Job: Research Field Assistant – Botany/Plant Ecology, May – Jun 2016

Duration: May 2016 – June 2016 (200 hours)

Position: Open for full-time undergraduate students only.

Summary of job duties:
The successful applicant will join a team of researchers to determine an ecological network for Singapore. The field work involves vegetation assessments at different sites in Singapore. The applicant will employ scientific equipment and visual analysis for collecting plant and vegetation data. The applicant will assist in data entry into GIS databases of the observations, as well as perform necessary calculations. Hours will vary depending on the nature of data collection and the site for any particular day. The successful candidate will be trained in the required field and GIS techniques.

We are looking for someone who is familiar with vegetation assessment techniques such as using the spherical densitometer, and who understands what vegetation assessment entails. Past experience with plants and knowledge of plant species a bonus, but the latter is not compulsory. The person must be meticulous with an eye for detail in the field, willing to contribute to a unique island-wide project, and is interested in gaining research experience.

Must enjoy working outdoors, be physically fit, not be afraid of entering a forested area, and have good communication and interpersonal skills. The applicant should be self-motivated yet willing to learn new techniques and software, and able to work independently as well as with other team members. Minimum software requirement is the Microsoft Office suite.

Candidates that are interested should send an email introducing yourself with resume attached to:

Abdul Rahim Bin Abdul Hamid
Research Associate
School of Design & Environment, NUS

Talk: Weevils with weapons: alternative mating tactics & exaggerated trait evolution in brentine weevils

With the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum now located halfway across the Kent Ridge campus and the advent of common labs at S3 and S14, catching up with the rest of the NUS Biodiversity Crew isn’t as convenient as the corridor talk that used to happen at S2.

However, I learnt about Spider Lab’s new postdoctoral research fellow – Chrissie Painting – and her work in Singapore through twitter, where she frequently posts images of her field sightings, specimens, and quips about Science. Chrissie will be working on jumping spider sexual selection, and will be giving a talk as part of an existing series organised by Seshadri. Would try to catch this! Talk details below:



Many animal species have evolved weaponry as a means to resolve conflict between conspecifics in the acquisition of mates. In those species with high size variation, it is common for there to be alternative mating tactics, where dominant individuals behave differently to subordinate males during mate searching and copulation. Despite these alternative mating tactics, subordinate males are usually thought to have a lower mating success than dominant males, and are simply making the best of a bad situation. Males of the New Zealand giraffe weevil (Lasiorhynchus barbicornis) possess greatly elongated rostrums used as weapons during contests with other males for access to females. However, adult males are also highly size variable such that there is a 6-fold difference between the smallest and largest equivalent-aged individuals. I will discuss findings from my PhD research on the mating system of this species, in particular focusing on the evolution of flexible alternative mating tactics and our current evidence for sexual selection on male rostrum size. I will also highlight diversity in weaponry among other brentine weevils around the globe and our current research on these fascinating beetles.

Date: Wednesday 25th March 2015
Venue: Block S16 #04-31
Time: 4 pm to 5 pm
All are welcomed

Carcass for Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research

Two missed calls and a text message came from FTTA Xu Weiting on Friday evening while I was at swim practice. The text message read, “… Someone found a baby pangolin roadkill at Petir Road. Are you able to pick up?”

I quickly confirmed the exact location of the carcass with Weiting, showered hastily and headed over to Plant Systematics Lab to borrow the department’s vehicle [they always seem to have the vehicle when you need it – thanks Alex], grabbed some supplies and rushed down to the site.

pangolin carcass 20120111

Sunda pangolin off Petir Road on 11 Jan 2013. Photo by Marcus Chua

The juvenile female Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) or scaly anteater was bruised around the front quarter and seemed to have suffered internal bleeding, injuries most probably caused by a vehicular collision.

A few passersby stopped to look as I was taking measurements and pictures, one remarking that it cannot be real and another asking what I was doing. This gave a good opportunity to talk with the public about the wildlife around their estate.

Petir Road is surround by two forested nature reserves.

Petir Road is surround by two forested nature reserves.

