Fully-funded PhD project at NTU’s Asian School of the Environment

PhD Scholarship Announcement

Fully-funded PhD project at the Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore.

The Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHNS) Lab is seeking an enthusiastic PhD student with a strong academic background who has interests in developing and executing a research project pertaining to socioecological systems in Southeast Asia. This student should have an interest in conservation biology and land use and land cover change and be open to conducting interdisciplinary research in rural landscapes. Potential research topics within the CHNS lab including: (i) Understanding the drivers of fire activity in tropical landscapes, (ii) Investigate the land use and land cover changes from periurbanization in Southeast Asia, (iii) Understanding how environmental health impacts food security and food trade in the region. We are looking for students who are comfortable conducting fieldwork independently and have interest in conducting household surveys as well as using geographic information systems. Excellent writing skills, a good understanding of conservation biology, and some experience with statistics and R programming would be ideal.

This fully-funded scholarship will begin on 1 January 2018 and the student will be advised by Asst/Prof Janice Ser Huay Lee.

The Nanyang Technological University of Singapore is ranked 11th globally and 1st among the world’s best young universities. The Asian School of the Environment is a new school engaged in earth environmental systems science research which spans various fields including human-environment interactions, ecology and geosciences. For more information, please visit: http://www.ase.ntu.edu.sg/

Interested students should submit a cover letter explaining why they are interested in this position and how this may help them in their future career, and their CV specifying their software knowledge, research experience and two referees. Please submit these two documents to janicelee@ntu.edu.sg. Only successful applicants will be contacted for interviews. The closing date for this application is 1st November 2017.

Janice Ser Huay Lee
Assistant Professor
Asian School of the Environment, NTU


Thu 28 Sep 2017: 10.00am [QE] – Samantha Lai Wen Ya on “The role of vegetative fragments in the propagation of seagrasses”

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

“The role of vegetative fragments in the propagation of seagrasses”

Speaker:           Lai Wen Ya Samantha (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:                28  September 2017, Thursday
Time:                10am
Venue:             DBS Conference Room (S3 Level 5)
Supervisor:      Assoc Prof Peter Alan, Todd

Abstract: – The study of the movement ecology of seagrasses is critical to understanding how they disperse, exchange genetic material, and persist in changing environments. Seagrasses can disperse at several life stages, although long-distance dispersal beyond the parent meadow is often attributed to buoyant fruits or reproductive shoots which, depending on hydrodynamic conditions, can travel up to hundreds of kilometres from the source meadow. However, vegetative fragments can also re-establish elsewhere following detachment from the parent plant to create a new independent ramet. This process could potentially be important for Singapore’s meadows as the data available thus far about sexual reproduction seems to indicate that it is quite limited.

The focus of my thesis is the connectivity of seagrass meadows in Singapore, with an emphasis on the much-overlooked vegetative fragment dispersal mechanism. Broadly, I aim to experimentally investigate a variety of factors that can affect each step of this mechanism. The resulting data will be integrated into a hydrodynamic model to understand the potential magnitude of this kind of dispersal in our local system. This model will be referenced against a key species, Thalassia hemprichii, to determine if the model can explain the observed population structure across the meadows. My work will help improve our understanding of the population connectivity of our local meadows, and the extent to which they may rely on vegetative fragments for dispersal.

All are welcome

Jobs – 1 Postdoctoral Research Fellow & 1 Research Assistant in economic valuation of tropical ecosystem services [apply by 31 Oct 2017]

1 Postdoctoral Research Fellow and 1 Research Assistant in economic valuation of tropical ecosystem services
In the Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC), Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS)

The Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) and the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS) invite applications for 1 Postdoctoral Research Fellow and 1 Research assistant positions in economic valuation of ecosystem services, to begin on 1 January 2018 or soon thereafter. The position will be for a period of 2 years. The successful applicant will be part of the project ‘A Natural Capital Assessment for Singapore’.

