Citizen Science Symposium at Yale-NUS College, 3-4 March 2017 (free; register)

Otterman speaks...

An upcoming symposium on citizen science at Yale-NUS College, 3-4 March 2017 which will feature a mixture of talks and workshops, with the goal of increasing understanding of citizen science both locally and internationally. Anticipated topics are the role of technology in citizen science, and bridging citizen science with pedagogy.

All are invited to register to attend (free) at the registration page.


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Job for biology graduates: biologist at PUB (by 28 Jul 2015)

Otterman speaks...

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Apply at webpage:

Agency: PUB , The National Water Agency
Job no: 498166
Work type: Permanent/Contract
Location: Singapore
Categories: Sciences (e.g. life sciences, bio-technology etc.)


As a biologist in PUB, you will be involved in the following:

  • Working with a team to resolve and propose solutions for chironomid challenges faced at the reservoirs . You will learn to identify the different nuisance and potential nuisance chironomid species (adults). You will also work on improving chironomid monitoring and monitoring methods in the reservoirs.
  • Working with another division to provide advice on larvae monitoring, BTI dosing and fogging operations.
  • Investigating and reviewing fish-kills issues at the reservoirs or waterways.
  • Working closely with external parties on aquatic ecology and biodiversity related research projects in the reservoirs. Thereafter you will assist to implement the findings of the project on the ground.


  • Degree in biology or life science equivalent

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Vote for Singapore’s National Butterfly! Deadline – 30 April 2015

The National Butterfly will not only be an ambassador for butterfly species, but also for the lesser studied but equally important insects living within the same environment.

What to find out about these butterfly nominees? Check out Singapore’s National Butterfly webpage to find out more about these charismatic species –  their colours, size, habitat, and more!

The National Butterfly campaign, launched on 21 Mar 2015 (Sat) in conjunction with World Water Day, aims to raise awareness on the importance of butterflies in the environment. There are over 300 species of butterflies in Singapore, of which 20 are critically endangered. Without butterflies, reproduction of our trees and shrubs will be severely affected, and our biodiversity will be reduced.

Each of these nominees have been carefully selected by experts in field based on their beauty, size, life status (if they are threatened or endangered), endemism or uniqueness to Singapore, as well as its reflection of Singapore traits or symbols (e.g., resilience, adaptability, the Singapore flag). All Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are eligible to vote for a butterfly they feel is representative of the Singapore identity. 

The deadline for voting is 30 Apr 2015 (Thurs), so do cast your vote now. Not to mention, voters of the winning butterfly will stand a chance to win an amazing mystery prize in a lucky draw!

For more information, do check out their webpage or facebook page.

Tai Chong’s paper in PLOS ONE highlighted by EurekAlert

Congratulations to Toh Tai Chong and colleagues from the Reef Ecology Lab.

Toh Tai Chong Tai Chong’s recent work on “Augmenting the Post-Transplantation Growth and Survivorship of Juvenile Scleractinian Corals via Nutritional Enhancement” has been published in PLOS ONE.

The journal article has also been reported by Kayla Graham on the international scientific news website EurekAlert in “Feeding increases coral transplant survival“.

What do these results mean? Tai Chong suggested that “the results have underlined the feasibility of feeding juvenile corals as a supplementary measure to enhance coral transplant survival on the reef, and this could be applied to both aquaculture and restoration efforts.”

Full citation: Toh TC, Ng CSL, Peh JWK, Toh KB, Chou LM (2014) Augmenting the Post-Transplantation Growth and Survivorship of Juvenile Scleractinian Corals via Nutritional Enhancement. PLoS ONE 9(6): e98529. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098529

Biodiversity crew at the 18th BSGC 6-8 January 2014

The Biological Sciences Graduate Congress is an annual congress organized by three collaborating universities: National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore, University of Malaya (UM), Malaysia, and Chulalongkorn University (CU), Thailand.

In this congress, graduate students present their research work from four different themes – Functional Genomics and Structural Biology, Biochemistry, Physiology & Biotechnology, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biodiversity, Conservation & Ecology.

