Lady McNeice Yuen-Peng, RIP

Lady McNeice, a benefactor to the natural history community, has passed away on Sunday, 3rd June 2012. Many of us in the Department of Biological Sciences have benefited from her generosity and kindness when we were students and after. She was “an ardent supporter in local conservation and a firm believer in investing in young talent”.

054boss[jlcy]-11jul2003

We were very glad for the opportunity to acknowledge her role at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium I in July 2003. With the help of Ng Bee Choo and Tan Week Kiat, we surprised her with a symbolic gift, an etching of Orcovita mcneiceae, a new species named after her by Ng Ngan Kee and Peter Ng in 2002.

Like many others, we were touched by her wide and enthusiastic participation for a better Singapore over the many decades. We will remember her fondly always.

For more links, see Raffles Museum News.

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Remembering Navjot Sodhi on his birthday

In February, Marjorie Castelletta-Gacon wrote me, saddened by the news of the departure of her old supervisor Navjot Sodhi’s departure. Marjorie was one of Sodhi’s first grad students in NUS who studied forest avifauna extinction (which my students are citing) and TA-ed his animal behaviour course.

Marjorie Castelletta-Gacon with Navjot Sodhi

She wrote so fondly and beautifully. With her permission, I am sharing this with all his students, friends and family, in memory of his birthday on the 19th of March when they would have been celebrating with Navjot.

“Dear old NUS friend,

I am deeply sad and I can’t believe he is gone, he was really important to me and to so many people I could see on his facebook page

I find very beautiful the tribute people have expressed to him and his loved ones and especially yours, It is important that he’ll never be forgotten.

To me he was a father-like teacher, very patient, very constructive; he was always telling me when I was too afraid to do my research: “You’ll learn, Marjorie.” I was so young (22) and I had this incredible luck to meet him and work with him and all his team in NUS.

These were wonderful years.

And he was right – I learnt everything in 4 years in Conservation Biology and most importantly I learnt Life!

After I finished my thesis, I kept in touch with him, and each time I went to Singapore I could hear his hyena-like laught for my great pleasure.

Last time I saw him, it was in 2009, he was so happy because he had spent a year in his favorite American University.

He was such a multi-talented man, and although he was a superstar of conservation biology, he remained the same man, passionate in research and teaching and devoted to his family.

It is such a huge loss to me.

After I finished my thesis, I followed Bertrand, my husband, to Geneva. We had a second child. Then I tried to find a post doc in Switzerland but I did not succeed. So I did part time teaching in high schools and private schools in Geneva. Then we had a third chid in 2008 (and Navjot told me that he hoped I’ll stop after that!) and we had a fourth kid in 2010 (I did not dare tell Navjot).

I was looking for Navjot’s research papers when I found out what happened. I am currently trying to go back to conservation biology and most precisely I have an interview at WWF Switzerland and for the memory of Navjot I will do more than my best to achieve; he was telling me he wanted me to stay in sciences.”

Marjorie Castelletta Gacon and family
Marjorie remarked – “I know it is his birthday as on the 19th
it is my son’s birthday and also Darwin’s!”

M Nadchatram, RIP. Acarologist and Senior Teaching Fellow at NUS Zoology, 1983-1988

M Nadchatram was a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Department of Zoology, National University of Singapore from 1983 to 1988 (now part of the Department of Biological Sciences). Before he left, he donated a mite collection of about 1,500 specimens including 76 paratypes to the Zoological Reference Collections (now Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research).

He was teacher and colleague to many, a scientist and naturalist, and will be sorely missed by all. RIP.

His daughter Indra wrote to inform his old friends of his passing earlier today:

“It is with very deep sorrow that I inform you my father M. Nadchatram passed away on morning of 21 November 2011. I have heard of many of you, and met some, and I thought you would like to know.

He went peacefully in his sleep, and had the most serene look on his face. I’d like to think he is in a big golf course somewhere in heaven enjoying a cold beer with my brother Santha Kumar.

Here is a link to a story that was published today.

Mom and I are OK i guess. Although papa was ill last year, he picked up a lot this year, ever alert and reenergised. While I am immensely proud of all that he had achieved in his life professionally, I am essentially proud of the father he was to me, and the love he showered on me always.

I would be grateful if you could also inform other friends of papa’s. I don’t have all emails, only some which dad share with me sometime back.

Sincerely,
Indra Nadchatram

For his students who are out there reading this, do drop a comment below or email me at sivasothi@gmail.com and I will forward your thoughts to his daughter.

Though retired, he was very active and just a few years ago, “his message to the younger generation of Malaysian scientists is that communication and net-working with colleagues should be regarded as a functional part of research.”

See:

  • Nadchatram, M. 2008. The beneficial rainforest ecosystem with environmental effects on zoonoses involving ticks and mites (Acari): a Malaysia perspective and review. Tropical Biomedicine (Supplement): 25: 69–92.
  • Nadchatram, M., 2006. A review of endoparasitic acarines of Malaysia with special reference to novel endoparasitism of mites in amphibious sea snakes and supplementary notes on ecology of chiggers. Tropical Biomedicine, 23(1): 1–22 (dedicated to his mentor, Prof J Ralph Audy).

In Memoriam: Navjot Sodhi (1962-2011), “May his soul rest in peace!”

Navjot Sodhi Memorial Slides, 19 Jul 2011
Click to view and download his memorial slides

The department held a simple memorial for colleague, supervisor and friend Navjot Sodhi at Lecture Theatre 32 on Tue 19 Jul 2011. The memorial was attended by department staff, students, the provost and members of the community who knew him and who worked with him. The memorial was observed by his two children whose presence we were honoured to have with us that afternoon.

His long-time lunch buddy Prakash Kumar hosted the memorial and after Paul Matsudaira welcomed us all, representatives stepped forward to celebrate his quirkiness from the time of his recruitment (T J Lam), the development of his academic career (Richard Corlett), his regional field trip escapades (Tommy Tan) and his mentorship of research students (David Bickford).

Student awards in Navjot’s name
The department is working on the following:

  1. The “Navjot Sodhi Award” for top graduating undergraduate student in the faculty’s environmental biology program. The award and a $1000 prize will be bestowed to the best student in the environmental biology major every year during commencement. This award will honour the substantial contributions Navjot made to biology education in general as well as the training of young talents in conservation and environmental biology. Close to $40,000 has been raised from donations within the department thus far and the fundraising activity continues for some time in the hope of reaching a target of $75,000. This would make it an endowed prize to be awarded perpetually, otherwise, as an expendable account, it will be presented until the fund is exhausted, i.e. it will already exist until 2051.
  2. The “Navjot Sodhi Graduate Scholarship in Environmental Biology”will be awarded to the top two students entering into the graduate program in environmental biology. These scholarships will help ensure that his legacy in conservation biology and environmental sciences will be continued by new generations of researchers.

Independently, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has established a Memorial Fund for Navjot Sodhi.

Prakash reflected on his life and ended the memoriam by giving his long-time friend a heartfelt farewell on behalf of us all:

“I take the liberty to try and capture the essence of Sodhi with the following words: Reliable and close friend, proud father, equally proud supervisor, outspoken colleague with an infectious sense of humor (which he tried to suppress), established an enviable international reputation in a relatively short career.

In short, someone we cannot forget at all. Please join me in remembering the great deeds of Navjot Sodhi once more. May his soul rest in peace!”

For thoughts of many others who knew him, see “Remembering Navjot Sodhi: lecturer, mentor, colleague and friend.”

Remembering Navjot Sodhi: lecturer, mentor, colleague and friend

In 2008, Navjot Sodhi, then as head honcho of the Biodiversity Crew, asked that this blog to be setup to share some of the efforts of this group with others. He even promised to spice up these pages by contributing some interesting (i.e. sensational) observations about life on campus. He never did, obviously, as he was too busy writing textbooks to help protect the planet.

We suffered the shocking loss of this wonderful, quirky man when he passed away all too suddenly last night (see: “The loss of our esteemed colleague and friend, Professor Navjot Sodhi“.

His funeral service will be held tomorrow, Tue 14 June 2011: 3:45pm @ Mandai Crematorium Hall 1 (map).

Meanwhile, former students have very quickly penned their thoughts here and on the Remembering Navjot Sodhi Facebook page. The family will be sent a copy of the posts here.

If you wish to pen your thoughts here, do email me at sivasothi@gmail.com.

RIP Navjot.


13 Jun 2011 – Zeehan Jaafar says,

“I knew Navjot before he became a superstar conservationist – first as a lecturer, then as a mentor, colleague and friend. Navjot joined DBS at about the same time I started my undergraduate studies. We were one of his first students and lectures with him were never dull; always filled with groans and laughter – groans from the students and laughter from him, either at us or at his own jokes!

What struck me most about Navjot is how kind and patient he was behind the gruff exterior. His office door was always open, he welcomed discussions and he was always willing to lend a hand. He was a stellar scientist (the only thing he never did really master is the IVLE) and contributed greatly not only to the discipline of tropical ecology and conservation, but also to the lives he touched.

He will be deeply missed.”

Grad student Enoka Kudavidanage says,

“We had a battered, stained old lab couch where Prof. Sodhi would come out of his office to sit and enjoy his tea.

The other lab members would perch around him on various surfaces to share some interesting conversation spiced with his quick wit, sharp intellect and intermittent infectious laughing. It is on this couch where concepts for many high impact publications were conceived, where the future of many grad students was decided and where many good collaboration were made.

When I walked into the lab today…I painfully missed the lab couch….with Prof Sodhi sitting on it surrounded by his eternal clutter of paper.”

Navjot Sodhi on the couch

Hons student Genevieve Sew says,

“I did not know Prof Sodhi well, my one and only experience was during the tropical conservation module which I took during the semester that had just ended. Even then, during those classes, despite his quirky ways, it was easy to see the passion he has for his work and how he wanted to reach out to people.

The world has many people who desire to make a change, but yet only a few will dare to step out and make that move and Prof Sodhi is one of those few.

The world has truly suffered a great loss.”

Grad student Nanthinee Jeevanandam says,

“When we had visited him in the hospital just before his surgery, I had told him how he looked much better than what I had been told. His candid response was that he was going to become a male model after recovery because of all the weight he had lost. Being able to laugh at oneself even in hard times is a precious quality and Sodhi had that.

Rest in peace.”

Former student Giam Xingli says,

“A friend of mine who was interviewing for a junior faculty position asked me what’s the dress code for interviews in NUS. Not knowing the answer to his question, I sent an email to Navjot and Hugh Tan. While Hugh’s reply was sane (come in shirt and pants), Navjot’s was typical Navjot – he said “come nude”. I copied both answers ad verbatim to my friend. He must have thought Navjot was insane.

However, those of us privileged enough to be his student or friend will know that his humorous and unpretentious reply is meant to put the faculty candidate at ease. And this happened in May this year. He must have been in pain but he was still upbeat and optimistic about life. This is the Navjot we know and respect.

Rest in peace, we will always remember you.”

Kamini Barua (Post-Doc Research Fellow at Inkubator Leuphana – Kompetenz Tandem Biokerosin, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg) writes:

Tribute to Prof. Navjot S Sodhi

“I had the opportunity to meet Prof. Sodhi just a couple of times to discuss about research issues in Ecology and Conservation. In fact I considered it a privilege that he had given me an appointment for a meeting !! Those couple of hours that I could talk to him and which I still hold in my memory, I was just so simply impressed by his intellect and yet his modest self.

I had the opportunity to visit his Department just a couple of months ago and gave a lecture to his students on my research work in the tropics and I thought this was just the beginning of a great professional association. It’s a great loss for the global conservation community.

May his soul rest in peace and my sincere condolences to his family”

Alvin Wong, a grad student from the 90’s writes,

“As a grad student bumming around the Dept, I had always enjoyed helping out Navjot with mist-netting of birds during the Honours Field Trips to Sarawak and Pulau Tioman. During lull periods and beers in the evening, he would be gleefully hatching diabolical plans to mess with the minds of the honours class; often being egged on by Tommy, his partner in crime.

His restless mind and body was an expression of his scientific inquisitiveness, boundless energy and incisive logic. As a ecologist and conservationist, Navjot is without equal. He contributed tremendously to the cause in not just Singapore, but also regionally and indeed worldwide.”

Grad student Ang Yu Chen says,

“Oh my god that was so sudden. I always remembered how much I enjoyed his lessons, not just because of his ‘unorthodox’ ways of teaching, but also how he held himself, never bothering so much with the stifling rules in the NU of S. The only prof who is easily identifiable by his berms, cap and ever-present ratty Corona beer jacket.

Even if I didn’t agree with his methods sometimes, I could feel that he believed in saving the environment, and not in the all emotional tree hugging way. No. He has written papers that have influenced policies, written textbooks that would inspire future conservationists.

A real conservationist who had real impact.

RIP, Sodhi. You taught me a whole lot.”

14 Jun 2011 – Charlotte Yap, an early graduate student of his, says,

“Prof Sodhi was a truly special man. He had a generous heart, a fun-loving soul and a maverick streak that is sorely missing in today’s world. He helped to pave the way for me to further my academic studies and he taught me to think critically and work independently, for which I will always be indebted to him.

I will miss his endearing laugh and his cheeky sense of humour and most of all his presence.”

Former student Lim Wei Ling says,

“I do not know Prof Sodhi well but had the opportunity to take his Behavioural Biology module while in NUS. His classes were never boring and he was a great teacher in his own quirky way. I remember him as a lecturer always with a can of pepsi and great passion for conservation.

You will be greatly missed Prof Sodhi. Rest in Peace.”

Ilsa Sharp, freelance writer, researcher, editor, consultant based in Perth, Western Australia writes,

“I can hardly believe that Sodhi has gone so suddenly and so quickly, and so tragically. Apart from admiring his sharp intellect and enquiring, iconoclastic mind, I loved his naughty grin and his delight in ‘stirring’, poking and prodding others to produce an effect; his merriment at disturbing others more pompous and formal than he.

Despite his clear scholarly prowess, he remained a true field biologist. I was privileged to work with him as his co-author for the book “Winged Invaders” on pest birds of the Asia-Pacific region, in 2005-06, and now that he is gone and I see the scale and level of the tributes to him from all over the world, I understand that I was even more privileged than I had realised.

He was a truly patient and surprisingly modest collaborator on our book, always receptive to my own layman ideas, always creative with his own suggestions. What a loss, and perhaps at the peak of his career, with so many plans for the future, so many more achievements ahead of him.

Hopefully, his work will live on.”

19 Jun 2011 – Quek Kian Chye, 1995 – 1997 graduate student of Prof Sodhi’s writes,

“I am fortunate to be a student of Prof Sodhi during my BSc days. When Prof Sodhi came to DBS, it was like a miracle came true as he started lessons related to conservation. Having a passion for birds, I could at last pursue my academic goals associated with a hobby.

Prof Sodhi has many fascinating ideas. At first the thesis topics posted by Prof Sodhi seems weird but they turned out to be pioneer research areas in conservation. We work together on fluctuating asymmetry in pigeons and I learnt to know him as a helpful, patient and down-to-earth supervisor.

We spent hours mist-netting and he would skillfully demonstrate the technique of taking blood from the birds, making measurements and tagging our feathered friends. Counting endoparasites in blood smear and ectoparasites on live pigeons were never an easy task but I could always shared those tiring experience with Prof Sodhi and he never failed to motivate me with his inspirating words, care and selfless knowledge.

Near to my thesis submission, I produced graphs with points running all over. It was my most desperate moment and had almost given up. Prof Sodhi guided me through the process of consolidating and presentation of data and behold, there was indeed a trend in the findings for me to complete the thesis successfully.

After graduation, Prof Sodhi encouraged me to write up a paper on my thesis work. I see in him a great love for nature and it has given me the best reason to write up a paper while working.

In urban Singapore, Prof Sodhi has persisted in his passion and made a mark in conservation. I am proud to have Prof Sodhi as a caring supervisor, an inspiring teacher and a friend who spent time to listen and offered his assistance.

Rest in peace, Prof Sodhi”

21 Jun 2011 – David Taylor, Professor of Geography, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland writes,

“Sad loss of a good friend, a conservation activist and a superb scientist”

“I was shocked yesterday evening to learn of Sodhi’s untimely death.  That I heard about his passing away while I was attending a workshop on carbon accounting in Kigali, Rwanda, indicates the global reach of Sodhi’s influence.
 

I knew Sodhi relatively well during my four years as an academic in Geography, NUS 1997-2001.  I used to come over to Biology to use microscope facilities, and Sodhi occupied the room next to the one that housed the microscope that I used.  He was always incredibly supportive – and of course critical.  We have kept in touch since I came to Ireland, and I knew that he was ill.  I did not realise until yesterday evening, however, just how ill he was.
 

In the last email I received from Sodhi he told me that he had been offered a professorship in Canada, and that the position was ‘for life’.  At the time he probably suspected that his current position was for life too.
 

I will miss Sodhi, and my heart goes out to his family and colleagues.”


Memories are being shared on a Facebook memorial page setup by his former students at Remembering Navjot Sodhi

Remembering Navjot Sodhi

See also “A Navjot Sodhi module objective: “I just wanna teach them some empathy,” by N. Sivasothi. NUS Biodiversity Crew, 12 Jan 2012.

The loss of our esteemed colleague and friend, Professor Navjot Sodhi

Dear friends and colleagues,

it is with great sadness that we share with you that Professor Navjot Sodhi passed away last night, 12th June 2011.

He had remained in ICU at NUH after an operation for over a week and the head of department emailed all of us the sad news this morning.

RIP Navjot. We will all miss you very much.

Navjot Sodhi, RIP

From: Matsudaira, Paul Thomas (Head, Biological Sciences)
Sent: Monday, June 13, 2011 8:41 AM

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the death of Professor Navjot Sodhi. Navjot underwent surgery a little over a week ago for a cancer that was recently diagnosed. He remained in the ICU where he passed away last night (June 12) at 6:30 PM. He was a leader in ecology and conservation biology and was a great contributor to his field, mentor to his students and postdocs, and colleague to the DBS faculty.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Charanjit, and children, Ada and Darwin.

Once we learn more about his family’s plan for a memorial service, we will let you know.

With regret,
Paul”


Lena Chan from National Parks Board’s National Biodiversity Centre wrote this morning:

“It is with great sadness that we at the National Biodiversity Centre, NParks, learnt about Navjot’s sudden departure. We will definitely miss collaborating with him. His demise will leave a major gap in research in conservation biology not only in Singapore but also the region. His generous sharing of his knowledge was exemplary. It is good that he lived to complete his tropical ecology book that is free on on-line.

Our profoundest condolences to Charanjit, Ada and Darwin.

Lena”

@mongabay twittered early this morning, , informing the tropical conservation biology community,

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected death of Navjot Sodhi. He will be dearly missed.” bit.ly/Navjot [Links to the 2009 Conservation Scholar’s feature on Navjot Sodhi]

Corey Bradshaw writes, “Navjot Sodhi is gone, but not forgotten.” Conservation Bytes, 13 Jun 2011.

“I have to say that his death is personally a huge blow, and professionally, a tragic loss to the fields of ecology and conservation biology. He was a good friend, and a bloke with whom I had some great times. He was someone I could trust.”

Corey goes on to share some of the thoughts shared by other conservation biologists he has been receiving this morning. See Corey’s post at Conservation Bytes.

Navjot Sodhi is gone, but not forgotten « ConservationBytes.com

See also, “Remembering Navjot Sodhi: lecturer, mentor, colleague and friend“.