Tue 01 Mar 2016: 7.00pm – Tony O’Dempsey on “Conservation Engagement in Singapore and the Cross-Island Line”

Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club
Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore
Tuesday 01 March 2016: 7.00pm – 8.30pm @ Lecture Theatre 27

“Conservation Engagement in Singapore and the Cross-Island Line”

By Tony O’Dempsey
Council Member & Chairman, Plant Group
Nature Society (Singapore)

Tuesday 01 March 2016: 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Lecture Theatre 27
Science Drive 1
National University of Singapore

All are welcome (open to public).

Please register at http://bejc-crl.eventbrite.com.

Hosted by: N. Sivasothi & Joelle Lai

About the talk – From early 2013, Tony O’Dempsey and other conservation experts in Singapore were in working group discussions with LTA since the announcement of the Cross Island Line in early 2013. He will present and contrast a historical view of conservation engagement over the past 50 years with a focus on the recent Cross Island Line engagement with government agencies. He will also reflect on the working group’s experience with the EIA process and review important lessons learned about how nature groups could improve the technical approach to EIA for our Nature Reserves in future engagements.

About the speaker – Tony is a GIS and Remote Sensing professional who has been living in Singapore for the past 20 years. He is a council member of Nature Society (Singapore) and is currently serving as Chairman of the Plant Group. Tony has participated in flora and fauna surveys throughout Singapore, his interests are in botany and history and sometimes mixes them up. He has been actively involved in Nature Conservation in Singapore for the past 15 years and most recently played an active role in NSS’ proposals and representations to government agencies for the Cross Island Line proposal.


Fri 15 Apr 2011: 5pm – James Watson on “Impacts of climate change for biodiversity: Planning for adaptation”

“Impacts of climate change for biodiversity: Planning for adaptation”

Dr. James Watson,
Climate Change Adaptation Team,
Wildlife Conservation Society

Friday, 15 April 2011: 5.00pm
DBS Seminar Room, Block S2, Level 4 [see map]

Visitor to campus note: drive slowly, beware jaywalkers/students rushing to class; be early – allocate time for parking and walking to seminar venue.

Host: Richard Corlett

About the talk – The reality of human-forced rapid climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the conservation of biodiversity. In this talk I will describe how the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a science-based environmental NGO which works in 71 landscapes and seascapes in 41 countries across Earth, is tackling the challenge.

As part of their strategic plan, WCS has always made a conscious choice to work in those areas that are in the most need – they are often in regions where other NGOs do not work and their ecology is little known. The vast majority of landscapes and seascapes WCS work in are therefore characterised by limited information on what the likely species and ecosystem responses are to climate change, and how current threatening processes will change. There is also often very limited government capacity to actually start to plan for and adapt to challenges climate change pose.

WCS has implemented two strategies to start to plan for this challenge. First, in the absence of specific regional data, WCS encourages a holistic conservation strategy that incorporates a larger adaptation agenda – one that recognizes the importance of protecting and restoring those natural processes and responses that have enabled species to persist through past environmental change.

Second, WCS is developing regionally specific adaptation frameworks to allow specific activities to be planned for, and implemented, in a number of landscapes. While the development of these frameworks are in their infancy, there are three different case studies from the Albertine Rift, Madagascar, and North America that highlight some of the climate adaptation activities being undertaken by the organization.

Tue 22 Feb 2011: 5pm- Bosco Chan on “Conservation in Action: A journey in densely populated South China”

“Conservation in Action: A journey in densely populated South China.”

By Dr Bosco Chan Pui Lok
Head of Kadoorie Conservation China,
Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden

Tuesday 22nd February 2011: 5.00pm

DBS Conference Room [map]
Block S3, Level 5
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Tan Heok Hui

About the talk – South China is at the northern limit of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, but also a hotspot for human development, with bustling cities like Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The long history of human presence means wildlife habitats are highly degraded and fragmented, and biodiversity is under immense threats.

Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, a Hong Kong-based NGO, has been working in this region for over ten years, in a hope to minimize biodiversity loss and promote sustainability. In this talk, I will share about some of the work we do, what we’ve learned, and what remains to be done.

About the speaker – A life-long interest in wildlife has seen Bosco choosing a career to be a conservationist. He obtained his Zoology degree in the UK, before coming back to Hong Kong for his Ph.D. on freshwater fishes. He has since worked at Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, doing something he’s been dreaming of – to conserve the forest and wildlife of China. He is a member of the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group as well as Primate Specialist Group, and the Chinese Ichthyology Society. His work brings him to some of South China’s last wildlife refuges, privileged enough to be working on rare animals like the world’s most Critically Endangered primate the Hainan Gibbon, as well as finding a few new species for science.

