Richard Mayden (Cypriniformes Tree of Life) visits

Richard Mayden, Professor & Endowed Chair of Natural Sciences, and Chair, Department of Biology, Saint Louis University, Missouri, USA, and has a lab truck named the “Bride of Stinky” or BoSs.

He works on osteological morphology and molecular systematics of North American fish and is visiting with us on 14th and 15th June 2007.

Photo by Tan Heok Hui of Peter Ng and Richard Mayden.

He is also the leader of the Cypriniformes Tree of Life (CTOL) project, which declares this very interesting statement:

“In this initiative, researchers from many countries with a shared passion and in-depth understanding of these incredibly diverse and interesting fishes are investigating their morphological and molecular variation. Many of the current participants of this long-term project have a history of collaboration, sharing data, specimens, information, and ideas, and are committed to one primary objective – fostering a collaborative and productive academic environment to ensure a rapid advance of our understanding of the biodiversity and systematics of the Cypriniformes. We, as a group, hold as a fundamental premise that progress towards our mutual goals will be better accomplished in this collaborative venue than through individual researchers both competing for the same resources and possibly duplicating unorganized efforts.”

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Hugh Tan takes over from Benito Tan as Deputy Director

Message from Raffles Museum director, Peter Ng,

“With effect from 11 June 2007, A/P Prof Hugh Tan will take over as Deputy Director of RMBR, succeeding A/P Benito Tan who retires from NUS in July 2007.”

A/P Prof Hugh Tan

“Firstly, I want to thank Ben for all the hard work and help he has rendered the Raffles Museum, Department of Biological Science and the Faculty of Science over the last 9 years – it has been a period of fantastic growth and success, and I am grateful for his help and support. He moves to NParks in the Botanic Gardens, and I am sure he will have another successful stint there.”

“Secondly, I thank Hugh for taking over. I have asked Hugh to help me now on a new front by putting more order in the RMBR, this is more necessary these days as we have grown in size and scope, and many things we could be relaxed about in the past today need more vigilance and efficiency. Hugh’s repute in being a very organised manager will be invaluable to this phase of the museum’s growth. I cannot promise him less work, but I can promise him challenges! Over the weeks to come, we will work out how we change our styles and things we need to do, and we then move on.”

“I hope the RMBR staff and community will join me in welcoming Hugh, and work together with him to the next level!”

A/P Benito Tan

Photos by Lin Yangchen (NParks), taken at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium II.

Sep 2007 – Second International Barcode Conference in Taipei, Taiwan

Conference announcement – The Consortium for the Barcode of Life and Academia Sinica invite you to the Second International Barcode Conference in Taipei, Taiwan, during the week of 17 September 2007. Abstracts are due 1 July 2007. Travel support will be available for a limited number of participants from developing countries (applications are due 1 July 2007).

The conference website is at www. dnabarcodes2007.org (note: link no longer works, current link address) and the Second Conference Announcement (pdf) can be downloaded here.

Channel U’s “On the Beat 2” to feature Raffles Museum

29 May 2007 – The film crew from Channel U’s “On the Beat 2” visited the Raffles Museum today. The television show is telecast over Channel U at 8.30pm every Tuesday and is hosted by Vivian Lai, Tang Ling Wi and Jeremy Tian. The show features interesting places, people, food and products in and around Singapore.

Research writer Linda Yap from the Chinese Entertainment Productions of Mediacorp Studios Pte Ltd approached us about including the Raffles Museum in one episode. Last Friday, Spruce Leong turned up for a whirlwind recce to the Pubic Gallery. He was quick and prepared and responded enthusiastically to the suggestion to visit the Wet Collection to inject a little life into the episode.

Finding living, non-specimen faces for the camera is not always easy, but this time, with curator K. L. Yeo providing flower crabs for a demo, I figured I was justified in snatching grad student Joelle Lai away from her thesis for an hour. She works on the genus after all and her spoken Mandarin can pass muster.