The overall aim of the project is to quantify the economic, social, and cultural value of Singapore’s environmental assets (its ‘Natural Capital’), and present and model the information in such a way that it can inform future policy and urban development. To protect and enhance natural capital in Singapore and secure the long-term foundational benefits from this capital, we need to understand how the values of Singapore’s ecosystems services vary across space and under different scenarios. This will be achieved by:

  1. quantifying the current status of Singapore’s terrestrial and coastal-marine ecosystems
  2. quantifying the value of Singapore’s terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems to society.
  3. assessing tradeoffs between urban development (urban assets) and natural capital (natural assets)
  4. assessing future policy and development opportunities that integrate natural capital

The Research Fellow will have expertise in working on ecosystem services valuation using a range of GIS, spatial and survey-based techniques. GIS and data analysis skills are preferred. The RF will take a significant lead in research relating to ecosystem services valuation to develop maps and spatial models to assess future trade-offs under different scenarios. The RF will take the lead in writing the research for publication. In addition, the RF will also contribute to the coordination of research assistants, and work alongside other Research Fellows working on the terrestrial and coastal working packages of the project.

The Research Assistant will support the research fellow in data collection and management and model development. The Research Assistant will help conduct surveys. Experience with GIS and data analysis is considered an advantage.

The Singapore-ETH Centre was established in 2010 by ETH Zurich and Singapore’s National Research Foundation, as part of its CREATE campus. The vibrant hub for research aims to provide practical solutions to some of the most pressing problems through its programmes – Future Cities Laboratory and Future Resilient Systems.

The Times Higher Education World University rankings place NUS as the 22nd top university in the world and number one in Asia. The Department of Biological Sciences has over 70 principal investigators and 300 graduate students. Facilities and research support in the department are world-class and are highly regarded internationally. The successful candidate will join the BioEcon Lab: http://blog.nus.edu.sg/bioeconlab/


  1. Both appointments will be tenable for a period of two years
  2. The positions come with competitive remuneration
  3. Singapore citizens and permanent residents are eligible for central provident fund benefits

Applicants for the Research Fellow position must hold a PhD (or awaiting conferment), have research experience in a related field of natural and economic sciences, and a record of (or potential to deliver) good quality research publications.

Applicants for the Research Assistant position much hold at least a relevant degree related to environmental sciences, economics or geography.

Interested applicants should submit the following via email to L. Roman Carrasco (dbsctlr@nus.edu.sg) by 31st October 2017:

  • Brief letter of application
  • Curriculum vitae, with description of experience applying relevant statistical and modelling skills
  • At least one sample of their published work in the case of Research Fellow applicants

Shortlisted applicants will be contacted to arrange an interview. For further information on the project please contact the PI of the economic valuation Working Package L. R. Carrasco (dbsctlr@nus.edu.sg)

Thu 28 Sep 2017: 3.00pm @ NUS DBS CR1 – Cecilia Larrosa on “Unintended Feedbacks: challenges and opportunities for improving conservation”

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination: 28 September 2017, Thursday, (Cecilia Larrosa / Dr Carrasco) – 3pm


Human reactions to conservation interventions can trigger unintended feedbacks resulting in poor conservation outcomes. Understanding unintended feedbacks is a necessary first step toward the diagnosis and solution of environmental problems, but existing anecdotal evidence cannot support decision-making. The aim of this PhD is to improve our understanding of the role these unintended feedbacks play in conservation science, and provide recommendations for incorporating them into practice.

After analysing the implications these unintended feedbacks have for conservation from a social-ecological systems perspective, I present a conceptual framework and a typology of unintended feedbacks drawing on examples of conservation science and provide recommendations for future work. In the remaining three chapters I focus on large-scale potential economic feedbacks based on recommendations from chapter two. Widely used tools for conservation planning could produce misleading recommendations if feedbacks are ignored. For example, in systematic conservation planning, effectiveness depends partly on accounting for natural and anthropogenic dynamics. Some dynamic conservation planning approaches exist, but they need to be further developed, and assessed against static approaches. I develop a model that accounts for both economic and environmental feedbacks into spatial planning for a set-aside programme, and compare it with a static approach. I model changes in forest connectivity and land opportunity costs to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the set-aside programme based on spatial static and discrete dynamic conservation planning. Finally, I apply the model I developed to multiple policy relevant targets of Atlantic Forest restoration and provide recommendations for prioritising areas.

