The map of Singapore’s ravaged 19th century forests in H. C. Hill (1900)

Maps are critically useful in any examination of Singapore’s landscape, and Hill’s (1900) report is shocking in the account of the extent of forest loss, after 81 years of colonial rule.   Hill1900map

Report on the present system of forest conservancy in The Straits Settlements with suggestions for future management by H. C. Hill. Singapore, 1900.


In May and June 1900, H. C. Hill, the Conservator of Forests of the Indian Forest Service, studied published reports and visited forest reserves in Singapore with H. N. Ridley (Director of the Botanic Gardens) and W. L. Carter (Collector of Land Revenue). 

He includes a map in his report which is available online. It reflects the extensive exploitation which the Singapore landscape suffered at the time. His language too reflects the insult on the landscape, and he makes recommendations for management, relevant to the land use at the time. 

For an idea of subsequent changes to the landscape, see NUS’ Historical Maps of Singapore. 

For Natalie Quah, who asked for this in the midst of her lecture preparation.

Job: Full-Time Teaching Assistant at the College of Humanities and Sciences (BSc Hons, two positions, 2-year renewable contract)


Job: Full-Time Teaching Assistant at the College of Humanities and Sciences (BSc Hons, two positions, 2-year renewable contract).

All 2,000+ incoming Arts and Science students at the new College of Humanities and Sciences will read a common curriculum of 13 modules. An integrated module of this curriculum is Scientific Inquiry 1 – HSI1000 “How Science Works, Why Science Works”. This module will enhance students with an overt and applied understanding of the scientific method, which is an effective problem-solving tool for any situation.

HSI1000 will provide an interactive experience of labs, workshops, field trips and panel discussions, and is helmed by a team of motivated and experienced educators from the Faculty of Science – Ryan P. A. Bettens & Adrian M. Lee (chemistry), Yeo Ye & Sor Chorng Haur (physics), Seow Teck Keong & N. Sivasothi (biological sciences).

Full-Time Teaching Assistants (FTTAs) will be at the forefront of the module, working closely with the module professors, and facilitate small group sessions at the lab, workshops and field trips, mentor students, facilitate panel discussions and oversee student needs.  

We are pleased to be able to recruit two more FTTAs to the existing team; fresh grads may apply. Candidates with an interest in teaching and facilitation, science and its history, student mentorship and care, who are keen to work with a motivated team in a dynamic environment, are invited to apply. Training is provided.

View the details and application link here.

2nd May 2021 – moved all my meetings online and suspended/postponed all face to face events

Update (3rd May 2021) – Singapore reverts to Phase 2 from 8th to 30th May 2021.

Singapore is entering a near-lockdown to arrest the impact of COVID-19 infections, of which we have seen cases in the community increase recently

Singapore is experiencing its worst spate of Covid-19 community infections in close to a year, in a painful reminder of how the virus situation can flare up without warning.

But if contact tracing, testing and quarantine protocols are as effective as before, and people do not let their guard down, the current situation could come under control within the next week or so, experts said.

NUS issued a circular last night which has us on 100% WFH this week and 50% thereafter until 23rd May 2021. 

I shifted all my meetings online, declined others which are still face to face and suspended all field trip events (guided walks, mangrove cleanups and habitat enhancement) until 23rd May 2021, which is the period of heightened mitigation as per NUS guidelines.

This affects all NUS Toddycats field events, and the Biodiversity Challenge events with the Biodiversity Friends Forum. Such a pity as this is the best time for undergraduates to experience our guided field trips and I was to begin training of Team Leaders.

Oh well, pandemic reared its head. We will see how things are at end-May.

This pretty much sums up our current situation  – Prof Dale Fisher, chair of the MOH’s National Infection Prevention and Control Committee had “…urged people not to go out unnecessarily for the next few weeks and to minimise mingling with people outside their households.” [link]

We want to avoid another Circuit Breaker – PM Lee at May Day Rally [link]:

“Mr Lee hoped Singaporeans would work together with the Government against the virus, and not let down their guard. He noted that with new strains of the virus emerging, Singapore’s Covid-19 situation can deteriorate rapidly.”

“We are watching our own situation, and it can easily, quickly, turn bad again,” he said.

“If we have to do another lockdown like last year’s circuit breaker, it would be a major setback for our people and for our economic recovery. Let’s not make it happen.” 

He added: “It is not time to relax yet. This is a marathon. Let’s keep jogging. Let’s keep ourselves safe.”

Alright, all hands on deck, and we will beat this!

Is your stitched macOS PDF unreadable by Adobe Acrobat? “Export to PDF” solves this.

A PDF I sent students was unreadable by a friend trying to read the file on Adobe Acrobat Reader n a desktop PC. This felt like a repeat of a problem I experienced in 2019 with macOS Catalina. And I had thought a Catalina update had fixed the error.

This time, on the Big Sur 11.3 Beta, the problem surfaced after I had stitched two PDF files in macOS Preview. The resulting PDF was not completely readable by Acrobat on either a PC or Mac. Page 5 of the 7 page document produced this error message:


A solution had been suggested for this new problem on this Adobe forum last year for macOS Mojave – when viewing the combined file in Preview, choose File > “Export as PDF” to generate a “true” PDF file. I tried this and indeed Acrobat could read all the pages. 

Looks like it accurate to say macOS Preview corrupts a stitched PDF – goodness! Good to know.

Prof Daphne Fautin, RIP

Prof Daphne Fautin was Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Curator, Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center at the University of Kansas. She was a blessing on this earth, as a scientist, teacher, mentor, humanist and friend.

Here she in the middle of a search for mangrove anemones and taking time to tenderly free a mangrove horseshoe crab (?2009 photo by Ria Tan).

She made wonderful contributions to marine science in Singapore and touched many of us with her humility, good humour, brilliance and dedication.

R.I.P. Daphne, thanks for spending all that joyous time with us.159922377 10159163006605797 6588970470210461889 n

Daphne Gail Fautin, 25 Mar 1946 – 12 Mar 2021.

“Our Conservation Story: Andie Ang, Nor Lastrina & Kathy Xu” on Fri 19 Mar 2021: 8.00pm w/Biodiversity Friends Forum

I am looking forward to this chat with Andie Ang, Nor Lastrina and Kathy Xu, three stalwarts of the nature and environment community who have inspired us with their motivation, dedication and resilience. This will an opportunity to find out about the realities of conservation and advocacy.

I am also delighted to be able to co-host the session with Tan Yin Ling, who found the community in 2017 when the Biodiversity Friends Forum was initiated.

BFF 19 Mar 2021 Panel

Sign up via Eventbrite at

“Tracking otters in Singapore: repositories, communities and communication,” Sivasothi aka Otterman (Wed 17 Mar 2021: 6.00pm – 7.00pm)

Update – NLB did a wonderful job of curating the recording and put it online on 3rd April 2021 on Youtube:

About the talk – “Urged to study a furry mammal in his beloved mangroves, Sivasothi aka Otterman began by unravelling the status of otters in Singapore and Malaysia. For this he tapped a network of archived books and journals, museum collections and veteran naturalists near and far, assisted by curators, librarians and scientists.

When otters first returned to Singapore, it was recreational coastal users who helped track otter dispersal. Two decades later, a network of otter-watchers now help him understand the behaviour, dispersal and travails of otters in urbanised Singapore. The stories, shared in social media posts and scientific publications help repay that debt of information provided so generously from around the world, three decades ago.”

Histories Otter Talk

About the speaker – “N. Sivasothi a.k.a. ‘Otterman’ was immersed in mangroves and wildlife for research, education and conservation at the National University of Singapore from the late 1980’s. He promotes public education, youth development and environmental stewardship in Singapore, and contributes to wildlife working groups and close-door engagements to mitigate development impact.”

Register on Eventbrite.

Histories by the National Library Singapore is a series which highlights research on historical and related matters in Singapore and the region, creating an appreciation of the role of humanities and social science research in contemporary society. For more talks, follow GoLibrary on Eventbrite.

World Wildlife Day 2021 “Forest and Livelihoods, Sustaining People and Planet”

The lovely art for World Wildlife Day, yesterday.

WWD 03mar2021

I marked the day with an animal behaviour lecture and ended it with a dialogue about conservation. Thanks to Jack & Rai who hosted a World Wildlife Day dialogue with Anbu (ACRES) and myself last Sunday night.

Screenshot 3158

I am curently reading “Giants of the Monsoon Forest: Living and Working with Elephants,” by by Jacob Shell. A geographer who read widely and travelled to visited a complex array of South Asian and Indochinese (prominently in Burma) peoples who work with elephants. Pushed to the mountains by historical waves of lowland conquests in the region, the geography led to an evolution of elephant working cultures.

giants of the monson forest

Shell sheds light on the co-dependency of elephant and man on forests, which are foraging and mating grounds for their elephants, and which suport the forest-based economies, logging and transport through seasonally flooded terrain. Roads, forest fragmentation and agriculture thereaten these areas but the dificul terrain is also the setting of some of the longest resistance wars which protect the forests.

I know very little about Southeast Asia, a tremedously complex region and the perspectives stitched together Jacob Shell, a geographer, are insightful.

Note: Marcus Chua shares what research reveals about Species Awareness Days tonight!

Video freeze whilst screen sharing in Zoom, on macOS Big Sur? Reinstall Zoom and enable “Use TCP connection for screen sharing”

Update – this note explains this will be resolved with the next Zoom for Mac update (after Ver 5.5.4). Thanks Kenneth Pinto!

My animal behaviour videos froze during the past two lectures. The problem first happened mid-lecture in mid-February which sure had me scrambling, as the short videos are integral to the lesson. This morning the freezing more polite surfaced during the pre-lecture video. I plan a short, relevant video as an AV check with students, and they reported the frozen video.

On both occasions, I was on my wired iMac with BigSur 11.2.2 and I switched to my wireless laptop on macOS Big Sur 11.3 beta and continued the lesson without a hitch [update: the problem was with wired macs]. A search revealed the solution: macOS Reddit user @portzebie was told by Zoom Support to i) uninstall and reinstall the Zoom desktop client, and then ii) go to Zoom preferences > Share Screen > Advanced options > enable “Use TCP connection for screen sharing”. Oh, and iii) restart your Mac!

Zoom  Enable TCP in Screen Sharing

This seems to have worked. Restart your Mac if all is not well at first.

I think tere are some other hiccups with Keynote (“Play” versus “Play in Window”) and with Zoom Screen sharing (enable “Optimise for Video Clip” or not) still. I shall sort that out before my next lecture.

But let me me restart that iMac first.

Zoom Optimise for Video Clip

What can I do for nature and the environment in Singapore?

Why for starters, check out these pages:

NParks has a whole load of opportunities listed on their Volunteer Page. The good thing is you are now required to select a home-base; with this association, you wi be notified if oppotunities near where you live. If interested in conservation activities, you will have to attend an orientation before volunteering, which wil be helpful.


Lepak in SG has organised a local directory of nature and environment groups:

Our volunteer group Facebook pages highlight opportunities offered by others in the community, so will help you find your calling!