Education

Visiting Scientist Feature: Dr. Daniel Edison M. Husana

Recently, we hosted Dr. Daniel Edison M. Husana, associate professor from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, who was here to examine freshwater crab specimens in the Zoological Reference Collection (ZRC). Dr. Husana’s research focuses on animals that reside in caves, such as cave crabs and cave fish.

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Dr. Husana at his workstation in the LKCNHM research lab. Photo by Tan Heok Hui.

Adventurous Spirit

Why cave animals (troglobites/stygobites)?

According to Dr. Husana, it is due to a love for adventure that sparked from childhood. Growing up, he has always loved thrill-seeking activities such as climbing mountains, and cave exploration brings about this sense of adventure within him.

“You don’t know what you’re going to find,” said Dr. Husana, “it’s a mystery each time.”

However, fieldwork can be very tough. Dr. Husana said that sometimes, he has to hike for a few hours just to get to the entrance of the cave, before spending another few hours inside. Once, he spent three days inside a cave, sleeping on mats that he placed on the cave floor.

The temperature inside the cave is also cold, and at times, they have to wade in icy cold water or crawl through narrow spaces just to navigate within the cave.

Nonetheless, fieldwork is also rewarding, as there are many discoveries to be found within the cave. Also, the scenery on the hike up can also be very beautiful, with views of nature and waterfalls along the way.

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Dr. Husana doing fieldwork in a cave. Photo by Daniel Edison M. Husana.

Living in the Dark

Within the cave, however, lies a different view. Deep and dark, there is no way of seeing anything without wearing a headlamp.

As animals residing in caves (e.g., the false spider crab) can be very small, a keen sense of sight is required to be able to spot them.

Due to the darkness within the cave, cave crabs have evolved a heightened sense of smell and touch giving rise to long antennae and walking legs. They also have smaller or missing eyes as they have little to no use of their sight while living in the dark.

As there is hardly any food inside the cave, some cave crabs survive on a diet of guano, or bat faeces, which is rich in organic matter. Incidentally, guano is also a precious commodity for farmers, who use it as fertiliser for their crops.

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False spider crab, Samarplax principe, discovered from a cave in the Philippines. Photo by Daniel Edison M. Husana.

New Discoveries

Dr. Husana is no stranger to the museum, with this visit being his third. It is, however, his first time visiting the new museum premises.

Dr. Husana was invited by crustacean curator (Dr. JCE Mendoza) to work on Philippine freshwater crab taxonomy, particularly the genus Sundathelphusa. During his month-long stay here funded by a LKCNHM research fellowship, Dr. Husana examined freshwater crab specimens in the ZRC, and compared them to the specimens collected during his fieldwork in the Philippines.

He said that the visit had been fruitful, having discovered a few species that are new to science. He added that he had also gained a better understanding of the freshwater crab fauna of the Philippines as a result of the visit.

We look forward to the results of Dr. Husana’s research, and hope to see him again!

 

Zootaxa paper by Dr. Husana, Dr. Tan Swee Hee from LKCNHM, as well as Dr. Tomoki Kase, on a new genus and species of stygobitic crab found in the Philippines: http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2011/f/zt03109p059.pdf

RESULTS OF EXXONMOBIL ENDANGERED SPECIES AND CONSERVATION PROGRAMME DOCUMENTARY MAKING AND POSTER DESIGN COMPETITION 2017

The ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme aims to increase public biodiversity and conservation awareness of Southeast Asian biodiversity. Under this fully sponsored programme, participants attend a customised 3-hour workshop, where they spend the first two hours learning about endangered species and threats that affect their survival. During the last hour, participants are encouraged to spread the message on conservation using new media.

Secondary School Category: Documentary Making Competition

Secondary school participants are encouraged to take positive action and raise awareness of an endangered species by taking part in a documentary making competition.

The following videos showcase the winners of the documentary making competition for 2017.

First place: Pei Hwa Secondary School, Group 12, featuring the Green Turtle. The team members are: Tricia Ong Li Ying, Wong Wei Ting, Idzhar Dandiar B Bahtiar, and Keith Goeh Kai Yee.

Second place: Queensway Secondary School, Group 4, featuring the Green Turtle. The team members are: Huang Shiquan, Low Wei Qing, Sim Qian Hui, Muhammad Dilshad Koestoer, and Alanna Tang Peh San.

Third place: Hua Yi Secondary School, Group 10, featuring the Malayan Tapir. The team members are: Tiffany Won, Chai Georgia, Chong Xin Yue, and Brandon Ng Guan Xiang.

Primary School Category: Poster Design Competition

Primary school participants share what they learnt via a poster making competition. The winners for 2017 are:

TNS Grp 8

First place: Tao Nan School, Group 8, featuring the Proboscis Monkey. The team members are: Sia Zhi Hung, Wu Zhenyuan, and Lucas Lim.

SPS Grp 12

Second Place: Sembawang Primary School, Group 12, featuring the Malayan Tapir. The team members are: Ang Jun En, Edmund Lam Hao Ming, Harris bin Mohd Zailani, and Hein Htet.

Malayan tapir

Third Place:  Geylang Methodist School (Primary), Group 1, featuring the Malayan Tapir. The team members are: Tan Yu Xuan Eason, Teo Jing An, and Wong Jun Xiang.

Congratulations to all the winners!

We hope that these videos and posters will help to shed some light on the importance of protecting and conserving Southeast Asian biodiversity and the environment.

We are also pleased to announce that this programme will continue from 2018-2020. For more information about the ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme for primary and secondary schools, please contact nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg.

 

Harryplax severus and the Twenty-year-old Secret

A secret that evaded detection for almost 20 years has finally been uncovered with the discovery of Harryplax severus.

Sorry to disappoint all the ‘Potterheads’ out there, but this is not a synopsis of a new Harry Potter spin-off. Rather, it is a tale of how a new species of crab was discovered by LKCNHM researchers, Dr. Jose C. E. Mendoza and Prof. Peter K. L. Ng, almost twenty years since it was initially collected.

Harryplax_severus_frontal_male paratype PR.jpgFrontal view; male paratype of Harryplax severus.

The new crab species (also in a new genus) was described in a scientific article, which was published in the journal Zookeys and made available to the public last Tuesday (24 Jan. 2017, local time). [see: https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.647.11455]

Seaside Exploration

The crab was found in the late 1990’s in the coral reef rubble on the Pacific island of Guam by Harry Conley, a former US marine. Mr. Conley started to frequent this western Pacific island in the 1980’s in search of seashells, but his forays into the reefs yielded not only seashells, but also crabs and other creatures, which formed a sizeable personal collection.

After Harry Conley’s death in 2002, his crab collection was presented to Prof. Ng by Dr. Gustav Paulay (then with the University of Guam) for further study. Many of these specimens were eventually shown to be new or rare species, with several resulting scientific publications.

Two small specimens, however, were somehow overlooked and would remain in the collection of the LKCNHM until they were re-examined in early 2015 by the museum’s crustacean curator, Dr. Mendoza. Together with Prof. Ng, they determined that the crabs belonged to a new genus and species based on several unique characteristics in their anatomy.

harryplax_severus_male-paratype-prDorsal view; male paratype of Harryplax severus.

This tiny crab (7.62 mm long by 5.08 mm wide) has adaptations such as small eyes, well-developed antennae, and long, slender legs, which help it feel quite at home in the dark cavities amidst the reef rubble.

Potterhead’s Wish

Why the name Harryplax severus, then?

Well, the genus name, Harryplax, was primarily chosen in honour of the crab’s original collector, Mr. Harry Conley, whose collection of ‘critters’ found in the rubble beds of Guam have contributed greatly to the field of marine science.

The name also alludes to a famous pop culture namesake, Harry Potter, the main protagonist of the fantasy novel series by J. K. Rowling, whose magical skills are likened to Mr. Conley’s ability to find rare and fascinating creatures.

The species name, severus (Latin for ‘harsh’, ‘rough’ and ‘rigorous’), highlights the tough and strenuous steps undertaken to collect the crab. Furthermore, it alludes to yet another namesake from the Harry Potter series, Professor Severus Snape, a character described by Dr. Mendoza as “notorious and misunderstood”. Just like how Professor Snape managed to conceal one of the most important secrets in the story, the new species of crab has also been able to evade discovery for almost 20 years since its initial collection.

peter_jc_lkcnhmLKCNHM Researchers; Prof. Peter Ng (left) and Dr. Mendoza (right).

A self-confessed ‘Potterhead’, Dr. Mendoza could not pass up the opportunity to name the new discovery after characters from the popular series, a move gamely accepted by Prof. Ng, who knew Mr. Conley personally and felt that he would have appreciated the connection.

We look forward to more interesting discoveries by Dr. Mendoza and Prof. Ng in the future!

Original article:

Mendoza JCE, Ng PKL (2017) Harryplax severus, a new genus and species of an unusual coral rubble-inhabiting crab from Guam (Crustacea, Brachyura, Christmaplacidae). Zookeys, 647: 23–35.

NUS OHS’ Night at the Museum – 27 & 28 May 2016

We had our very own “Night at the Museum” at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) just a week ago! We at LKCNHM were proud to host this event on behalf of NUS’ Office of Housing Services (OHS). We would like to thank the staff at OHS and the families of Kent Vale Faculty Residences for their enthusiastic participation and we hope to continue to play host to these occasions in the future.

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A total of 77 children from the Kent Vale community and 8 OHS staff stayed overnight. Photo by Rajavarman Matchichandran.

The purpose of the event was to invoke a communitarian spirit and build a closer Kent Vale Community of all ages, especially with the aim of engaging the children of Kent Vale Faculty Staff ranging from the ages of 7 and 15. A total of 77 children accompanied by 8 OHS staff members from Kent Vale stayed overnight at the museum as part of this event.

Events at the museum that night kick-started with a guided tour followed by a Treasure Hunt and a Dinosaur Light Show to end the night with a bang! The family breakfast during the following morning was also a great opportunity for parents to get together and mingle.

Treasure Hunt

Kids hard at work during the Treasure Hunt!  Photo by Rajavarman Matchichandran.

Families expressed their gratitude for all the fun they experienced:

“I would like thank you and your team from OHS for the excellent job done. Our kids really enjoyed the event. Thank you for organising this unique event. I am aware that it is a lot of responsibility on you and your team who have worked tirelessly to make sure it is a success.” – Dr Satish, Dept. of Anatomy, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

“My kids loved it and are asking what the next one will be!” Prof Kumaralingam, Faculty of Law.

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Smiles all around after breakfast and being back together again after a wonderful night at the museum! Photo by Rajavarman Matchichandran.

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OHS Staff group photo! Photo by Rajavarman Matchichandran.

We end this post with a quote from the Director of OHS, Mr Koh Yan Leng:

“As management of Kent Vale Residences, which accommodates our foreign faculty members and their families, we do not just wish to provide them with a place to stay, but a community that allows them to learn, bond and do great things together. As part of this vision, we organise monthly activities/events for our residents that cater to different family profile, singles, couples and family with kids. For the “Night at the Museum”, we are glad to partner with our esteemed LKCNHM to organise this great event for our residents’ children. The programme created by LKCNHM not only create much fun, but at the same time it is educational for them, which left many of them still talking about it after the event. As such, we deeply appreciate the effort put in by both the LKCNHM staff and our OHS colleagues to make this happen for the kids”.

We look forward to hosting future events such as these for our NUS community.

Results of ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme Documentary Making and Poster Design Competition 2016

The Exxon Mobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme aims to increase public biodiversity and conservation awareness of Singapore and Southeast Asian biodiversity. Sponsored by Exxon Mobil, participants get to attend a customised workshop on Southeast Asian biodiversity conservation, and do their part in spreading conservation awareness.

Endangered species and conservation design

Secondary school participants are encouraged to take positive action and spread the conservation message by taking part in a documentary making competition. Last year, we showcased the first batch of winners for the documentary making competition. This year we will highlight documentary making competition winners for 2016.

These videos showcase the winners of the documentary making competition in the Secondary School category.

 

First place: River Valley High School, Group 9, featuring the Asian elephant. The team members are: Tan Li Qing, Lee Si Ning and Moo Jia Rong.

Second place: Dunman High School, Group 4, featuring the Bornean orangutan. The team members are: Amber Rose Pillay, Yap Tze Hiang, Poh Anna and Vidonia Tan Ting Yen.

Third place: Damai Secondary School, Group 8, featuring the Asian elephant. The team members are: Lim Jelene, Nicole Lee Wire, Phyllis Poh Lay Suan and Chelsea Teo.

We hope that these videos will encourage everyone to learn more about Southeast Asian conservation and its issues.

For more information about the Exxon Mobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme for primary and secondary schools, contact nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg.

 

Results of ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme Poster Design Competition 2015–2016

The ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme aims to increase public biodiversity and conservation awareness of Singapore and Southeast Asian biodiversity. Sponsored by ExxonMobil, participants get to attend a customised workshop on Southeast Asian biodiversity conservation, and do their part in spreading conservation awareness.

Primary school participants share what they learnt to their peers via a poster making competition. We hereby congratulate the winners of the poster making competition for 2015 and 2016. Due to programme constraints, the poster making competition for 2015 and 2016 were held concurrently. The animals to be featured for 2015 and 2016 were given out randomly to participants to ensure fairness.

Here are the winners of the poster making competition in the Primary School category for 2015:

First place: Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (Kellock), Group 4, featuring the Tiger. The team members are: Shanyce Goh, Kimberly-Jeon Goh, Tan Ing Jya and Ysabelle Wong Sze

Second Place: Clementi Primary School, Group 9, featuring the Sumatran Rhinoceros. The team members are: May Phyu Thwe, Kong Shi Ting, Zeth Tay Cao Hui, Chloe Lim En Jia.

Third Place:  Pei Chun Public School, Group 9, featuring the Tiger. The team members are: Kai Wong, Jenell Lee, Gabriel Lee and Su Zhixuan.

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2015 First Place poster by CHIJ (Kellock) on the Tigers

 

The winners of the poster making competition in the Primary School category for 2016.

First Place: Geylang Methodist School (Primary), Group 7, featuring the Sumatran Rhinoceros. The team members are: Ng Yao Yi Marcus, Cassia Tay Kaixin, Wong Ke Ying and Heng Zheng Yu Thomas.

Second Place: Clementi Primary School, Group 3, featuring the Singapore Freshwater Crab. The team members are: Sharma Simran, Xu Rulin and Ethan Lee Yee Chien.

Third Place: Pei Chun Public School, Group 2, featuring the Singapore Freshwater Crab. The team members are: Renne Goh Xin Ru, Yeo Le Xuan Desiree, Leow Xin Yi and Shirlyn Woo She Leng

Geylang Methodist Pri Gp 7

2016 First Place poster by Geylang Methodist (Primary) on the Sumatran rhinoceros.

We hope that these posters will encourage everyone to learn more about Southeast Asian conservation and its issues.

For more information about the Exxon Mobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme for primary and secondary schools, contact nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg.

Results of ExxonMobil Endangered Biodiversity and Conservation Programme Documentary Making Competition

The ExxonMobil Endangered Biodiversity and Conservation Programme aims to increase public biodiversity and conservation awareness of Singapore and Southeast Asian biodiversity. Sponsored by ExxonMobil, participants get to attend a customised workshop on Southeast Asian biodiversity conservation, and do their part in spreading conservation awareness.

Endangered species and conservation design

Secondary school participants are encouraged to take positive action and spread the conservation message by taking part in a documentary making competition.

These videos showcase the winners of the documentary making competition in the Secondary School category.

First place: Greenview Secondary School, Group 4, featuring the Sumatran rhinoceros. The team members are: Lim Zhi Xin, Lookhanumanjao Chatchaya, Wayne Song Wan You and Li Wanjun Alyssa.

 

Second place: NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, Group 8, featuring the Sunda pangolin. The team members are: Soundarajan Keerthana, Zen Hoi and Jin XunZe.

 

Third place: Evergreen Secondary School, Group 5, featuring the Sunda pangolin. The team members are: Chua Jia Hao Collister, Lee Guo Rui, Lawrence Caisip and Tan Wei Xiang.

 

We hope that these videos will encourage everyone to learn more about Southeast Asian conservation and associated issues.

For more information about the ExxonMobil Endangered Biodiversity and Conservation Programme for primary and secondary schools, contact nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg.

Nature Exploration Programme with Korea International School

Earlier last month, the Outreach and Education Unit of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum hosted a group of 20 students and 4 teachers from Korea International School for a one-day nature education programme.

During the first half of the day, the students participated in our Marine Ecology workshop where they learnt about the marine environment, its inhabitants, as well as the challenges they face. In the second half of the day, the participants followed our nature guides out for a three hour biodiversity and heritage exploration of Pulau Ubin, where they had the chance to experience what Singapore would have looked like in her earlier days. Man-y were charmed by the rustic, scenic beauty of Pulau Ubin, and were amazed that mainland Singapore, with her towering skyscrapers could have once looked like that. Memorable sightings during this walk included the passion flower, Oriental pied hornbill, and a lovely large-tailed nightjar!

Despite being well-camouflaged against the leaf litter, the nightjar did not escape the notice of our observant participants! Photo by Loh Lih Woon.

Customary group shot at the end of the Sensory Trail. Photo by Loh Lih Woon.

At the end of the guided nature walk, the students put to use the knowledge they had learnt in the Marine Ecology workshop and took part in a coastal clean-up activity near the Jelutong campsite area. They managed to pick up 9.5 kg of trash at the end of a half-hour. Great job by all involved!

Even as we prepare for the museum’s opening, our programmes are still ongoing.  For customised programmes such as this, please contact us at nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg. Do also keep a lookout for public programmes on the museum blogwebsite and Facebook page!

Under the Sea! Holiday Workshop

On 18 March 2015, we held our very first Holiday Workshop in the brand new Learning Lab of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum! During this Under the Sea! workshop, participants learnt about the marine animals that are found in Singapore’s waters, including those that are featured in some of their favourite television shows.

"That's what a marine sponge looks like? Whooooaaaa..."  Photo by Tammy Lim.

“That’s what a marine sponge looks like? Whooooaaaa…”. Photo by Tammy Lim.

The reaction of participants after learning about the marine animal that inspired the legend of mermaids. Photo by Tammy Lim.

At the end of the hands-on session with over 20 specimens, participants had a chance to try out the Gyotaku method, traditionally used by Japanese fisherfolk to keep records of their catches while fishing. Using this technique, our participants made prints of a variety of animals including a scallop, seahorse, halfbeak and grouper!

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Participants learning about the techniques involved in capturing details of the animals on paper. Photo by Marcus Chua.

Taking turns to carefully paint the specimens to capture as much of the details as possible. Photo by Marcus Chua.

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The happy campers with their masterpieces! None were koi about having their photos taken. Photo by Marcus Chua.

All too soon, it was time to go, as the family members of the participants came by to pick them up. Some of our participants took this opportunity to share with their families the information that they had learnt during the workshop.

Adults getting schooled! Photo by Marcus Chua.

Adults getting schooled! Photo by Marcus Chua.

We are shore these participants had a whale of a time! Even as we prepare for the museum’s opening, our programmes are still ongoing. Do keep a lookout for public programmes on the museum blogwebsite and Facebook page! To find out more about our programmes, please contact us at nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg

Love Gone Wild at Pulau Ubin!

Love was in the air last Saturday at Pulau Ubin!

On 14 February 2015, the outreach and education team of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum brought some couples and friends out for an exclusive romance-themed exploration of Pulau Ubin. For this Valentine’s Day special, participants explored the Sensory Trail with our guides, where they had a chance to observe, touch, taste, and smell some of the herbs, spices, and food plants, and learn about some cheeky facts associated with the very same! Some lucky ducks even spotted a hornbill!

Participants enjoyed tasting the coffee berry much. Photo by Marcus Chua.

We are quite passion-ate about puns. Photo by Marcus Chua.

 

Participants learnt about local flora and fauna in the secondary forest and mangrove, where they also took part in a romance-themed scavenger hunt! The winning duo walked away with an exclusive prize. It was a day well spent romancing nature (and each other!) amidst the rustic charms of Pulau Ubin.

Wood you be my Valentine? Photo by Marcus Chua.

Even as we prepare for the new museum’s opening, our programmes are still ongoing. Do keep a lookout for public programmes on the museum blogwebsite and Facebook page!

To find out more about our programmes, please contact us at nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg