Semester end – a race to the finish: marking, collation, verification and what not

Before the final push, it is important to summarise the race to the finish for the three modules I run this semester with eh FTTAs – LSM1103 Biodiversity, LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment and LSM3261 Life Form and Function.

The marking load is less demanding this year due to smaller classes – 240 first year biodiversity essays, 154 x six short answers and 71 x six short answers and one essay. Open-ended questions punish the marker but are an interesting insight into the students’s mind and will result in tweaks or changes to the pedagogy of the modules the following year.

Mark, mark, mark, then page and script summations, verification, transfer to excel, verification then upload to the system.

After marking there is consolidation of assessments, verification, submission to the IMMS system, verification before checks by the DBS Exam Task Force. It’s my twice-yearly workout on Excel.

Then I put away my local disk image and it’s feedback for some assignments and the exam, and a final email to the class before we part ways. Unless, of course, they join Toddycats for the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk or research students for fieldwork.

LSM1103 Biodiversity, 240 students
2014 11 27 14 42 47

LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment, 154 students
2014 11 27 15 01 33

LSM3261 Life Form and Function, 71 students
2014 11 27 15 31 48

NUS PEACE Therapy Dog Programme – relief for stressed-out students!

I was glad to hear that the NUS PEACE Therapy Dogs Programme once again conducted another successful session of stress relief for exam-pressured students. This is possible because of the kind support of Therapy Dogs Singapore, an NPO made up of volunteer dog owners.

This programme is in its second year now and this was the third time the programme has been run, with the support of NUS’ Office of Student Affairs.


Ironically Mary Rose Posa and myself could not join the students as we highly stressed staff advisors were busy wrestling our semestral responsibilities which have plagued us since late July. There is light ahead in the tunnel though and time to sleep in mid-December!

The Therapy Dog Programme is one of a three special programmes run by NUS PEACE members, the other two being Cat Cafe and Paw Friends.

See: “Dogs melt away exam stress for NUS undergrads,” by Jalelah Abu Baker. The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2014.


Photos from NUS PEACE Therapy Dog Programme.

Erica Sena Neves on “Disease ecology & risk from small mammal-borne pathogens” (Wed 26 Nov 2014: 10am @ CF2)

Disease Ecology and Risk from Small Mammal-borne Pathogens in Singapore
Erica Sena Neves
Graduate Student,
Dept. of Biological Sciences, NUS

Wednesday 26 November 2014: 10.00am
Conference Room-II (S1, Level 3, mezzanine)
Supervisor: Asst Prof Bickford, David P


Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) pose a significant public health challenge globally, with severe economic, social, and health consequences. The frequency of epidemics caused by newly emerging and re-emerging pathogens and the likelihood of rapid global spread have increased dramatically in recent decades, with Southeast Asia considered a hot spot for future emergence events.

Small mammals play an important role in the maintenance and transmission of several pathogens, and they have been the source of pandemic outbreaks, causing periodic global and regional outbreaks of pathogens like hantaviruses and leptospirosis. Singapore is an ideal site to study the risk of EIDs exposure and infection from small mammals – it has lost nearly all of its original habitats and suffered a consequent loss of wildlife diversity, and this is worrying because biodiversity loss has been correlated with increased EIDs risk.

In this study, I propose using a combination of field surveillance, ecological analysis, laboratory diagnostics, evolutionary genomics, bioinformatics, and predictive modeling and mapping to identify pathogens present in Singapore small mammals.

Wild Otters – a new otter conservation NGO from Goa, India

Atul Borker writes from Goa, India to inform us that he has started an NGO called Wild Otters “with a vision of long term otter conservation work”.

Working in Goa (India), they are finding the remnant populations of small-clawed and smooth-coated otters in the wild, conducting field visits for the public, building community support and conducting school and public education.

Visit the webpage at How lovely for otters!

Wild Otters | About us

Wild Otters

Location of Goa, India.

Thanks to Nicole Duplaix, IUCN Otter Specialist Group, for forwarding the news.

Breakfast in the forest

Watching our native long-tailed macaques forage in the morning is pure bliss. Moving through the trees, the troop is heard before they gradually appear, balancing on branches whilst fingering each fruit and young shoot, all whilst in formation. Their quadruple gait is stretched to the limit to explore permutations in the vegetation around them in search of food.

2014 10 23 07 16 11

I am grateful that my student Joys Tan drags me out of campus, to assist her in observing their movement and behaviour. Breakfast in the forest for the monkeys begins at sunrise, which is a little earlier these days.

20141103 Sun  moon times today Singapore Singapore

Researchers have identified at least ten troops of long-tailed macaques in Bukit Timah and environs, ranging in size from a few individuals to over 30 in number. They frequent the edge of forests so are easily observed, and some troops are habituated to humans, and may pass by closely. When they are not fed by humans, they explore the forest with an intensity for their morning’s breakfast, revealing the wonder of their morphological adaptations.