Call for Student Research Assistant for Songbird Trade Project (Nov 2018 – Feb 2019)

Project Overview

The keeping of songbirds is a popular pastime in Southeast Asia. However, unsustainable trapping pressures is one of the main drivers of species loss in the region. The dearth of consumer demand data impedes the effective implementation of conservation plans. This project aims to understand the underlying drivers of demand for songbirds in Singapore. We hope to implement an evidence-based approach to wildlife trade campaigns, to influence consumer preferences with demand-centric conservation efforts.

  • We are looking for enthusiastic students, with an interest in wildlife conservation, to conduct market-research style surveys with a specific target audience across Singapore.
  • This project is a joint collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Reserves Singapore and BirdLife International. This is an exciting opportunity to work with both local and non-governmental organisations on a conservation project in Singapore

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Duration

  • 1st Nov – 28th Feb (Part-time position with a non-traditional schedule — time of day, and days of week, will vary depending on research needs).
  • The candidate would need to dedicate a few hours each week for data collection.

Remuneration

  • Non-traditional pay scheme (non-hourly); project-based pay with flexible working days/hours. Exact duration to be confirmed.

Candidate Requirements

  • Keen interest in environment, nature, conservation and its social aspects.
  • Self-motivated and highly independent individual.
  • Highly methodical and meticulous with data collection and management.
  • Strong conversational, communication and interpersonal skills. Fluent in both written and spoken English.
  • Proficiency in Mandarin and/or Bahasa Melayu would be advantageous. Proficiency in dialects (hokkien etc.) would be a plus.
  • Non-honours students are also welcome to apply

Application

  • To apply, send your CV by 29 September, a brief paragraph highlighting why you are a good fit for this position to chiokwenxuan@u.nus.edu.
  • Shortlisted applicants would be notified for an interview in early Oct. There is also a possibility for selected candidates to explore a Honours internship position with Birdlife in AY18/19 Semester 2.

 

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A wonderful afternoon at the Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day (18 Aug 2018)

Did you see us at the Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day (18 Aug 2018)?
It was the first time that the NUS Biodiversity Crew (Dr Amy Choong & Xu Weiting) and Life Sciences Society (LSS) undergraduates participated in this alumni family day.

The guests were a diverse lot – visitors, exchange students, current students and alumni from other faculties and ex-students visited the booth. They were drawn to the booth by the games designed by LSS and intrigued by the specimens we brought along to share stories about – a common palm civet specimen, cocoa and coffee plants. Visitors learnt about pedigree and genetics through the games and discovered more about civets and the tragic link with kopi luwak.

That evening, NUS President Tan Eng Chye graced the event and visited the booths. We warmly welcomed him with civet stories and he was intrigued that NUS also has civets.

We enjoyed ourselves so the four-hours passed by rather quickly as the team made the effort to interact with as many visitors as possible. They in turn enjoyed learning about the new things that are happening at the Department of Biological Sciences in NUS’ Faculty of Science.

Special thanks to all the LSS volunteers (Genevieve Tang, Nicholas Yeo, Leanne Teh, Wong Zhi Wei, Benjamin Tan, Loshini D/O Sunthar, Nicholas Seng & Muhammad Faiq), Fatin Nadzirah Bte Zahari, Tan Xing Zhi for manning the booth. And Mrs Ang-Lim Swee Eng, Mr Kaka Singh and Mr Ismail Bin Arshad for helping to take the plant photos and to collect the plant specimens.

2018-08-18 20.01.05

Wed 02 May 2018: 4.00pm [QE] – Darren Sim on “Phytoplankton-Regulation by Macrophytes in Tropical Lakes”

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

Phytoplankton-Regulation by Macrophytes in Tropical Lakes

Speaker:             Sim Zong Han Darren (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:                   2 May 2018, Wednesday
Time:                   4pm
Venue:                DBS Conference Room (S3 Level 5)
Supervisor:        Asst Prof Darren Yeo Chong Jinn
 

Abstract: – Ecological restoration can be a sustainable strategy to manage nuisance phytoplankton in Singapore reservoirs. Macrophytes are vital for restoring degraded lakes due to their involvement in ecological processes, especially their role in maintaining the clear water stable state in lakes. This is attributed to their ability to regulate phytoplankton communities through a combination of physical and biological mechanisms such as attenuation of wave energy, resource competition, and allelopathy. Allelopathy is suspected to be a major mechanism by which macrophytes inhibit phytoplankton, but current evidence supporting this is inconclusive. Present understanding of lake restoration is largely based on temperate studies, which may have limited transferability to the tropics due to trophic and climatic differences.

This study uses various approaches to investigate the ability of macrophytes to improve the ecological state of turbid tropical lakes. Field mesocosm experiments will be used to evaluate (i) the effects of macrophytes on phytoplankton communities and (ii) the potential restorative capability of macrophytes in a turbid reservoir. Lab experiments will be conducted to evaluate the importance of allelopathy as a mechanism to control phytoplankton and the role of light in influencing its effectiveness. Findings will not only improve our understanding of macrophyte-phytoplankton interactions, but also inform lake management decisions using macrophyte restoration as a sustainable tool to control phytoplankton blooms.

All are welcome

Thu 26 Apr 2018: 3.00pm [QE] – Pratibha Baveja on “Implication of differential gene flow on species and subspecies integrity of SEA birds”

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

Implication of Differential Gene Flow on Species and Subspecies Integrity of Birds in South-east Asia

Speaker:             Pratibha Baveja (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:                   26 April 2018, Thursday
Time:                   3pm
Venue:                DBS Conference room II (S1, Level 3, mezzanine)
Supervisor:        Asst Prof Rheindt, Frank Erwin
 

Abstract: – Strength of gene flow determines the evolutionary trajectory of a species. Inter-specific gene flow or genetic leakage could threaten the genetic integrity of the species or could sometimes lead to hybrid speciation. Birds of Southeast Asia experience such unusual gene flow dynamics because of the unique evolutionary and human cultural history of the region.

In my thesis, I study: 1) Supertramp gene flow dynamics:  Supertramps are highly dispersive forms found on small islands that are closely related to distinct species on mainland with little overwater gene flow capability. It is suggested that small islands in Southeast Asian archipelago might be inhabited by forms that follow very different gene flow patterns than expected. 2) Introgression in captivity of terminally endangered species with potential for reintroduction into the wild. As human-mediated habitat changes may lead to increased instances of secondary contact between previously isolated taxa, such a study becomes relevant in better understanding of gene flow dynamics in birds of Southeast Asia.

All are welcome

Wed 25 April 2018: 3.00pm [QE] – Louise Neo on “Centers of plant generic endemism in Borneo and their significance for biogeography and conservation”

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

Centers of plant generic endemism in Borneo and their significance for biogeography and conservation

Speaker:              Louise Neo (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:                   25 April 2018, Wednesday
Time:                   3.00pm
Venue:                Seminar Room 2 (S2 Level 4, #04-15)
Supervisor:         Assoc Prof Hugh Tan T W
Co-Supervisor:  Dr Wong Khoon Meng (Principal Researcher, Singapore Botanic Gardens)

 Abstract: – The narrow geographical ranges of endemic plants that make them regionally or globally rare, render them of special interest for biogeographic research and conservation. Endemic genera can be unique evolutionary lineages. Centers of generic endemism, where these are concentrated, can indicate special environments, or could be areas of active speciation or refugia. The highly biodiverse rainforests of Borneo have been a major source of speciation and dispersal for plant lineages in Southeast Asia since the pre-Miocene, but they are hypothesized to be in a refugial state at present and, therefore, highly threatened. Centers of plant generic endemism have never been examined, although they can highlight priority areas for biogeographic research and conservation.

I use a taxonomy-informed approach to gather the known occurrences of the endemic and near-endemic plant genera of Borneo from critically identified herbarium specimens, with the aims of (1) mapping distribution patterns of the genera, (2) identifying centers of generic endemism and their environmental correlates, (3) understanding distribution patterns and centers of generic endemism within the historical biogeography context of Borneo, and (4) assessing conservation exigencies for these genera.

All are welcome

Thu 26 April 2018: 10.00am [QE] – Kenny Chua on “Freshwater fish diversity and ecosystem functioning in Southeast Asia”

Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Qualifying Examination

Freshwater fish diversity and ecosystem functioning in Southeast Asia

Speaker:    Kenny Chua Wei Jie (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:            26 April 2018, Thursday
Time:              10am
Venue:             DBS Conference Room  (S3 Level 5, #05-01)
Supervisor:     Asst Prof Darren Yeo Chong Jinn

Abstract: – The highly diverse ichthyofaunas of Southeast Asian fresh waters are threatened by land-use change, resulting in declines in species richness. Given the ecological importance of freshwater fishes, the loss of their diversity is expected to alter ecosystem functioning—i.e., pools and fluxes of biogeochemical resources—but these potential impacts remain poorly understood in Southeast Asia. To address this knowledge gap, I aim to elucidate the relationship between freshwater fish diversity, ecosystem functioning and land-use change in Southeast Asia.

By characterising and analysing the variation in functional traits of freshwater fishes, my work will investigate mechanistic links between freshwater fish diversity and the ecosystem functions mediated by them. I will also conduct both cross-sectional and longitudinal field studies across Southeast Asia to quantify the impacts of land-use driven fish diversity losses on the functioning of flowing fresh waters in the region. Since ecosystem functions ultimately underpin ecosystem services that are essential for human well-being, knowledge gained from this study will help illuminate the potentially far-reaching and reflexive consequences of anthropogenic biodiversity loss.

All are welcome

Fri 13 Apr 2018: 10.00am [PhD defense] – Muhammad Izuddin Bin Mohamad Rafee on “Conservation of epiphytic orchids in urbanised tropical environments”

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination

ConservIzuddin.jpgation of epiphytic orchids in urbanised tropical environments

Speaker:       Muhammad Izuddin Bin Mohamad Rafee (Graduate Student Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date:             13 April 2018, Friday
Time:             10am
Venue:          DBS Conference  Room (S3 LEVEL 5, #05-01)
Supervisor:   Assoc Prof Edward L. Webb

Abstract – 

“As urban expansion persists, preserving biodiversity becomes progressively difficult. Yet, ex situ methods can facilitate biodiversity conservation in urban spaces. However, species-specific niche requirements—particularly in urbanised environments—remain largely unknown, making ex situ conservation programmes ineffectual. Using native epiphytic orchids as a study system, I assessed two primary ecological barriers to orchid regeneration in urban habitats, namely availability of orchid mycorrhizal fungus / fungi (OMF) as well as the niche requirements of OMF and native orchids.

First, I assessed the availability of OMF on urban trees and the orchid-site suitability of various orchid species by conducting metabarcoding and next-generation sequencing on tree bark and orchid samples. I also identified biophysical factors that influenced OMF presence and richness on urban sites.

Second, I investigated the germination niches—i.e. compatible OMF and suitable biophysical conditions—of four orchid species by conducting orchid mycorrhizal fungal baiting and seed sowing experiments. I then assessed the potential for aboveground orchid seed banks (seed longevity) using seed viability tests on post-experimental, non-germinated seeds.

Third, I evaluated the effectiveness of managed relocation of multiple native orchid species in various urban habitats via long-term planting experiments, as well as identified species post-germination niche requirements that influenced the long-term survival and growth of translocated orchids.

My results indicated that OMF are present on urban trees. However, presence, diversity, and distribution of OMF were primarily constrained by biophysical factors. Urban trees can support germination niches for native epiphytic orchids as well. I also found evidence of seed bank formation on epiphytic microsites. Based on the long-term study, majority of the species showed survival and positive growth. Overall, this thesis demonstrates how species-specific niche requirements can be evaluated / quantified and how the information gained can benefit ex situ, as well as in situ, orchid conservation.”

All are welcome