This work identifies an urgent needed for the collection of evidence in a structured way in order to understand the mechanisms by which human decision-making feeds through to conservation outcomes at different scales. Socio-economic data availability, a mismatch in scale between data availability and prioritisation grain, and economic model complexity present the main limitations to accounting for these feedbacks in spatial conservation planning. Even though a dynamic approach to spatial conservation planning does entail higher computational requirements and transactions costs, I find the potential benefits in terms of increased cost-effectiveness could offset these costs. Most importantly, the analysis shows that a dynamic approach can help decision-makers maximise the existence of informational rents by prioritising areas with higher informational rent capture and still result in a lower overall intervention cost. Accounting for environmental and economic feedbacks can be a valuable tool for more evenly distributed interventions that provide higher incentives for participation without increasing intervention cost.

People adapt and respond to conservation interventions, and their actions feed through into changes in the conservation situation itself; this fact is something that conservationists rely on for their impact. However, these same responses are being overlooked when they affect outcomes indirectly through unintended feedbacks. The research undertaken for this PhD advances knowledge on the role feedbacks play in both applied conservation and conservation science.


Job: Research Assistant 1-year with potential for renewal @ NUS Biological Sciences (deadline 08 Oct 2017)

Assistant Professor Nalini Puniamoorthy
The Reproductive Evolution Lab
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

The Reproductive Evolution Lab studies reproductive trait divergence and its consequences for biodiversity. Why do the sexes look and behave so different? How does sexual selection on males and females facilitate speciation? We are interested in how reproductive traits respond to selection by studying the underlying genetic variation and fitness consequences associated with variation in trait expression.

We use insects as our model systems and study particularly widespread species across large geographical clines. We are looking for a full-time Research Assistant to join our lab.

Requirements and responsibilities

  1. Degree in biology, environmental science or a related field as well as an interest in ecology and evolution.
  2. Prior experience of working in a molecular lab (e.g: DNA/RNA extraction, amplification, sequencing, analysis etc.).
  3. Written and verbal competency in English as well as an ability to work collaboratively with many people.
  4. Keen on working with and maintaining insects for research purposes. Fieldwork experience is desirable but absence is not a preclusion.
  5. Conscientious and responsible. The job will require attention to details and day-to-day management of data, students and laboratory work.

Application details

  • Deadline for application is 8th October 2017.
  • The position is for 1 year (with the potential for renewal).
  • Applicants should be ready to start as soon as possible or by the end of the year.
  • Salary will be dependent on qualifications and includes CPF contributions for Singaporeans/PR (Approx. $2700-$3000).
  • If interested, submit your CV and a short write-up about why you want this job and how you could contribute to the lab.
  • Send both in a single email to dbsnp@nus.edu.sg (include the following in the subject head: RA application Your_name).
  • Short-listed applicants will be notified for an interview in mid October.

A Chat about Research in NUS Biological Sciences (Mon 25 Sep 2017: 6.30pm @ S2-04 SR1)


The event is an informal discussion about research in NUS that might be useful for students thinking ahead toward internship, UROPS, FYP, or graduate studies.

Three graduate students, representing research labs in Environmental Biology & Biomedical Sciences will share their research experiences.

Join them on Mon 25 Sep 2017: 6.30pm – 7.30pm @ S2-04 Seminar Room 1 (Blk S2 Level 4)

Do indicate your interest so that we know how many students to expect – tinyurl.com/chalk2017.

If you have any other queries, feel free to email Jerome Kok (jeromekok@u.nus.edu).