LSM2251 Ecological Observations in Singapore

In 2010, I asked students reading LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment to conduct non-interference observations of wildlife in Singapore. This was first carried out with LSM1303 Animal Behaviour and I ported the model over.

Students conduct their research independently but have two scheduled consultation sessions with TAs and the lecturer and are welcome to offline and face to face consultation.

After an eye-opening field trip to Pulau Ubin early in the semester, students presented research proposals through a three-minute elevator pitch. That usually results in lots of adjustments but by a fortnight later, field recces would have been conducted and they are in much better shape for data collection.

10 hours of observation are required, which could potentially result in 20 – 50 hours worth of observation in the field depending on project type and design. Not often, but possible.

Ecological Observations in Singapore

Results are formally presented at parallel sessions of symposia chaired by their TAs and includes a Q&A session by their peers (we provide guidelines). Students ask questions actively and are typically very politely phrased. They do get marks for asking questions!

Having students figure things out themselves with some help is preferred above directed field trips because this removes them from a prescribed culture with little room to think – especially with typical class sizes of 150-200. And importantly, leeway is given for mistakes during evaluation so there is space to learn.

These students are just beginning their exploration of wildlife in Singapore so it is heartening to listen to their scrutinising observations during the symposia.

After the symposium yesterday, I asked some students which they preferred – and the room unanimously indicated it was independent exploration.

Okay then.

The programme and abstracts are hosted at

Emails to Life Science undergraduates: field trips and research

Sent to AY2014/15 Sem 1 students reading LSM1103, LSM2251 & LSM3261.

Field assistants for honours students
Sign up at:

Our undergraduate research students are engaged in a variety of field observations following monkeys in the forest, studying freshwater streams, mapping the distribution of fruit trees important to civets, exploring trash in mangroves and a variety other work.

This is an important period in their lives when they grapple with field work very seriously, examine the literature, evaluate their methods and collect data with specific objectives. It is a steep learning curve and educational for undergraduates to be exposed to.

Hence Life Science undergraduates are encouraged to sign up as volunteer student assistants to gain exposure to field work, learn about nature areas in Singapore and observe how science is conducted in the field. You will learn a lot from conversations with research students whom you follow.

That’s pretty much how I started – I was a first year undergraduate when I responded to an invitation to carry heavy stuff for a mangrove research team.

After you register, research students will contact you with their field trip schedule. It is not a blanket period, you will be able to pick and choose dates.

Once you respond to individual researchers, you must commit to the appointments you sign up for, turn up early rain or shine and be communicative with the researcher. You reputation depends on this. You can also ask the research students for recommendations to secure your own projects in future.


Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman

Invitation to a post-exam conversation with EVB Graduate students: Mon 08 Dec 2014: 7.00pm
Sign up here:

Dear undergraduates,

I am pleased to announce that three graduate students from the Environmental Biology (EVB) track are inviting you to an informal discussion about interests and concerns you might have about research in the Department of Biological Sciences. This is relation to the Honours year thesis (FYP), UROPS, lab attachments or techniques, experiences, constraints and philosophies.

Conversation with EVB grads about research in NUS DBS
Mon 08 Dec 2014: 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Sign up here:

Undergrads should think about and discuss these issues early in your journey. There are few formal opportunities to do this so these graduate students are extending an invitation for you to join them in just such a conversation.

While Darren Yeo (Evo Lab), Ian Chan (Marine Lab) & Jerome Kok (Freshwater Lab) are in the EVB track, this invitation is extended to all undergraduate biologists.


Sivasothi aka Otterman