stages, and then explored whether forest microhabitats are likely to provide refuge from extreme weather events.


Thu, 06 Feb 2014, 3.00pm @ CR1: Yuchen Ang on “Modern morphological techniques, and the evolutionary biology and taxonomy of Sepsidae (Diptera)”

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination

Modern morphological techniques, and the evolutionary biology and taxonomy of Sepsidae (Diptera)
Yuchen Ang

Graduate Student
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Thursday, 06 Feb 2014: 3.00pm
@ DBS Conference Room, S3 Level 5
Supervisor: Prof Meier, Rudolf

All are welcome


“In my thesis, I pursue my research interests in morphology by conducting a series of studies on the evolutionary biology and taxonomy of Sepsidae (Diptera), using various bioimaging techniques, such as micro-computered tomography, photomicrography and scanning electron-microscopy.

First, I document how de-novo moveable appendages can evolve from flat, plate-like structures on the male abdomen and show that this unique functional structure has evolved twice within Sepsidae. Second, I demonstrate that sexual selection highly increases morphological divergence by quantifying how the rates of evolution in sexually dimorphic structures (i.e., subject to sexual selection) are much higher than in monomorphic structures (i.e., only subject to viability selection).

Third, I explore the benefits of coupling taxonomy with information technology by creating a digital reference collection featuring 140 sepsid species and a web-tool for online species identification, as well as publishing species descriptions that are simultaneously featured as taxonomic entries in a wiki-based platform. Lastly, I show how morphological data-richness and iterative taxonomy can address inadequately diagnostic species descriptions as well as resolve ‘cryptic’ species proposed based on DNA sequences as well as disjunctive distributions in species.

Biodiversity crew at the 18th BSGC 6-8 January 2014

The Biological Sciences Graduate Congress is an annual congress organized by three collaborating universities: National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore, University of Malaya (UM), Malaysia, and Chulalongkorn University (CU), Thailand.

In this congress, graduate students present their research work from four different themes – Functional Genomics and Structural Biology, Biochemistry, Physiology & Biotechnology, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biodiversity, Conservation & Ecology.

This year, eight graduates students from the NUS Biodiversity Crew participated in the 18th BSGC which was hosted by the University of Malaya from 6th to 8th January 2014:

  1. Chan Zhanqi – “UV based female mate choice and the benefits to reproductive success in jumping spider”
  2. Low Bi Wei – “The tables are turned: an invasive species under potential threat”
  3. Ng Ting Hui – “One or more bad apples? Native, introduced, and cryptogenic Ampullaridae (Gastropoda) of Singapore”
  4. Tang Qian – “Population genetic study reveals three major entries of the German cockroach (Blatella germanica) in Eastern Asia”
  5. Wang Chengna – “Global comparison of influenza vaccine cost-effectiveness between low and high income countries and different age-groups”
  6. Fung Tze Kwan – “The diet of the common palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Pallas, 1777) in urban and forested environments in Singapore”
  7. Ye Guanqiong – “Evaluating the performance of integrated coastal management in China’s coastal cities”
  8. Hou Chia-Yi – “Country level risk of infectious disease emergence and allocation of international health aid”
Ng Ting Hui presenting her work on apple snails.

Ng Ting Hui presenting her work on apple snails.

Low Bi Wei and his work on Clarias batrachus

Low Bi Wei and his work on Clarias batrachus

While we were at University of Malaya, we took the opportunity to visit their Museum of Zoology and we were hosted by their friendly museum staff – Thary and Khairunnisa who kindly took us on a guided tour.

Common palm civet skin

Common palm civet skins from the mammal collection

On the last day of the congress, we had a short field trip to Taman Wetlands at Putrajaya and the Putra Mosque.

We wished we had more time to explore Taman Wetlands!

We wished we had more time to explore Taman Wetlands!

The congress provided a great opportunity for us to learn from the diversity of research topics that were presented and it definitely served as an excellent platform for us to share about our research work. The next BSGC will be hosted by NUS and graduate students should not miss this opportunity to present your research and to make friends with like-minded people!

LSM3257 Quantitative Methods for Ecological Research – a new module for honours students organising and analysing ecological data

A new module is being offered this semester by our department’s ecological modeller, Roman Carrasco Torrecilla, entitled LSM3257 Quantitative Methods for Ecological Research.

Roamn says,

“The module is eminently applied and focuses on how to organize and analyze ecological data. One of the main aims was to provide honours students with the skills to analyse their data for their theses. A clinic is included for them to analyse their own data.

It was also thought that third year students should have the opportunity get used to quantitative analyses early and it is offered as level 3000 module.”

LLSM3257 “Quantitative methods for ecological research

Course details here and IVLE page here.