Click to read

Tue 02 Nov 2010: 2pm – Vojtech Novotny on “Rainforest conservation in Papua New Guinea and why indigenous people do not like it”

Department of Biological Sciences (BEJC) Seminar Announcement
20101102-vojtech.pdf (1 page)“Rainforest conservation in Papua New Guinea and why indigenous people do not like it”

By Professor Vojtech Novotny
Biology Center,
Czech Academy of Sciences
& Faculty of Science,
University of South Bohemia,
Czech Republic

Tue 02 Nov 2010: 2.00pm
DBS Conference Room [map]
Block S3, Level 5
National University of Singapore

Host: Richard Corlett

About the talk – In Papua New Guinea, the fate of forests is governed by forest-dwelling tribal societies. A rapidly increasing pace of logging compels us to ask why tribal communities prefer logging to conservation. In the absence of feasible development opportunities, remote communities become quickly enthusiastic about conservation projects, but once an area is opened up to logging few such projects survive.

Direct payments to forest owners to cover the costs of missed opportunities for economic development are advocated here to make conservation competitive. A conservation royalty scheme would deliver a higher proportion of the conservation funds to the resource owners than the management-intensive community development projects currently favored.

Such an approach requires a profound cultural change within conservation organizations from a ‘development aid’ approach to one more oriented toward business.

About the speaker – “Vojtech Novotny is a tropical biologist. He is Professor of Ecology at the University of South Bohemia and the Head of the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology at the Biology Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences in the Czech Republic. He is leading an international team of researchers studying relationships between plants and insects in tropical rainforests. This work has provided, among other results, the currently accepted estimate of the number of insects living on our planet. Novotny is directing the New Guinea Binatang Research Center, a research station in Papua New Guinea, recognized for its ecological research, which successfully unites western scientists and the tribal peoples of the New Guinea rainforests.” – from the Google Books entry for “Notebooks from New Guinea: field notes of a tropical biologist” (available at Amazon.com).

Thu 28 Oct 2010: 3pm – Huang Danwei on “Cleaning up the ‘Bigmessidae’”

Department of Biological Sciences (BEJC) Seminar Announcement

“Cleaning up the ‘Bigmessidae’ (reef-building corals from four families) and other marine taxonomic disorders: A small contribution to uncover marine biodiversity”

By Huang Danwei
NUS-Overseas Graduate Scholar
PhD candidate
Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Thu 28 October 2010: 3pm
DBS Conference Room, S3-05 – map

Hosted by Prof Chou Loke Ming

About the talk – “Marine ecosystems are experiencing unprecedented rates of biodiversity loss around the world. Habitat areas are prioritised for conservation on the basis of the species they possess, and conservation programmes are assessed on the species preserved. However, without an appropriate classification scheme grounded on evolutionary history, errors in estimates of diversity are inevitable.

Recent phylogenetic studies on scleractinian corals demonstrate precisely that. Based principally on gross morphology, traditional taxonomy suffers from the lack of well-defined homologous characters that can sufficiently describe scleractinian diversity. One of the most challenging clades recovered by recent analyses is ‘Bigmessidae’, an informal grouping that comprises four conventional coral families, Faviidae, Merulinidae, Pectiniidae and Trachyphylliidae, interspersed among one another in a big mess.

I will describe part of my PhD study aimed at reconstructing the evolutionary history of this clade. I present a robust molecular phylogeny based on five DNA sequence markers gathered from 76 of the 132 currently recognized species collected from five reef regions around the world.

As expected, nested within ‘Bigmessidae’ are four conventional families as listed above, and relationships among them generally corroborate previous molecular work. This more resolved phylogeny supports several groupings that cannot be explained using macro-morphology, but are reconciled by subcorallite features of the skeleton. Wide geographic sampling in this study has also revealed more instances of possible cryptic taxa confused by evolutionary convergence of gross coral morphology. Results therefore support the assertion that diversity estimates of scleractinian corals are erroneous. Fortunately, the recovery of most genera with only minor degrees of paraphyly offers some hope for impending taxonomic amendments. Subclades are well defined and supported by subcorallite morphology, providing a robust framework for further systematic work.

