8 Nov 2012, Thursday: 10am at DBS CR1 — Karenne Tun on The Application of Biological Criteria (Biocriteria) for Assessing the Status and Responses of Coral Reefs to Environmental Stressors in Singapore

PhD Defense Seminar cum Oral Examination

The Application of Biological Criteria (Biocriteria) for Assessing the Status and Responses of Coral Reefs to Environmental Stressors in Singapore”

Speaker: Phyu Phyu Tun Karenne
(Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date: 8 Nov 2012, Thursday
Time: 10am
Venue: DBS Conference Room (S3 Level 5) #05-01
Supervisor: Prof Chou Loke Ming

Over the last four decades, the coral reefs in Singapore have been subjected to elevated levels of acute and chronic exposure to sediment-related stressors, resulting in the reduction in the total sub-tidal reef area as well as shrinking of the photic zone and a physical shift in the benthic composition from consolidation to loose and soft substrate. Despite an estimated reduction of over 86% of the sub-tidal coral reef area compared to 1953, the coral reef biodiversity, and in particular, the scleractinian diversity, still remains high, although there is growing evidence that Singapore’s reefs are surviving at their critical threshold. The current challenge in managing Singapore’s remaining coral reefs therefore lies in creating a regulatory framework to manage, protect and restore reef resources based on sound understanding of the processes and stressors that directly impact them at local scales. Biological criteria, or biocriteria provides a regulatory tool for defining expectations for the biological condition of coastal resources, and when applied optimally, can provide mechanisms for regulating human activities that threaten coastal resources.

Scientifically-defensible biocriteria rely on structured evaluation of key steps, including reef classification, defining data collection protocols, metric testing against human disturbance, sampling effort and survey design, validation of methods, definition of biocriteria, and implementation of long-term monitoring programmes. In my PhD research, I focused quantifying Singapore’s current reef status, assessing and refining data collection methods and protocols, and defining metrics and developing biocriteria that are relevant for assessing the status and condition of Singapore’s coral reefs. These tools can be used for developing diagnostic regulatory, compliance or long-term monitoring programmes.


Mon 04 Jun 2012: 10am – Nanthinee Jeevanandam on figs & fig wasps in urban Singapore

“The phenology of four dioecious figs and their obligate pollinators, the fig wasps, in urban Singapore.”

Nanthinee JeevanandamNanthinee Jeevanandam
PhD Candidate
Terrestrial Ecology Lab,
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Supervisor: Richard Corlett

Monday 4th June 2012: 10am
DBS Conference Room 1
)next to General Office)
S3-05-02 (S3 Level 5) Map

Abstract – In a human-dominated landscape such as Singapore’s, figs play an important role in providing sustenance for a variety of urban wildlife, such as squirrels, bats and a large variety of birds.

The focus of this study was on four species of dioecious pioneer figs that grow in abandoned or disturbed habitats: F. grossularioides, F. fistulosa, F. variegata and F. aurata. The phenology and pollination biology of the fig plants and the dispersal and longevity of the pollinating fig wasps were studied.

Phenology was correlated with rainfall in all four species, but to varying degrees. Following dry months, there was an increase in crop terminations in F. grossularioides and F. aurata, creating potential gaps in phenology which could threaten the local persistence of pollinator populations. Moreover, compared with the pollinators of monoecious figs, those of these dioecious species appear to disperse shorter distances and closer to the ground. The already short adult lives of the pollinators (< 2 days) were reduced further by high temperatures (> 32oC).

While all four species are currently doing well in the highly urbanized and fragmented landscape of Singapore, they may be vulnerable to rising temperatures and extended droughts in the future.

All are welcome!

Young single male seeks 700 undergrads!

If you happen to be 18 – 25 years old…

… and happen to be around Lecture Theatre 24 and 25 in NUS…


…and see this poor guy hovering around a makeshift booth…

…so step forward and say “hi”, and volunteer five minutes of your time. He needs 700 volunteers willing to play a simple computer game. The outcome of this research exercise? Well for once, it will determine if he graduates with an MSc degree!

This exercise involves the volunteer in the role of a “predator” hunting virtual prey, against a complex background. This project will help identify the interaction between prey and background patterns which contribute to the evolution of camouflage protection. Read about his ravings here to learn more.

In defense of Portunus pelagicus

Joelle Lai had her PhD defense today. After two weeks of revisiting her thesis and constructing a concise presentation, she conducted an excellent delivery and did justice to five years of field, museum and molecular work. And she finally got to show off her haplotype network diagrams!

After a feisty Q&A, the audience left her to a grilling by her examiners which she survived. After a post-presentation debrief, she was last seen headed out of campus to celebrate.

Congratulations Joelle!