This year, eight graduates students from the NUS Biodiversity Crew participated in the 18th BSGC which was hosted by the University of Malaya from 6th to 8th January 2014:

  1. Chan Zhanqi – “UV based female mate choice and the benefits to reproductive success in jumping spider”
  2. Low Bi Wei – “The tables are turned: an invasive species under potential threat”
  3. Ng Ting Hui – “One or more bad apples? Native, introduced, and cryptogenic Ampullaridae (Gastropoda) of Singapore”
  4. Tang Qian – “Population genetic study reveals three major entries of the German cockroach (Blatella germanica) in Eastern Asia”
  5. Wang Chengna – “Global comparison of influenza vaccine cost-effectiveness between low and high income countries and different age-groups”
  6. Fung Tze Kwan – “The diet of the common palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Pallas, 1777) in urban and forested environments in Singapore”
  7. Ye Guanqiong – “Evaluating the performance of integrated coastal management in China’s coastal cities”
  8. Hou Chia-Yi – “Country level risk of infectious disease emergence and allocation of international health aid”
Ng Ting Hui presenting her work on apple snails.

Ng Ting Hui presenting her work on apple snails.

Low Bi Wei and his work on Clarias batrachus

Low Bi Wei and his work on Clarias batrachus

While we were at University of Malaya, we took the opportunity to visit their Museum of Zoology and we were hosted by their friendly museum staff – Thary and Khairunnisa who kindly took us on a guided tour.

Common palm civet skin

Common palm civet skins from the mammal collection

On the last day of the congress, we had a short field trip to Taman Wetlands at Putrajaya and the Putra Mosque.

We wished we had more time to explore Taman Wetlands!

We wished we had more time to explore Taman Wetlands!

The congress provided a great opportunity for us to learn from the diversity of research topics that were presented and it definitely served as an excellent platform for us to share about our research work. The next BSGC will be hosted by NUS and graduate students should not miss this opportunity to present your research and to make friends with like-minded people!

Technology Meets Conservation online & field course in 2014 (deadline 15 Nov 2013)

Topics in Tropical Asian Forestry: Technology meets conservation

Course Description
Deforestation in Asia is progressing at a faster rate than any other tropical area, reducing natural forest cover to its lowest level in the Quaternary Period. A variety of modern technologies have been developed that can accelerate and invigorate conservation. This course will focus on how nascent techniques can be used to monitor change in habitats and biodiversity.

We will investigate technological and analytical advances in tropical conservation before developing a group project to implement these methods to monitor species richness or biotic interactions. We expect that group projects will result in at least one multi-authored publication.

The course will consist of two parts: an online lecture/discussion course in Spring 2014 and a four week field course in June 2014 at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) in Yunnan, China, a research institute in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

All travel and accommodation expenses will be paid for 18 graduate students from any graduate degree granting institution in the U.S.A. or tropical Asia, funded by the US National Science Foundation. An additional 12 mainland Chinese graduate students will be funded by the Chinese National Science Foundation.

David Lohman, City College of New York, City University of New York, webpage:
Chuck Cannon, Texas Tech & Chinese Academy of Sciences,

Online Course
Students will watch lecture videos online prior to participating in a guided discussion that will meet online once a week in Spring 2014 (February – May). Students will form partnerships with classmates and perform research projects on specific regions of the Asian tropics. Given the ease of web-based global communication, the students will be expected to develop proficiency in communicating with peers across technological, geographical, and cultural boundaries.

Guest lecturers for the course include Richard CORLETT (XTBG), Rhett HARRISON (Kunming Institute of Botany), Erik MEIJAARD (People and Nature Consulting), Douglas SHEIL (Director, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation), Cam WEBB (Arnold Arboretum/Harvard), and Jianchu XU (Chief Scientific Officer, ICRAF/China).

Field Course
The Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden ( has been performing scientific research and providing agro-forestry outreach and training for over 50 years in the remote southwestern corner of China, near the borders of Laos and Myanmar. With an active community of international scientists and graduate students, XTBG is a leading ecological and botanical research institute in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

All students enrolled in the course will travel to XTBG in June 2014 to participate in field training, taxon-specific survey techniques, and to complete one or more group projects.

4 weeks in June-July 2014 at XTBG, Yunnan, China

To apply, please visit one of the following sites: or The deadline for applications is November 15, 2013. If you have any questions about the course, please email or

13 Dec 2012, Thursday: 10am at DBS CF1 – Alex Yee on Regeneration of Tropical Secondary Vegetation in Human-Modified Landscapes

Qualifying Examination

“Regeneration of Tropical Secondary Vegetation in Human-Modified Landscapes”

Speaker: Alex Yee Thiam Koon (Graduate Student, Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS)
Date: 13 December 2012, Thursday
Time: 10am
Venue: DBS Conference Room (S3, Level 5, #05-01)
Supervisor: Assoc Prof Hugh Tan Tiang Wah


Secondary vegetation is a type of vegetation that regenerates through natural processes from previously human- or naturally-disturbed land, degraded land or abandoned plantations. Moreover, secondary vegetation has distinct differences in forest structure and communities as compared to the original condition. Secondary forest is now a major forest type in the tropics, and its area is expanding. Secondary vegetation may be important for species conservation as it can house old-growth forest species. Understanding factors and processes that can affect the regeneration of secondary forest species can help in conservation decision-making. Therefore, I attempt to investigate the species composition of tropical secondary forests, and the processes affecting their regeneration. I will focus specifically on the regeneration of vascular plants in secondary forests of Singapore. I will conduct field observational studies on the regeneration of secondary forests in abandoned plantations and previously cleared land in Singapore. I will also investigate the regeneration of forest that was recently impacted by a strong windstorm in Singapore. Finally, I will synthesize my findings with a literature review and meta-analysis of factors affecting the regeneration of plants in tropical secondary forests.

All are welcome

Wildlife Research, Protection, and Legislation: A discussion with Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall recently visited Singapore and some of us had the opportunity to attend a panel of discussion organized by The Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law, NUS and the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore (JGIS).  The main focus of this panel was wildlife protection and bringing various organizations together for such an effort in Singapore. A diverse group of people ranging from researchers, to members of NParks, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), Nature Society Singapore (NSS), to environmental law faculty participated.

The meeting involved discussion of a wide range of topics, from general wildlife conservation to primate conservation in Singapore and the matters of youth empowerment and education. Prof. Rudolf Meier started the ball rolling by raising the possibility of translocation as a means of bringing extinct or rare wildlife back to Singapore, e.g. cream-colored giant squirrel and banded leaf monkey. Nick Baker discussed potential problems but also highlighted the contributions by students like Marcus, Andie, and Amrita who gather critical ecological information on these species with the support of NParks, WRS, and NGOs.

Dr. Goodall and Andie

Dr. Goodall and Amrita

Dr. Goodall stressed the importance of youth empowerment in any conservation project. Giving examples of her own rich experiences, she encouraged members in the panel to actively support youth-driven projects like the JGIS Roots and Shoots programme. This allows youth to initiate campaigns and make a difference. JGIS president Beng Chiak and Dr. Shawn Lum were also positive about the gradual changes in our curriculum, as we see a greater emphasis on our natural heritage and its preservation, beyond just the brown issues like recycling.

Mr. Wong Tuan Wah and Mr. James Gan from NParks were particularly concerned with the long-tailed macaque management in urban Singapore. This led Dr. Jane Goodall to discuss how similar the problems were in Asia and Africa, where she has done a lot of work on baboons which are commonly involved in human-monkey conflicts. This led to a discussion of the problems, such as ownership of these animals, and a number of suggestions were brought up. For example, Singapore’s macaque expert Crystal Riley (a former student of Dr. Michael Gumert of NTU) and NUS biology graduate Fam Shun Deng favored the idea of a central agency responsible for all macaque issue. Mr. Biswajit Guha from the Singapore Zoo described how to increase public awareness and educate the public to harmoniously interact with macaques in Singapore. At this time, our Prof. Meier suggested the creation of a monkey app: Snap a monkey photo, share sighting stories, promote education and awareness!

Dr Goodall mentioned that she was intrigued by the inclination of humans to feed monkeys, and ended the inspiring 2-hr session with a dissertation idea: “Is feeding monkeys part of human nature?? Any takers, aspiring biologists from NUS?