Petir Road is cut off from the forested Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) by the six-lane Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) on the east, and is surrounded by various green areas such as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) and Dairy Farm Nature Park to the south. Vehicle traffic is certainly a threat to animals that move out of the forest onto the roads. Meanwhile, an ecological corridor that connects BTNR and CCNR over the expressway is being constructed and should be ready by the end of 2013.

This is the second pangolin carcass I have picked up around this area. On 9 Jul 2012, a member of the public informed us about a larger male pangolin along Petir Road.

We depend largely on public information for sighting records and are happy when we get reports of members of the public observing wild animals in their habitat. However, body snatching operations are something we do not enjoying doing as we prefer to see animals alive, but we try not to pass any over owing to scientific value of animal carcasses for research in urban Singapore. Carcasses are deposited at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research for preservation.  We thank the member of the public who informed us of this.

To report a road kill or sighting, email or call the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at 6516 5082. A photo or description of the animal, its general condition and detailed location would be most useful.

A writing module recommendation for undergraduates – NM2220 Introduction to Media Writing

As Marcus’ honours year supervisor, I went through his thesis drafts and oral presentations to fine-tune the way in which facts and ideas were communicated. Happily Marcus had a decent grasp of effective writing and while edits were still required, we spent more time on ideas and discussions. His writing skill lessened his thesis burden considerably – just as well since he had to change his field site late in the year!

Now a graduate student, Marcus has TA-ed in modules I coordinate, LSM1103 Biodiversity and LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment. The fundamentals of writing are addressed in these modules with TAs marking twelve essays (1st years) and four reports (2nd years) to provide comprehensive feedback with detailed notes about improving writing. We discuss ideas during the post-mortem and I asked Marcus if NM2220 was a suitable recommendation as he had cited it a few times during our discussions about his thesis. After all that marking, he is ready to recommend the module and this will be forwarded to the 1st and 2nd years in our modules.

Posts by students for students can be viewed in the category students speak – N. Sivasothi

Marcus Chua in his Halloween costume, 2009:
“A 10,000 word essay/assignment/thesis!”

Marcus Chua - Halloween costume 2010: A 10,000 word essay_assignment_thesis!

In a recent blog entry, NUS Provost Tan Eng Chye highlighted the importance of English language proficiency and mulled over the decision to include compulsory communication modules in the undergraduate curriculum. You need not wait for that to become a reality, for Environmental Biology undergraduates, like all others in NUS, have the option of taking writing courses that may meet their needs. I highlight a module I took which I feel was very helpful to me in particular.

NM2220 Introduction to Media Writing is a basic writing module offered by the Department of Communications and New Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences that teaches students the foundation of writing for new and mass media. The skills taught are can be applied to everyday writing and communication. The course is taught by current or former journalists, editors or public relations practitioners and class activities and assignments consist of targeted writing exercises.

Before taking the course, I thought that good writing involved big words and long, complex sentences. The more, the bigger, the better! How wrong was I.

I took the module in my final year as an undergraduate in NUS and found it immensely useful, and it taught me how to adapt my writing for various situations. Some of the most useful tips were keeping writing simple for clear communication and how to write punchy sentences. There and then it hit me that using complex words might appear impressive to me, but it usually confuses the reader and impedes communication. The AP (Associated Press) style taught also has direct relevance to science writing conventions, e.g. when to write or spell numbers and correct punctuation.

All these newly acquired skills culminated in my thesis, which was a departure from most of my previous reports. Even after graduation, the lessons I learnt came in very useful for formal reports, various applications and when writing and editing the Singapore Biodiversity encyclopedia.

Since this is the time when most students would start planning their time tables for the upcoming semester, I would definitely recommend the course to all undergraduates.

NUS Biodiversity Crew @ BOSS III

The Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III held in NUS on 24 Sep 2011 was organised by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (NUS) and the National Biodiversity Centre (NParks) as a platform for the public and students to be updated on the biodiversity and nature community. It also served as an opportunity for the community to meet up and exchange and discuss ideas on biodiversity in Singapore.

This time, the theme is “The Next Generation”, and various emerging members of the community in various sectors were featured as speakers, along with more seasoned personalities. A large number of the NUS Biodiversity Crew were speakers or chairs in various sessions divided into Community Impressions and the key habitats found in Singapore: 1) Terrestrial, 2) Freshwater and 3) Marine.


