My mammal honours students and their mentors

The honours students survived their poster exam last Monday, and its lovely that their mentors, who were able to help them review their work before submission, managed to drop by. They’ve come far since identifying their research questions.

Now its just two weeks to thesis submission!

L-R: Marcus Chua (Catboy), Genevieve Yeo (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), Chua Jiayu (Suncus murinus), Neo Pei Jun (Callosciurus spp.), Otterman, Amanda Tan (Smammal girl), Meryl Theng (Otter girl), Fung Tze Kwan (Civetpoo girl) & Xu Weiting (Civetgirl)..

Thanks to Neo Pei Jun for the photo.

Waiting in the wings are one UROPS report and three MSc theses.

The MW5202 Science Communication class tackles the Raffles Museum’s Public Gallery

I decided to move the class away from blogs and other digital tools and instead focus on story-telling, the fundamental skill behind everything we do.

So I wangled keys to the 12-year old Raffles Museum’s Public Gallery on its very last night before its closure for good, and presented the class with a wonderful learning space.

The scenario they were presented with: to save the day for a bus load of visitors looking forward to a night at a museum. Unfortunately a sink hole had gobbles up that museum and the hopeful visitors were heading home, feeling miserable.

However, after some urgent calls between Museum Roundtable colleagues, I offered to activate my Science Communication class and have them put together a Raffles Museum tour!

Armed with nothing else than the labels on the specimens, the unfamiliar group of science communicators would google information and put together an interesting series of stories which they would stitch together meaningfully for an exhilarating tour!

The mission for the class was to ensure that the guide at each station would relay stories supported with questions for the audience, puzzles and jokes to engage the gawking public. Well that’s the plan.

Now to see what they come up with in half an hour!







Thu 28 Mar 2013: 1pm @ NUS LT14 – “How much is that doggy in the window?”

NUS PEACE are a group of students from various faculties and schools in NUS who have come together to try to provide a voice for animals and educate fellow undergrads.

NUS PEACE members manage NUS Cat Cafe which is a programme to defuse conflict and manage campus cats through a Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage programme. In all of this, they work with NUS’ Office of Estate and Development.

For the past two academic years, I have been delighted to see NUS PEACE collaborate with various individuals and groups outside of campus to raise awareness and encourage empathy for animals.

They have received encouragement from various NGOs in the community and are learning in the best way possible, by getting things done.

This Thursday they address the issue of puppy mills, a subject many people are surprisingly unaware of. They will spread the message through a road show and a talk.

NUS PEACE & Humane Society (Singapore) will be holding a talk at LT 14 at 1.00pm and they will be manning a roadshow outside Central Library at benches CLB 2 and CLB3 from 10am to 6pm.

If you’re on campus, do bring a friend along to learn about the issue and get to meet the students.

NUS PEACE Puppy Mill t-shirts

NUS PEACE Puppy Mill badges

Tote Bags
NUS PEACE Puppy Mill Tote bag

For more details about the show and merchandise, visit the NUS PEACE page.

Tiger the cat gets his massage!

Just as I am about to creep off to bed, Tiger the cat makes a plaintive mew which summons me to his side.

I know the drill, it’s a full body massage he desires, a habit I inculcated when he was a bewildered kitten in a new home. The run downs relaxed him and he got used to it.

Best time for it, going by the amount of purring, belly exposures and rolling over, is after dinner time.

Tiger is a very gentle cat and very malleable bit he loves the massage to be conducted at his favoured spot, on the dining table.

When he’s had enough, he lets me know, and I can complete that interrupted journey to my bed!

Cycle Ubin!

When I closed the Pedal Ubin series in 2009 after 12 years, I left behind a quick document called “Cycling in Ubin” with the last project manager of the series, Tan Kaixin.

For some reason these past few months, I have been receiving numerous requests to share the document on Google Drive. An incorrect editable document link must be circulating somewhere.

One person said the link popped up in her Google search but as that is customised to individuals these days, I can’t duplicate her search.

So I shrug and answer the emails every now and then, one by one, suggesting they visit, or

I’d like to work on a version 2 as there is much to add, but on the other hand, how much do people really need to know?

After all, my best moments on Pulau Ubin were exploring the island in the 80’s and 90’s, before I came to know the island well.

The Last Hurrah! for the Raffles Museum at Block S6, Faculty of Science

Even before I matriculated, I worked at the Zoological Reference Collection at Block S6, Level 3, host to the zoological collections of the former Raffles Library and Museum.

After decades of wandering about during ‘The Lost Years’, the collection had found a permanent home in Faculty of Science at NUS, along with the Science Library. My friends in NUS arranged for me to get a job arranging old mammal specimens into the custom-made electronic cabinets, and I was instructed by Ms Lua. The Japanese workers working on the cupboards called me “Superman” because of my Clark Kent-like glasses.

That was 1987, a quarter-century ago.

Freshman Orientation 1987_8

I would use and help out at the museum over the years and eventually worked there for about a decade. During that time, The Public Gallery of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research was unveiled.

In the 1980’s that was simply space for lockers and benches where my faculty mates and myself would hang out and study.

We used that space well, even in the poor light of golden orbs at night. We coped although a fire alarm going off in Chemistry forced us home one night.

By the late 90’s, that space was denied to students to became temporary office space for CRISP. When they moved out, thankfully the space went to the museum along with enough money to plan for a Public Gallery.

I delayed going to this inter-tidal place called Chek Jawa in order to get the gallery established in June. It was then I wrote up the Toddycat and the Palm Leaf to symbolise our return to outreach after a long hiatus as a pure research repository. Kelvin Lim drew up the logo and Peter Ng coloured part of it on Photoshop.

Angeline Tay, Airani S and Tan Swee Hee preparing souvenir magnets

A bunch of graduate students and other volunteers worked at preparations in the museum and you can see photos in the gallery here with legends [Flickr]. Their names would still be familiar to all in natural history today.

Well, that was a busy year – many of them were also guides at the first teacher’s workshop in Semakau in May, were Pulau Ubin cycling/heritage guides in June, guides for brisk walks through the forest in June, conducted faunal surveys at Chek Jawa in July and August, and then natural history guides for the public there in September and October and were International Coastal Cleanup Site Buddies at Kranji in September.

And that was just part of it.

The guides educated a phenomenal and somewhat frightening turnout
of interested public at Chek Jawa in Sep-Oct 2001

We used the space at the gallery well over time and I particularly relished the night trails and heartlander tours, part of NHB/Museum Roundtable’s International Museum Week.

That festival would be critical to our landing a new space in 2014 – a long story I am making an effort to relate to the young Toddycats.

Realising the museum was REALLY going to leave the Faculty of Science, I roused some of the old guiding team for a “last chance to see” series of tours at the gallery and collections at Block S6. I posted to Habitatnews on Tuesday and spaces will be filled by today.

We will guide only about 300 people over the week in small groups, including folks from the Museum Roundtable, Raffles Museum Toddycats and the public. It will be a spontaneous walk through a museum already preparing for the move.

We will definitely have some fun in two weeks time, and remember this precious space well during The Last Hurrah!

One of the evening tours is reserved for the young Toddycats. They will go on to play a role in the new museum. It will certainly remind me of Toddycats Appreciation Dinner & Ghostly Night Tour of 2005.

Yes, it’s about time to feed them again.

Their enduring presence makes the museum a living entity. Typically, when they start speaking, the museum cheers up considerably!

Raffles Museum Toddycats Ghostly Night Tour 2005

NTU Bike Rally 2013 – I bail after 120km+

Kenneth Pinto was away, so it was Joelle Lai, Kevin Lim (also a safety cyclist) and myself from Zendogs this year.

NTU Bike Rally (130km, 3rd March 2013)

I decided to bail at Labrador Nature Reserve after some shaky judgements along Keppel Road. I might have over-exerted myself in the earlier legs of the ride and had enjoyed the NTU – Pungol stretch. I was feeling spent by Pasir Ris, and decided to pack it in at Labrador, and called Ladybug to rescue me. Joelle and Kevin decided they’d end their rides as well.

I decided it was better to be safe than sorry and had already cycled about 120km+ (Runkeeper bailed on a long stretch). I was using my Norco mountain bicycle with slick tyres and had enjoyed the speed.

I’ll be back next year!

NTU Bike Rally 2013
Kevin and I head down to the start point
at NTU via Clementi with Shawn Chung
NTU Bike Rally (130km, 3rd March 2013)

Easy riding along ECP with Joelle and her noisy, bling Tyrell
NTU Bike Rally (130km, 3rd March 2013)

Nicoll Highway
NTU Bike Rally (130km, 3rd March 2013)

Kevin’s famous grimace
NTU Bike Rally (130km, 3rd March 2013)

Boy, and I spent or what?
NTU Bike Rally (130km, 3rd March 2013)

Photos by Kevin Lim on Flickr.