Spruce and the film crew turned up earlier this afternoon and got things settled before 5pm. From request to completion in just a week; this was an efficient team – and you be the judge of the result. Catch “On the Beat 2” on Channel U at 8.30pm on Wednesday, 12th June 2007 (schedule may change but I am told trailers don’t lie).

After they had left, intern Ong Ruo Yu, who had accompanied the team and taken most of these photos, followed the newly-learnt instructions from Joelle’s demo to inject the remaining crabs. She preserved the lot in a container provided by Kelvin Lim; the flower crabs will be used for guide training and Public Gallery demos – since IMD, we have started using wet specimens during gallery visits.

Ruo Yu and the freshly preserved flower crabs (Portunus pelagicus).

Neil Cumberlidge in town

28 May 2007 – Freshwater/phytotelmic tree-climbing crab specialist Neil Cumberlidge (Department of Biology, Northern Michigan University, USA) is visiting the Raffles Museum this week.

Here he is during a tour of the museum with Peter Ng and Tohru Naruse just now. He’s having a crabby talk with Peter right now. Their voices are permeating the office and they must be having a grand time catching up.

Peter passed me some of his paper when I was working on mangrove tree-climbing crabs – google and you’ll understand why.

Check out his Freshwater Crab Homepage. It has many sections, including photos of type specimens and illustrated keys for some of the African regions. (note: page no longer exists)

Speaking at TICE Eco Camp, NTU

25 May 2007 – NTU Earthlink is hosting this year’s TICE (Tertiary Institutions Council for the Environment) Eco Camp from 24 – 27 May 2007. This camp that hopes to groom young environmental leaders, involves some 80 student participants from nine institutions – the three Universities (NUS, NTU and SMU), five polytechnics (Singapore Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic) and the National Institute of Education.

Peter Ng, Leo Tan and myself went down to speak yesterday at the TICE Eco Camp on climate change, environmentalism, nature in Singapore, and the role of individuals and groups. I was dragged down earlier by Peter when we learnt that we were going to the same place event!

Peter, as guest of honour, breathed fire and brimstone, sharing the “save yourselves!” response to the threat of climate change. Prof Leo Tan and myself were speaking after dinner. Before we got started, we witnessed the camp participants take a very serious pledge led by Grace Ngan.

A student asked Prof Tan about his ‘missing’ powerpoint and he explained he had just returned from an overseas trip and had not prepared one. Seated next to him listening (while furiously preparing my presentation on my mac), I reached over and told the student with great confidence, “he doesn’t need slides, you just watch.” And true enough, the students and I listened to a thoughtful lecture, the sort that a curriculum will not often provide.

Our session lasted somewhere between 8.00pm to 10.30pm although it was scheduled for 90 mins! Well I can blame the students partially – they kept up a good pace of questions and that was really encouraging. I think speakers respond to an audience so it was a really good crowd last night!

Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium II – webpages, reports and photo albums

Books at the symposium

Peter Ng & Tommy Koh looking on with satisfaction at
“The Natural Heritage of Singapore, 2nd edition.”
Lena Chan, Pår Ahlberger, Anna Maj Hultgård and Peter Ng looking at
“Carl Linnaeus” by Gunnar Broberg.
Tommy Koh, Ng Lang & Lena Chan with
“The Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore.”

The symposium announcement was made in Habitatnews and Raffles Museum News on 15 May 2007 but I was actually scooped by Ria Tan on WildSingapore who posted the announcement the previous night!

Reports and albums
“Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium II (2007),” by N. Sivasothi. Raffles Museum News, 22 May 2007.
Flickr album from BoSS II. Photos by Hwang Wei Song, Airani S. & Cynthia Lee, 22 May 2007.
“Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium II – opening remarks,” by Marcus Ng (more to come!) The Annotated Budak, 23 May 2007.
“Tommy Koh’s green mission: Save 2 species.” By T. Rajan. The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2007. Top diplomat getting Zoo’s help to save monkey and squirrel unique to Singapore.

