Student projects on offer

After I return to Singapore on Oct 2017, I will be offering undergraduate student research projects for UROPS or Honours FYPs.

Prospective students must be interested in the project and be willing to work very hard. I offer projects with research questions that I think are meaningful enough to have a chance at publication in a scientific journal, but this is only possible if data quality is sufficiently high, which very much depends on the student carrying out the study. On my part, a lot of time and effort goes into working with the student to develop a robust study design and coaching on how to make sense of data and communicate the work; on the part of the student, the data collection must be meticulous and the sample size must be sufficient. In return, the student will witness (the pains of) science-in-action at first hand and may eventually have the satisfaction of seeing his or her results published (see my track record). I also require the student to be receptive to criticism.

Feel free to approach any of my former students to find out what to expect from me. If you think you might be able to take it and possess the requisites for the projects below, please get in touch to arrange a face-to-face chat. However, meeting up does not mean acceptance.

Academic Year 2017/2018

1. Effects of understorey weeding in the Labrador Nature Reserve.

This is a follow-up project from an Honours-year project completed by Lorraine Tan in AY2016/2017. The student will re-survey the transects/plots established by the earlier student. Together with the data collected previously, we will examine the changes in plant and orthoptera community composition and plant mortality, recruitment, and growth, about one year after two types of weeding were conducted in the Labrador Nature Reserve. Suitable for a one- or two-semester UROPS. The student will be co-supervised by Mr. Chung Yi Fei and mentored by Mr. Tan Ming Kai.

There is also a possibility of extending the above project to various Nature Parks in different parts of Singapore, in AY2018/2019. A student interested in this as an Honours-year project should get in touch early while we are figuring out the feasibility of this extension.

2. A vegetation map of Johor, Malaysia.

This project will aim to (1) review past published maps, if any, and (2) produce a vegetation map of the state of Johor, Malaysia, using freely available satellite imagery. We will focus on the mainland, and verification will be done via high resolution Google Earth images. The student should already be familiar with the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, e.g., having taken a module or a course in GIS before signing up. Ability to read Bahasa Melayu and a basic knowledge of remote sensing would be preferable. Suitable for a one- or two-semester UROPS. The student will be co-supervised by Dr. Alex Yee.

If the output is of sufficient quality, the student may continue to an Honours-year project in the following year to extend the map to offshore islands, the Riau Archipelago, Indonesia (with a focus on Batam and Bintan islands). Landsat images have previously been used to show temporal landscape changes; see here. The extended project will build on such work, e.g., by differentiating between forest and plantation, etc., to generate data such as the age of regenerating vegetation since last clearance.

3. Cultivated plants in the urban landscape as food for butterfly caterpillars.

This is a follow-up project from an Honours-year project completed by Rie Chong in AY2016/2017. This student counted eggs, tracked the fates of these eggs, and counted caterpillars on various commonly cultivated plants known to be host plants for butterfly caterpillars. The data-collection was conducted from September to December; I am seeking a student to collect at least one more additional round, following the same methodology, during another part of the year, i.e., Jan to Aug, to examine if there are temporal patterns in the butterfly reproductive cycle. Therefore this is suitable for a one- to two-semester UROPS, or an odd-semester Honours-year project (i.e., those that straddle across two Academic Years).

4. Estimating the current rate of brood parasitism of house crow nests by Asian koels

I have suggested in the past that heavy culling of the non-native house crows in the past have reduced the formation of community roosts, and consequentially raised the vulnerability of their nests to brood parasitism by the Asian koel. This project will test this hypothesis, by estimating the current proportion of house crow nests that are parasitized by the Asian koel and compare this to the rate estimated in 2000. This project is suitable for a two-semester UROPS (beginning in January 2018) or an Honours project.

5. Attitudes and perceptions of urban park visitors towards butterflies and nature

This is part of a larger study of urban butterflies in a network of Asia-Pacific cities (see this link). The student will adapt a standard questionnaire to approach 200 respondents in about 20 parks across Singapore. The responses and previous survey data will be used together to examine if the attitudes and perceptions of park visitors are affected by the attributes of the park. This is suitable for a one-semester UROPS (beginning in January 2018).

Academic Year 2018/2019

1. Every year, we seek one or two Honour-year students to support a funded project Biodiversity Index for Residential Towns. This project involves point counts of birds, butterflies, odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) and amphibians across two towns each year. A student who wishes to participate in our project should contribute to our data (and therefore have at least some ability to spot and identify the common species) for at least one of these four groups, but at the same time address a research question that can stand as a separate project on its own. Other data from the funded project, e.g., surveys completed in previous years, will be made available if the research question requires.

A possible project on odonates: Functional ecology of urban odonates.

Ecological traits have been collected for plants, birds, butterflies, and even fish, for various types of analyses regarding extinction, invasiveness, adaptability to the urban landscape, etc. However, odonates have not been examined in the same way. This is a project that involves mining odonate trait data, such as wingspan, body length, etc. from online and published literature as well as making measurements from museum specimens, in addition to supporting field surveys of odonates.

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