I will also present results from my study of two historically understudied marine taxa–insects in the genus Pontomyia and fanworms in the family Fabriciidae. Respectively, they span the range between the discovery of unexpected diversity to the formal description of taxa that completes the process of documenting biodiversity, an undertaking that is fundamental to, yet lagging behind, research on ecology and conservation.”

Wed 27 Oct 2010: 4.30pm – Lanna Cheng on “Marine insects – diversity and habitat conservation”

Department of Biological Sciences (BEJC) Seminar Announcement
“Marine insects – diversity and habitat conservation”

Dr. Lanna Cheng
Scripps Institution of Oceanography,
University of California,
San Diego, USA

Wed 27 October 2010: 4.30pm
Seminar Room 1 (S2 04-10 – map)

Hosted by Prof Peter Ng

About the talk – Insects, with an estimated 10 to 30 million species, are the commonest organisms on land. Although they were assumed to be absent in the sea they can actually be found in a wide variety of marine habitats, including the open ocean. Some 1,500 species of marine insects belonging to more than 10 Orders have now been listed in the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) database.

I will introduce some of the commonest or most unusual species and briefly discuss their biology, distribution and habitat requirements. Their most important habitats are the intertidal and mangrove which are heavily impacted by coastal development and global warming. At least 2 coastal sea skaters have been officially listed as endangered species in Japan. More are either threatened or likely to face extinction.

Although we are not aware of any economic importance for any marine insects, some are of potential use as indicators of climate change or environmental pollution. Conservation of mangroves will serve many important functions besides preserving the most important habitat for many marine insects.

About the speaker – Dr. Lanna Cheng obtained her D. Phil in insect ecology from Oxford University after graduating from the University of Singapore. She became interested in marine insects when she joined the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), University of California, San Diego and edited the book “Marine Insects” which remained the only scientific reference on the subject. She is a Full Research biologist at SIO and is actively engaged in several research projects on Halobates, the only known insect living in the open ocean.

The Pimm Group lists “The Biodiversity Crew @ NUS” in their “best biodiversity blogs”

I had a pleasant surprise this morning when Ria Tan of WildSingapore emailed to say, ”

The criteria:

  • Adherence to the principle and philosophy of blogging (an independent, opinionated, non-corporate individual voice).
  • Overall relevance and focus on biodiversity.
  • Design, scope and general appeal.

This blog is in constant danger of descending in to a seminar and job notice board – useful things for sure, but it’s nice to know that The Pimm Group at least feel it has contributed to raising awareness about biodiversity. Pretty encouraging since they list sites like mongabay! I hope this encourages posts from the various labs.

The various speakers whom we have been fortunate to host have helped as their talk abstracts are informative. Thus the grad students facilitating the BEJC have contributed as well.

The social and personal news is always appreciated and is not only helpful to contributing a softer feel but also a way for our overseas students to keep in touch.

Happy blogging!

Ria Tan blogged this – see the IYB2010 Singapore blog.

Wed 11 Aug 2010: 3pm @ NUS DBS CR2 – Dianne Brunton on “The role of song in the life history strategies of the New Zealand Bellbird”

“The role of song in the life history strategies of the New Zealand Bellbird”

By Dianne Brunton
Ecology & Conservation Group
Institute of Natural Sciences
Massey University, Albany
Auckland New Zealand

Wed 11 Aug 2010: 3.00 pm – 4.00 pm
NUS DBS Conference Room 2
Block S2, Level 3 Mezzanine
(walk up the stairs towards the ridge after the aquarium)
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Navjot Sodhi

About the Speaker – Dr. Brunton currently oversees a thriving Postgraduate research group at the Albany Campus of Massey University, where she supervises more than 25 projects primarily focused on the ecology and evolutionary biology of New Zealand native species. Her research interests include the evolution of song in endemic songbirds (a completed Marsden project), sexual selection in NZ bellbirds, and modeling foraging ecology using stable isotopes.

She has a number of collaborations with researchers at the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (Auckland Zoo), Department of Conservation, Landcare, Berkeley, University of Colorado and Cornell University. These involve exploring the links between behaviour and conservation biology and the role of diseases and parasites in the evolution and ecology of NZ¹s fauna. These collaborations have lead to numerous postgraduate research projects and exciting interactions with researchers in a variety of fields related to conservation, behaviour and ecology.

About the talk – The bellbird (Anthornis melanura) is a honeyeater endemic to New Zealand, which uses song to defend breeding territories and/or food resources year round. Compared to almost all studied passerines, female bellbirds exhibit significant singing behaviour and sing a variety of complex songs. This intriguing behaviour warranted further investigation and I tested the “dear enemy” hypothesis for female bellbirds.

This hypothesis proposes that the level of territorial aggression toward conspecific neighbours is lower than that shown toward strangers primarily because of differences in ‘threat’. I experimentally tested the dear enemy hypothesis for territorial females using female neighbour­stranger playback. I found clear evidence that individual females discriminate between conspecific female neighbour and stranger song. Aggressive responses were strongest during the courtship and chick-rearing stages and involved rapid counter-singing responses and movement toward the speaker.

Most importantly, females were more aggressive toward the songs of neighbouring females. This result is opposite to the dear enemy phenomenon and suggests that neighbouring females pose a greater threat than strangers. We predict that these higher levels of aggression may play a role in sexual selection and polygny prevention and that neighbouring females are the greatest threat to the loss of a mate. It appears the more we learn about bellbirds the more intriguing they become.

Thurs, 29 Jul 2010, 4pm @ NUS DBS SR1 – Ken Krauss on Stress Physiology and Water Use of Tidal Freshwater Forested Wetlands and Mangroves of the Southeastern United States

Stress Physiology and Water Use of Tidal Freshwater Forested Wetlands and Mangroves of the Southeastern United States

By Ken W. Krauss

U.S. Geological Survey, National Wetlands Research Center,
Lafayette, Louisiana USA

29 July 2010, 4pm

Seminar room 1 (S2-04-11) (see map)
Block S2, Level 4
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore


About the speaker – Dr. Ken W. Krauss is a Research Physiological Ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. Ken’s current research focuses on the effects of different climate change phenomena on mangroves and tidal freshwater forested wetlands in the southeastern United States. Ken focuses on whole-tree physiological stress with flooding and saltwater intrusion, and the consequences of that stress on stand-level water budgeting. Ken also focuses on the vulnerability of coastal swamp forests to sea-level rise, and on how science can inform management of wetlands within the coastal zone. Research ranges from the influence of crabs in structuring coastal forested wetland ecosystems to discerning the relative balance of greenhouse gas emissions from tidal freshwater swamps.

Ken’s talk today will focus on differential vulnerability of mangroves to sea-level rise and disturbance, contrast two different types of mangrove ecosystems (i.e., high island versus atoll), and describe studies that attempt to understand the local effects of root and plantation density in affecting sedimentation and elevation change.

About the talk – Sea-level rise and anthropogenic activity promote salinity incursion into tidal freshwater forested wetlands, while hydrological modifications have altered the structure and function of many mangrove wetlands along sub-tropical coastlines of the Americas.  Most of our understanding of the stress physiology of these ecosystems comes from decades of research on seedlings and saplings, often within controlled environments.  While these data are important, scaling responses to mature trees and stands is decidedly more difficult without measuring trees within targeted field settings.

In this seminar, I will describe a series of studies from two tidal ecosystems along the southeastern United States coast that attempt not only to relate stress responses to individual trees, but also to relate the consequences of that stress to stand-level water budgeting.  These data are important to consider for engineers charged with budgeting water resources, and are useful for furthering our general understanding of the interface between the ecology of a forest and water movement through an ecosystem

Tue 25 May 2010: 4pm – “Do apes really not get the point of human communicative behaviour?”

“Do apes really not get the point of human communicative behaviour?”

By Dr Nick Mulcahy

Tue 25 May 2010: 4pm
Seminar room 1 (S2-04-11) (see map)
Block S2, Level 4
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz,
Research Fellow, Terrestrial Ecology Lab

About the talk – Understanding others’ communicative intent is one of the hallmarks of human behaviour. Whether other animals also share this ability has attracted a great deal of research activity. Key to this research is the so-­called object-­choice task in which subjects are required to locate a hidden reward by observing a human’s communicative cue, such as pointing towards the correct location. Dogs can easily use the cue to locate the hidden reward whereas apes typically fail.  One popular explanation for this finding is that the domestication process allowed dogs to evolve a specialized set of cognitive skills for understanding human communicative behaviour.   

I will propose an alternative, albeit prosaic, theory to explain the differences between the dog and ape object-choice data. In support of this theory, I will present new findings from studies conducted with orangutans housed at Singapore Zoo.   

About the Speaker – Nick studied evolutionary psychology before gaining his PhD in ape cognition at the Max-­Planck Institute, in Leipzig, Germany. He has published research in areas of future planning, causal understanding, communicative behaviour and  insightful tool use. Nick is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia.