Category Archives: people

Mr Yeo Keng Loo, RIP

Mon 25 Jun 2007 – This morning, Greasi was shocked to read the obituary announcement that the family of Mr Yeo had put in The Straits Times. She asked Rahim and Makcik to verify the notice then had Heok Hui come up to the office. There he called ‘Ah Yeo’s’ home and his sister informed him that Mr Yeo had passed away suddenly during his Saturday badminton game (23 Jun 2007). It was a very quick way to go but he was only 52 and all of us grieve for him.

We will be visiting the wake at Block 56 Sims Drive S (9380056), tel: 6742-1230. The cortege will leave on Wed 27 Jun 2007: 12pm for cremation at Mandai Crematorium.

I wrote to our museum volunteers and friends earlier to inform them. I cited the interns blogs as snippets from their interactions with him capture a glimpse of him.

“Dear Toddycats and old friends,

I write to tell you with a heavy heart that Mr Yeo, one of the museum’s curators, passed away last Saturday, 23 Jun 2007, during his regular badminton game with friends.

I am glad that some of you had the opportunity to interact with this gentle man, including my interns who have recently been on field trips and prep work with him, see: “A hawk and two eagles,” “Crabby Search,” and Crocs ahoy!

One very telling remark amongst the posts reveal just how chatty Mr Yeo has been with our young museum volunteers and interns:

“Another interesting mission Siva set me and Danliang on today was to collect bird specimens. He was informed of a donor who decided to donate her uncle’s collection. We went along with Mr Yeo. It was a rickety ride in a mini-lorry to Bukit Batok. We were pretty much clueless about where block 227 was, but three brains and 6 eyes set things right.

While waiting for the donor to arrive, we pried into Mr Yeo’s life. Hee.. He’s been in the museum so long, he’s seen Prof Ng come as a student and rise as the new director! We discovered museum life changed when Prof Ng came. More specimens were collected and preserved. Before that, it was pretty much maintenace. Mr. Yeo’s been thought of as a shy man, but I think it’s delightful talking to him once he gets going. =)”

I myself am glad for the time I have had with him, particularly on specimen retrievals (the highlight must be the Tekong dugong), field trips (the last was crabbing at Ivan Polunin’s house and the Mera Lodge stream), and plotting about gallery and education programmes.”

Mr Yeo has always been kind, helpful and friendly with the people he had come across and several friends responded immediately by email, phone and SMS after I sent alerted them by email this morning, soon after I found out. Here are a few of their thoughts:

Adrian Loo (formerly Plant Systematics Lab, NUS Biological Sciences), who amongst other things, was on the memorable Changi Tree (Hopea sangal) run with Mr Yeo, responded:

“Thanks for the info. That’s really sad. He was a damn nice person always ready with a smile. I don’t think I have ever seen him without him smiling warmly. And it was always easy to strike up a conversation with him and he’d always have good stories to share about BioD and the museum.”

Alvin Wong (former hons/MSc student, Systematics & Ecology Lab, Dept Biological Sciences) says,

“Mr Yeo is always quiet and unassuming but always kind and helpful to students in the museum and on field trips. he’s a repository of info about specimens stashed away in some obscure corner.”

Ria Tan ( & Raffles Museum Honorary Museum Associate) says,

“I first met Mr Yeo when I spent hours photographing the specimens from the first Chek Jawa transect at the museum. It was my first time doing anything like this and he was patient in showing me how to do it right (and to survive the formaldehyde).

I met him many times later again, at field trips, during visits to the museum.

The wildfilms crew will always remember the special trips he made possible for us last year. Then, as always, he quietly offered sound field advice, and patiently looked after everything.

Mr Yeo’s kind and gentle friendship will be sorely missed.”

Mr Yeo crabbing in Ivan Polunin’s stream, 15 Jun 2006.

Chim Chee Kong (former Raffles Museum Snakehunter) said,

“I remembered Mr Yeo as the very nice, kind, patient and helpful gentleman who helped me in locating specimens a couple of years ago.”

Loh Lih Woon (former hons student, Systematics & Ecology Lab, Dept Biological Sciences) said,

“I’m shocked and dismayed. He was a helpful and unassuming man who made the madness of my hons year that more bearable, exactly 10 years ago! Well those whom God love die young(er) they say. Perhaps this cliched saying could serve as solace.

Sigh. The brevity of life. Seize the day we must all. RIP, Mr Yeo K L!”

Airani S (Senior Volunteer Project Manager, Raffles Museum):

“Mr Yeo is a very kind man and always accommodating to last minute requests for help. He was a shy man of very few words but as I got to know him better, he became more chatty and began to share his dreams and plans post-retirement!

I will miss his absence from the museum dearly.”

Peter Ng (Director, Raffles Museum):

“It came as a shock when I was told this morning that he had passed on – I have known him for over 27 years – since he joined as a fresh staff and I was still an undergrad working in the then ZRC. I remembered how he was full of energy and passion for his work with specimens, and especially crabs and related invertebrates. He took care of the crustacean and invertebrate collections for most of his career, and was also the key man in many of the museum’s local field collections and field work.

Those who have worked with him in the museum and the field like him and have commented on his kindness and willingness to help. All the museum’s foreign scientists whom he has worked with have remarked how good a worker he was. That he was still young and the manner of passing so sudden and unexpected makes the loss even more painful. I do not know really what to say — he will be missed … and the museum will feel the loss. Damn.”

As we shared tales of Mr Yeo with his six siblings and the rest of the family, they have been getting to know this other side of him – his museum curator’s work, love of animals, exhibition presentation skills, love of field trips and because he was such a worrier, his unexpected sense of adventure!


Crab man not crabby when working on crabs

Administrative duties have crept and threatened to consume the life of museum director and department biodiversity group head Peter Ng over the past half-decade. The frenetic work rate is a trademark of the museum and he often growls at us that we’re wasting time on meals

So when NUS adopted the five day week, he should have growled all the more, but secretly he was pleased. You see, he is now able to nestle in his office or lab, pouring over the taxonomic problems of crabs in unimagined peace and quiet. When I’m back on a Saturday for volunteer meetings or special Public Gallery tours, I might see his office light on. We leave him be and by late afternoon, he’ll emerge, starving.

Things are probably looking up these days with the department’s biodiversity baton handed over to Navjot Sodhi. More about that later…

Some workdays, Peter manages to elude non-research responsibilities. Joelle was tickled when she watched him working the other day with grad student J. C. in a genial mood. Taken by the rare sight of her supervisor not behaving like a hungry bear, she took photos and emailed me her favourite.

“Just thought I’d share with you a picture I took of Peter this afternoon. He was in a very good mood today and was checking through some drawings. I think he is happiest when he is working on his crabs.

Made me go awwwww and I decided to take a photo. I think its really nice!”

“Peter Ng and JC checking through Herbst’s drawings”

Swee Hee explained the delight of this nomenclatural hunt was accentuated by the colour slides of Herbst’s drawings. Peter took colour slide photos of his plates when he was in Berlin. So it was a veritable feast that day in the Systematics & Ecology Lab – history, legalistic nomenclatural investigations and of course, crabs.

Enough to make the crabman happy.

Raffles Museum Undergraduate Interns begin today!

07 May 2007 – Ho Danliang and Ong Ruo Yu begin work at the Raffles Museum as interns shadowing N. Sivasothi.

Both are undergraduates who have just completed their second-year studies in Life Sciences and will be assisting in several projects in education, conservation and research for the next two months during their term break.

And yes, they will be blogging about it.

The Crabby Trinity and Le Grande Project

Or why the museum director has gone MIA. It’s time for some full-blooded crab research, even more so with the arrival of Peter Davie of Queensland Museum. Here they are discussing Le Grande Project with great animation in the Systematics & Ecology Lab!

Of course this was too good a photo opportunity to resist so the gang at hand gathered for a momentous photo!

L-R, Back row: Joelle Lai, Darren Yeo, J. C. Mendoza
Front row: Danièle Guinot, Peter Ng, Peter Davie, Tan Swee Hee.

Bob Inger’s a Datuk!

