Talk at ITE Eco Conference 2011 – biodiversity and impact

I’ll be giving a 15-minute talk at the inaugural annual ITE Eco Conference 2011 (EC2011) organised by The Institute of Technical Education at ITE College West campus on 8th July 2011. They expect ‘about 300 ITE staff, 50 green ambassadors under the NEA’s Environment Education Advisor network and the community.’

I was suggested (by Eugene Tay?) to inject some biodiversity into the sessions. I’m finally meeting the conference organiser for a chat tomorrow – after teaching, exam markings and a two bouts of the flu had me postpone the meet a few times since April!

The organisers required a blurb for the programme so I provided the description below. The story line is working itself out in my head and I’ll let it cook at the back of my mind. Next month I’ll write out a list of points and flesh it out on Keynote, thrimerim it down for an estimated 14-minute delivery. A slight buffer is always helpful in a symposia setting with multiple speakers in case I need to shorten the timing to realign the progamme.

It’s never easy, there is always some stress involved in providing a talk. I’m always aghast when the time for the talk comes – that empty-looking calendar would have since filled up.

So I try to keep my focus to certain areas and not volunteer too much variation in topics to avoid having to start from scratch. Still, even with a bundle of good stories at the core, I have to adapt to each audience, context and add new content.

Last minute changes are always relevant and conducted with heightened senses, adding a nice touch. At a recent session at NJC, I opportunistically PhotoBoothed their teacher (Yong Ding Li) who had walked in to sit next to me while we waited my turn. I inserted his face into the slide about wild boar distribution, which was based on a paper he co-authored. It was a tough crowd that day but at least I sensed his students murmuring when the slide appeared.

Full-time teaching means I concentrate on the sizeable number of undergrads (about 700 per academic year) in my various modules. That leaves no time for public talks. Even though I’d like to do something meaningful for Earth Day, that is in the middle of a very busy period. So, I usually take on public talks during the inter-semester period when I have time to breathe.

Although care and awareness about wildlife in Singapore has improved considerably, there is still much to do, even to establish the basics. So I try to do a few talks each year.

The next few talks will see me focus on marine life as preparations for the International Coastal Cleanup is getting started.

Title: Biodiversity in Singapore: Hidden treasures and the influence of the urban citizen.

Synopsis: Singapore is a high-density city-state with some wild secrets – in our forests are leopard cats, pangolins, mousedeer, civets, wild boar and bats while our shores and seas are home to otters, crocodiles, turtles, dugongs and dolphins! Even the esteemed naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, was drawn to our shores and filmed in our mangroves! The well-connected naturalist community has enjoyed many exciting observations of wildlife and over the years have also witnessed the impact of man on a variety of scales.

We are in the midst of the sixth extinction and more than half of earth’s human population now live in cities. An awareness of local wildlife and ecology must motivate our commitment to the 3R’s and inspire critical technological innovations. This urgent need to better manage resources and protect biodiversity will hold lessons for other cities and ensure this planet will continue to be hospitable to mankind.


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