Monday, June 30, 2008

Article in Nature in Singapore

From: Nature in Singapore

Nature in Singapore will publish articles of the Natural History, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Ecology and Conservation Biology of the Republic of Singapore.

In particular, articles on new sightings, new records or rediscoveries of nationally extinct species of animals and plants, as well as the Natural History of Singapore are targeted.

The journal will also publish articles from outside Singapore that deal with species or taxonomic groups whose natural distributions overlap with Singapore. Articles outside the stated policy will be accepted at the discretion of the Editor/Editorial Board of NiS.

My article has been published in the above online journal! :)

You can read it here!

My Prof. is the editor! He is so efficient! :)

It's a great encouragement to me! I hope to be able to improve on my research skills and writing ability!

I got a B+ for the UROPs module. Prof. thinks it's because I couldn't defend myself during the oral presentation. So that shall be something I need to work on in any future endeavors in research, to be able to express myself, speak confidently, and believe in what I'm doing, enough to defend what I do.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Summary of Survey Results

Attitudes towards Biological Conservation of the SSS 1207 Class of Undergraduate Students

Date of Survey: 21 Feb 2008

Participants: Class of 405 with 310 respondents (76.5%) but only 280 (69.1%) completed the survey, so only their responses were used for the analyses.

Finding 1: Students had similar conservation attitudes for plant species, animal species or natural habitats and did not value any one more over the other.

Finding 2: Students were more likely to exhibit private conservation behaviours than public conservation behaviours.

Finding 3: Students from the income groups with less than $4,000 per month or more than $8,000 per month, had more pro-conservation attitudes compared to students from the $4,000–8,000 group.

Finding 4: Students who are taking or had previously taken conservation-related modules had more pro-conservation attitudes than those who have not.

Finding 5: Students who are from the School of Computing have more pro-conservation attitudes than average; while students from the Business School have less pro-conservation attitudes than average (see below).

The ranking of conservation attitude results are as follows:

  1. School of Computing
  2. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  3. School of Design and Environment
  4. Faculty of Science
  5. Faculty of Engineering
  6. Business School

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Social Science VS Hard Science

I sometimes find it amazing, the wild gulf between me as a student and others, the Scientists.

While I worry about not getting enough rest and not being sharp enough, not practising enough, not knowing enough; the Scientists asks the critical questions...

Do you have the social scientists' perspective on this?

Did you know this survey applied to another group of people would have quite different results?

Are your questions about to test for what you want to test?

Are your questions set in the right way to test for that?

Did you consider this and that? Did you group the income groups arbitrary? You know how social scientist do it?

These type of questions are not what I worried myself with, though I should be. I feel enlightened. Many things Prof. Ng questioned me about, I was not even aware were issues, and many things he pointed out, gave me new perspective and depth as to what I should be thinking about.

And Mr Chua, the herbarium keeper, just reminded me how lucky I was to have him as an examiner, as he's an extremely busy man.

I am happy to put a short closure to this and take a break for now.

But Prof. Ng asked me to seriously consider whether I want to do something like this for my Honours project... Which would be the question I will need to discuss with the rest and answer.

I have been very humbled by this UROPS experience. It has open my eyes to many things and reminds me constantly, how little I know, and the shallowness to which I know, and nudges me to keep learning, not to compare and feel inferior, but to keep learning.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Oral Presentation

I have not been updating about my progress, but much has been going on behind the blog.

After submission of the report, the next task, we UROPS students had, was to prepare an oral presentation of our research project and be examined by two examiners. Supposedly, one would be familiar with the topic of the research, the other should be less familar (according to what Dr. Matthew Lim mentioned in Ecology class today). I got Prof. Peter Ng and Prof. Chou Loke Ming. My Professors for Natural Heritage of Singapore. A lot of people went like, "Wow, two FULL Profs!"

After hanging around as a 3rd year student, I start to hear things like high impact journal articles, prestigious journals (Science and Nature), things I never knew existed at all as a freshmen or 2nd year students It opens your eyes to things. You hear about getting things published. And how that is a goal of the Professors and his or her students, to get things publish, in a reputable journal. :) And you see your lecturers names on journals and all and you go WOW.

Yes, but Prof. Ng (fish and crabs) and Prof. Chou (marine life) are like my "idols", people I really look up to because of the work they have done in the local conservation scene and the passion that exudes out of them when they talk about it in class. [My supervisor, Prof. Tan (native plants) is also another very passionate conservationist.] So I feel really very honoured to have them examine me. Like to be able to have a bit of their time, to pay attention to what I say and question me, is a very precious experience.

Nevertheless, it was painful preparing for it. My lack of confidence, fear and timidity reached its maximum as I hesitated at every step I took. But I am very thankful for my supervisor, mentors and labmates and my friend who gave me moral support and advice. That together with God's grace really pulled me through this difficult period.

I have one more oral presentation to go with Prof. Peter Ng on Wednesday. This time, I hope to be more steady and prepared than when I was with Prof. Chou on Friday. To really give it my best shot.

I need to share the results of my survey with you one day soon. I just realized I have not done so, though that might probably be on your mind.

What do the people of the class I surveyed think about plant species, animal species and natural habitat conservation? Which do they find more important? Or do they have equal concern?

What kind of conservation behaviours do they tend to exhibit? Private kind like educating friends and family and using conservation friendly products? Public kind like volunteering with a conservation club, signing a petition or writing a letter to the newspaper to advocate biodiversity conservation?

What motivates the people in this class to even want to conserve?

What are some predictors of conservation attitudes?
Income? Does being from a richer family cause one to have more pro-conservation attitudes?
Knowledge? Does having more biological knowledge correlate with pro-conservation attitudes?
What about what the student studies in school? Does that affect his conservation attitude too?
Among students taking this module from the various faculties in NUS, which faculty students tend to perform better, and which worse?

Those are some questions I tried to answer in my study and I shall share more really soon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why no ferrets in Singapore?

I used to play this online game where we own ferrets and race them in competitions. And the cuteness of these animals made me want to have one, which back then, I oftened wondered, how come we don't have them here in Singapore?

I finally figured out why, 10 years later.

Prof. Peter Ng mentioned in class that many people come to the departement requesting to bring in non-native species into the country for various reasons, as pets etc. But being conservationists, they have a duty to protect the existing biodiversity in Singapore and do not want these creatures to become ecological disasters here like many other alien species already have.

So, here you have it, that's why we don't have pirannas or poison dart frogs or ferrets! ;)

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Importance of Biodiversity in Singapore's Context

Even after
all this time,
the sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."

Look what happens
with a love like that.
It lights
the whole sky.

Sun, do you not know.
You don't only light the whole sky,
You give life to all
The plants take from you
and they make food for us!
They give us their wood for our fire and homes
They give us shelther
They make the air clean
They decorate our gardens and put a cheer on our face.
The plants also give to us so freely,
because they know their unending source.
So let us be gentle with the earth
They owe us nothing
but we owe them everything

"The forest habitat provides us with goods and services for free, as they receive solar energy from the sun, free of charge and they convert it to carbon." - paraphrased from Prof. Chou Loke Ming's SSS1207 lecture - The importance of Biodiversity in Singapore's context.

"Tree is a living symbol of boundless benevolence. It does not demand from anybody for its own nourishment. It goes on giving enormous quantities of useful materials to the world. Not only this but it goes on giving shade to a woodcutter who has come to cut it." (Lord Buddha)

There's so much we can actually learn from nature. We don't just receive, we give as well. The Sun must be the true altruist. Always giving, always burning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Biodiversity and Conservation in Singapore - past, present, future? by Leo W H Tan

Prof. Leo Tan visited to our Natural Heritage SSS1207 lecture yesterday as a guest speaker. I was excited, as I often come across his name in books, in papers and just being mentioned by people around. And he gave such a moving and inspirational speech about conservation in Singapore that I told my friends that we must go down and talk to him after the lecture. We must quickly think up of questions to ask him.

Conservation comes alive!
What moved me was how he made conservation come to life. Prof. Tan admitted himself that as a student he often got bored of the textbooks and many didn't teach in an engaging manner, he would much rather get out of the classroom and inspect nature. It is the same case for me, I honestly could not understand why so many of our Biology lecturers are conservationist. Are the two so tightly intertwined and correlated? I must admit, I expressed shocked when I first asked Prof. Hugh Tan, my supervisor what projects does he do. However, Prof. Leo Tan, for the first time in my life, helped me to see the heart of a conservationist.

Imagine your laboratory metamorphosing into a airport runway
He talked about the beneficial roles of biodiversity and what it means to Singapore in the past, present and future. Some moving examples he gave was how he and Prof. Peter Ng and him were working on their research project back in the late 1970s on Changi Beach, but in 1981, halfway through their 7-year project, their project disappeared as the government reclaimed that piece of land for the Changi terminal 2 runway. This one really clicked with my heart, and at once, I felt the anguish of losing something one had invested in and one loved. To me, if that had happened to me, it would make me even more eager to share with others the biodiversity in Singapore to try to think of creative solutions to conserve as much as possible.

What is the value of a tree?
My heart was also stirred when Prof. Leo Tan talked about scrupulous contractors who indiscriminately poisoned, ringed the bark of (murder by removal of phloem) and chop down trees in the past due to the low fine of S$10 000, a small sum compared to what they can possibly earn by developing the land on which the tree sits on. He cited an example of how a contractor was fined S$84 000 instead of the S$10 000 for chopping down the Changi tree as the tree was worth $76 000. That's why not we give each heritage in Singapore a value, to protect our trees.

There were many other interesting examples he gave such as the success story of Pulau Semakau - the paradise rubbish island, MM Lee's role in supporting the Gardens at the Bay project at Marina, the indirect economic benefit to biodiversity in Singapore like for securing FTAs and FDIs. But those for another time perhaps.

It is the first time for me to, after a lecture, go down to the lecturer and tell him I was so inspired by him. His speech had a therapeutic effect with removed my inhibition. I thank him for taking time to visit us and to share his passion with us.

To round it up, the most pressing question I had in me was. What is your main motivation for conservation? And it turns out to be for the conservation of self, so that we can live in a healthy environment. :) It is so simple and meaningful. It's not like those lofty ideals nor like a moralistic stance, but one that comes from the heart. Because I am part of this earth and if the earth is sick, I would be sick too.