22 Jan 2007 – Sarawak’s Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Muhammad Salahuddin conferred the honorary Panglima Setia Bintang Sarawak (PSBS) on Dr Robert Frederick Inger in a special investiture ceremony at the Astana, Petra Jaya in Kuching.

Bob, as he is fondly called, is a curator emeritus of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, USA. He has worked for half a century on the herpetofauna of Borneo, cataloguing and describing more than 150 papers on their taxonomy and ecology. He is an old friend of biodiversity scientists

This report, “Datukship for Scientist” carried in the Eastern Times on 23 Jan 2007, also remarked that:

“His most outstanding charactiresitics, however, remain his unflagging kindness and generosity in helping generations of young herpetologists including many from Malaysia.”

Well done Bob!

Harold Voris had emailed us from Chicago on 21st January 2007 to say:

“I have some good news. Bob is in Sarawak and he is receiving an important award on Monday. The Governor of Sarawak is making Bob a Datok! As you know this is a big title in Malaysia. Bob will soon be Dato Inger!!

This means we will have to treat him with BIG respect and carry his briefcase for him everywhere! We are all very happy for Bob and we hope that you will share this news with others that know Bob.”

We chuckled once again at the sight of a field man in suit when a copy of the Eastern Times was sent over – it carried a much larger version of the photo seen here.

Well, it is certainly a rare honour and like Harold, we were enthusiastic about ribbing this veteran field biologist about his latest honour.

When Bob appeared at the Raffles Museum today, Swee Hee enthusiastically “welcomed the new Datuk” to our humble abode. He was in the wet collection in the morning for herpetological discussion with Tze Ming – Peter and I went down to congratulate him and remind Ming to be sure to carry Bob’s bag!

Bob, of course, just grinned…

Tyson Roberts and teacher work attachments

Dr Tyson Roberts, in the midst of examing the anatomy of a Southeast Asian freshwater fish, is a well-known ichthyologist who has been studying the diversity of freshwater fishes of Southeast Asia for about three decades. He has published many scientific papers in which a great number of new fish species are described.

One tome, “The Freshwater Fishes of Western Borneo (Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia)” [Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences Series 14: 210 pp] is a result of his intensive survey of the fish fauna of the Kapuas River in Kalimantan, Indonesia, in the 1970s, and is one of the most comprehensive and well-illustrated inventories of Southeast Asian fishes.

Tyson is at the Raffles Museum from October to December 2006, to work on his fish collection largely from Myanmar, and from which the descriptions of new species of fish, mainly loaches, will be prepared.

Teachers Chen Yingru from Qifa Primary School and Chin Joung Fui of Corporation Primary School are on attachment at the Raffles Museum for two weeks from 27 Nov 2006 – 08 Dec 2006.

They were getting an insight from Tyson about taxonomic methods and life in general when I dropped in on them! They will work on worksheets for the Public Gallery, an exhibit on the Black Marlin and pick up some web 2.0 skills!

Maurice Kottelat, Doctor es Sciences Honoris Causa

08 Nov 2006 – Raffles Museum’s Honorary Research Associate, Dr. Maurice Kottelat, is the world’s leading authority on the taxonomy of Eurasian freshwater fishes. He is also one of the most experienced field workers in ichthyology and has conducted numerous expeditions, particularly in Asia.

Last November, Maurice was awarded a Dr. Sc. Honoris Causa by the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland.

The citation, translated from French, reads,

“The University of Neuchatel, on recommendation of the Faculty of Sciences, hereby confers the degree of Doctor es Sciences Honoris Causa to Mr Maurice Kottelat, expert consultant in ichthyology, representative of a tradition of naturalist biology honored in Neuchatel, for his exceptional contribution to the systematics and ecology of freshwater fish and indispensable initiatives to conserve biodiversity.”

Photos by David Houncheringer.

See the programme here: Dies academicus 2006 and pictures here. For earlier reports of Maurice in Raffles Museum News, click this link. Maurice is now in Singapore on one of his regular research visits.

Thanks to Claudine Assad-Fuhrimann for permission to use the photos.