Community Impressions

Community Impressions kick started the symposium proper after a speech by guest-of-honour, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower, Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin and presentation of symposium awards. This session gave a review and raised issues regarding the terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems in Singapore and was chaired by Dr Zeehan Jaafar.

BOSS III organiser and DBS lecturer, Siva kick started the Community Impressions with voices from the ground regarding terrestrial issues namely the regulation of visitor impact to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve as well as looking beyond culling as a management practice for human-wildlife conflict.

Assoc Prof Darren Yeo represented the freshwater community and talked about the gems of Singapore’s freshwater habitats as well as the challenges, including habitat loss and modification, exploitation and introduced species.


Terrestrial Session

The terrestrial session featured two graduate students from the NUS Biodiversity community and chaired by alumni Yong Ding Li.

Phd candidate, Chong Kwek Yan from the Plant Systematics Lab talked about “Why would anybody want to be a botanist in Singapore?” He talked about how the lab has moved on from being a producer of plant systematics research into being end users in Singapore. Various ongoing research in the lab were also highlighted.

Mammal researcher Marcus Chua from the Systematics and Ecology Lab gave an account of mammal research in Singapore and how current research has changed to reflect the issues such as existing status, conservation and co-existence of mammal species in Singapore.


Freshwater Session

Maxine Mowe and Adam Quek from NUS, chaired the freshwater session, which featured amongst two members of the research community from NUS.

Chong Jun Hien from the Tropical Marine Science Institute talked about freshwater macro-invertebrates, their relationship with the environment and how they can end up in our soup. He also introduced the concept of biological monitoring for freshwater environments in Singapore to measure water quality.

Dr Tan Heok Hui, a lecturer based in RMBR and managing editor of the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, talked about non-native fish species in Singapore and the need to understand the ecology of these fishes to understand how they interact with our environment.


Marine Session

The marine session, chaired by graduate student, Alison Wee and Nanthini Elamgovan from NParks, featured a bumper crop of three speakers from the Biodiversity crew.

Soo Wai Kit from the RMBR Education Unit spoke about Project Semakau, a community-based monitoring and conservation project on the world’s first landfill island. Wai Kit shared about the new discoveries, records and findings from the project as well as how volunteers helped to make this possible.

Karenne Tun from the Marine Biology Lab spoke about the rich coral reef life abound in Singapore’s waters and the ongoing research efforts to study this diverse ecosystem. She delighted the audience with stories about coral spawning so much that even moss man, Adjunct Assoc Prof Benito Tan got interested during the Q&A session.

Post-doctoral research fellow Dr Dan Friess from the Applied Plant Ecology Lab delivered the last talk of the day on Mandai mangroves, the multitude of research that has taken place there and challenges that threaten the future of the mangrove patch. Dan also spoke of the ongoing effort to map and study the effect of sea level rise on Mandai mangroves.


Special Update

In a special session, Dr Tan Swee Hee gave an update on the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Musem project that he is overseeing. He spoke about the three diplodocid dinosaurs funded through public donations and unveiled plans for the new natural history museum.


Outside the Lecture Theatre

Food was catered and the extra long tea breaks (1 hr each) allowed plenty of time for meeting, chatting with attendees and viewing of the posters put up by students and nature groups. The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research set up a mobile store selling mechandise and the Toddycats! and NParks also had an on-site exhibitions on the biodiversity of Singapore.

Judging from the response, the ‘crew certainly enjoyed sharing about their work with the community at BOSS III and making new friends at BOSS III and are definitely looking forward to the next Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium!

All photos kindly taken by Kenneth Pinto.

Job: NParks is recruiting a Senior Biodiversity Officer

Judging from the last 2 posts, ’tis the season to be hiring!

NParks is recruiting a senior biodiversity officer.

Job scope

The Coastal and Marine Environment (CME) Section aims to provide Singapore with a strong basis to adopt a proactive, balanced and forward-planning approach to CME-related policy, management, and research-direction issues, consistent with its long-term economic and sustainable development goals. This is part of the National Parks Board’s (NParks) commitment to an inter-agency initiative to strengthen Singapore’s capacity in areas related to the coastal and marine environment and to the conservation of Singapore’s marine biodiversity.

Our interdisciplinary team undertakes a broad range of technical projects, including ecology & the environment, coastal dynamics, legislation & regulations, and other technical areas of coastal and marine environment concern. An external committee of domain experts provides advice on these projects. Publication of results and policy recommendations for the management of the coastal and marine environment are key deliverables of the team. Team members are expected to work collaboratively with each other, and with counterparts working in related areas within NParks and other agencies.

Key roles:

  • Primarily responsible for the conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity with a strong focus on the conservation of mangrove habitats.
  • Other responsibilities will be to provide inputs to development projects, be involved in field surveys, monitor other coastal and marine habitats and manage related scientific projects.

The Senior Biodiversity Officer will join a team of officers who manage technical projects, monitor key issues, and support the day-to-day operations related to the goals of the CME Section. Preparation of reports and formulation of coastal and marine conservation policy will be key deliverables; supporting the team in the organization of technical meetings and conferences is also part of the scope of this position.


  • Degree from a recognized university and at least 3 years of work experience.
  • Successful applicants will have at minimum a first degree in a relevant discipline.
  • At least one year work experience in ecology, environmental management, and nature conservation will be a strong advantage.
  • Field experience in mangroves coupled with a working knowledge of conservation and management issues of mangrove habitats will be a strong advantage.
  • More experienced and qualified applicants may be considered for, and given more management-level responsibilities.
  • Applicants must have an excellent command of spoken and written English and be able to analyse issues from a broad-based strategic perspective.
  • Possession of a Class 3 license and diving certification is preferred.
  • Demonstrated keen interest and passion in environmental conservation.
Application ends Wednesday, 7 September 2011.
Apply here.

Job: Research Assistant for Genotyping Mangrove Plants

The Applied Plant Ecology Lab has an immediate position open for a Research Assistant (RA).

Job scope

Successful candidate will perform or assist in the genotyping of mangrove plants from Malay Peninsula and beyond. This project is part of a biogeographical study to understand gene flow in mangroves.


  • Diploma or BSc degree with major in Biology
  • Relevant work experience in laboratory is an advantage
  • Must have a sound knowledge in molecular biology
  • Meticulous, resourceful and highly motivated
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills

For any enquiries, please email or

Interested candidates are to send in their CV and two recommendation letters to:
Assist. Prof Edward Webb
National University of Singapore
Department of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science
14 Science Drive 4
Singapore 117543

Job: NParks is recruiting a Senior Conservation Officer

NParks is recruiting a senior conservation officer for the Central Nature Reserves.

Job scope

  • Responsible for developing and implementing nature conservation and park management strategies
  • Planning, conducting and overseeing of conservation, field research and park development and maintenance programmes.


  • Degree in Botany, Zoology, Ecology, Environment Management or related field
  • Minimum 3 years’ working experience in areas such as, supervision, customer service, teaching or related field
  • Good writing and interpersonal / communication skills
  • An organized, creative and resourceful team player who is able to work independently
  • Keen interest in nature and a strong belief in nature conservation
  • Possession of Class III Driving License will be an advantage
Application ends Monday, 5 September 2011.
Apply here.

Siva the Eco-warrior

On National Day on 9 Aug, Singapore’s very own eco-warrior, Siva, was featured on Today for his tireless work in the mangroves, its conservation and clean up.

Siva is a lecturer, coordinator of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) and the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research Toddycats!, creator of this blog and supervisor of a posse of research students [yours truly included].

For the report, journalist Tan Weizhen caught up with Siva during a coastal clean up of Pandan mangroves and noted that a clean up in Lim Chu Kang mangroves was carried out [on 6 Aug] to celebrate national day. That day, volunteers removed more than 1,187 kg of trash that could choke, pollute or harm the coastal ecosystems. [link]

Click on the picture below to read the full article.

Horseshoe crabs and other organisms often get trapped in abandoned gill nets. Therefore, other than having a thing about maps and first aid kits, Siva packs a pair of scissors when he heads out to the mangroves to free any unfortunate creatures he comes accross that get trapped in abandoned gill nets.

Here is a video of him in action together with alumni, Theresa Su, and Toddycat, Teo Kah Ming.