In a lighter vein
“That 15 mins presentation today,” by N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks…, 22 May 2007. (note: link no longer works)
“Phew, symposium webpage up!” By N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks…, 15 May 2007. (note: link no longer works)
“Talk at Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium,” by Adrian Loo. Lekowala, 22 May 2007. (note: link no longer works)

Symposium webpage
Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium I (2003) – http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/biodiversitysymposium/introduction.htm
Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium II (2007) – (link unavailable)

Linnaeus tercentenary: Celebrating Linnaeus’ 300th birthdayFlickr album – del.icio.us bookmarks.
Tech Tags: linnaeus linnaeus300

International Museum Day (IMD2007) Bus Tours – heartlanders visit!

Wed 23 May 2007 – We look forward to heartlander visits to the museum during the regional bus tour programme organised by Museum Roundtable for the International Museum Day celebrations.

A hardworking team at the National Heritage Board see to an operation that has heartlanders hop onto a bus in Jurong to visit three members of the Museum Roundtable – NUS Museum, Chinese Heritage Centre (NTU) and Raffles Museum [more tours at other museums here.]

Gallery Guides rock!
Interns Danliang and Ruo Yu had been given the thumb’s up by Gwynne and thus had been conferred the honour of anchoring the gallery tours. Put through a crash course right up to minutes before participants arrived, they were not tossed into the deep entirely but had the support of experienced RMBR Toddycat guides Oi Yee, Wei Song, Gwynne and Nanthinee.

Nanthinee and the sad story of the death of the last Banded Leaf Monkey in Bukit Timah

They worked in pairs and alone, talked together or separately, facing the crowd or from two directions and their good nature shone through all of that. The heartlander crowd expressed laughter, glee, amazement, sadness and wonder throughout the four sessions.

In the characteristic refrain of IMD head honcho Amy Marlina, “you guys rock!”

Tree-climbing crabs illuminated!
In the spirit of the Linnaean tercentenary, we decided to show off some taxonomic samples. We brought out the very nice cart that I had acquired during the first Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium in 2003. Used for SARS supplies, I had shanghai-ed the cart for its grand unveiling today. Stocked with specimens of tree-climbing crabs and horseshoe crabs, the interns brought them out dripping with alcohol from the bottles for closer inspection to the great fascination of participants!

In order to illustrate the cheliped colour of the different species of the tree-climbing mangrove crab, Episesarma, the interns held up a lamp behind the glass bottles and put on a light show!

This has inspired us to attempt more next year, and we’ll lug out a selection of hardy, bigger and more colourful specimens!

Danliang sheds light on the tree-climbing crabs

Eyes of a tiger
The older folk are often a mine of interesting stories themselves. From one of those old-timers last year, Wei Song learnt that when they went durian-picking in old plantations, they’d have to make loud noises to scare off the competition – tigers!!

It’s no tall tale – local naturalist Sutari Supari actually had a close shave many years ago in Taman Negara when his orang asli guide hospitably took him on a private trip to eat wild durians. Thinking he was hearing Malaysian air force jets flying overhead, he finally realised the sound’s feline origins when he stared into a pair of yellow orbs – yup, the eyes of a tiger!

Tales of food, sex and gore work again
The exhausted interns reported at the end of four shifts that the stories about food, gore and sex were the most appealing.

The need for explanations in Mandarin required some help from the crowd and where their vocabulary failed, a circuitous explanation worked! Here they are explaining the protruding and split hemipenis of the 4.4 metre King Cobra exhibit. The poor snake was clubbed to death by four golfers at a golf course on 1st June 2002.

Yes, this was a fine way for Raffles Museum to mark the Linnaean tercentenary!

Meanwhile at Uppsala University, “Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko joined celebrations in Sweden on Wednesday marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus, who is known as the father of modern taxonomy.” Thanks for the link, Alvin!

Linnaeus tercentenary: Celebrating Linnaeus’ 300th birthdayFlickr album – del.icio.us bookmarks.
Tech Tags: linnaeus linnaeus300

Research and education at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS