Lab Members

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Our lab AY2015/2016

Principle Investigator

Frank Rheindt

Frank

Through his love for birds, Frank E. Rheindt found his way to the field of evolutionary biology. An assistant professor at NUS for >3 years now, Frank is happy to have so many hard-working, intelligent and bright students in his lab.


Research Fellow

Kritika Garg

Kritika

Kritika’s main interests are in understanding the role of gene flow in speciation. Gene flow is a pervasive micro evolutionary factor which can homogenize effect of isolation. It is not only important for maintaining connectivity between populations but also for acquiring novel traits via interspecific gene flow. Using birds as a model system she is investigating the role of gene flow in speciation using both population genomic and phylogenomic approaches. Currently she is working on island biogeography and the effect of Pleistocene glaciation cycles on population connectivity in Sulawesi. In addition to this she is also studying the effect of elevation gradient on population structure in scrubwrens. Varying selection pressure across an elevational gradient can lead to local adaptation, population differentiation and subsequently speciation. Kritika is an artist and enjoys painting.

 

Tang Qian

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Tang Qian joined the lab in October 2016. He has a broad interest in studying ecology and evolution with molecular genetics approaches. He is currently involved in several Next Generation Sequencing projects in the lab related to urban and applied ecology..

Qian did his PhD in the National University of Singapore on population genetics of the German cockroach, Blattella germanica and phylogeny of order Blattodea.

 


PhD Students

Nathaniel Ng

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Nathaniel is presently pursuing his PhD degree in the Avian Evolution Lab. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree (Life Science) from the National University of Singapore in 2008, then subsequently obtained his Masters degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California (Santa Barbara) in 2013.

Nathaniel utilizes bioacoustics and Next Generation Sequencing techniques to investigate how recent earth history has affected the divergence, evolution, and biogeography of the avifauna of Wallacea. Wallacea, besides being one of the world’s most tectonically-active regions, has also been profoundly affected by sea level fluctuations caused by Pleistocene glaciation events that have occurred throughout the past 2.8 million years. These fluctuations have resulted in the repeated formation and disappearance of land bridges between landmasses here. By gathering a wealth of information from across whole bird genomes and by analyzing bird vocalizations, Nathaniel investigates the evolutionary mechanisms that have resulted in modern-day Wallacean bird diversity.

In his free time, Nathaniel loves exercising, singing in the shower, and dreaming about a world in which chocolate does not make people fat.

Fatma Gözde Cilingir

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Gözde (aka Gogo the Turtle Saver) is highly interested in the real-world conservation potential & applications of genomic research. Currently she’s working on one of the rarest turtle species in the World, Myanmar-endemic Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata). In addition to being rare, it is one of the least studied species as well. By using genomic level information, she tries to 1) estimate the number of breeders left in the wild 2) understand their mating behaviours 3) determine the population substructure in order to define conservation units for potential reintroductions and assurance colony management.

 Gözde has solid positive science background, but she has deep interests in social science theory of conservation and development, which would be the critical aspect for moving toward more environmentally and socially sustainable projects and policies. Besides being a young scientist, she sometimes transforms into Burmese roofed turtle named as Ms BooBoo.

 

Helen Nash

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The aim of Helen’s PhD is to help create a more informative picture of the distribution and genetic variability of pangolin species found in Asia to inform conservation management goals. Specifically, she has been working on Sunda and Chinese pangolins (Manis javanica and M. pentadactyla), which are difficult to study in the wild, as they are nocturnal and shy of humans.

Her first project made use of local ecological knowledge in Hainan, China, to investigate status and threats of Chinese pangolin. Her second project uses next-generation sequencing to investigate genetic population structure of Sunda pangolin across SE Asia, which might potentially be useful for forensic monitoring of illegal pangolin trade. Thirdly, she uses VHF and GPS tags to understand dispersal movement, home range and habitat selection of Sunda pangolin in Singapore.

All these varied layers of research will contribute to informed conservation action planning at both local and international levels.

Helen enjoys travelling and exploring new places during her free time.


Research Assistant

Gabriel Low

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Gabriel studied introduced Javan Mynas (Acridotheres javanicus) in Singapore for his Honours thesis using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques, and was able to to determine that while they had a nearly panmictic population genomic signature, local Mynas appeared to breed locally and disperse globally.

He was working as a Research Assistant at the Insect Diversity Lab at NUS, applying NGS techniques on local bee populations in the genera XylocopaAmegilla, and Thyreus, but is now back with the birds!

Gabriel relishes getting out of the lab and into the field to look for the weird, unknown, and beautiful. And he wants to learn to play the guitar.

Keren Sadanandan

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Keren did her honours project in the Avian Evolution Lab. She used mitochondrial markers to look at the population genetics of the Near-Threatened Short-tailed Babbler (Pellorneum malaccense) in Singapore. Her results showed fragmentation between sub-populations of Short-tailed Babbler in Northern and Southern Central Catchment Nature Reserve and showed that the population in Singapore was genetically impoverished in contrast to a comparable population from Borneo.

Keren is now working as an RA in the lab, where she is involved in multiple projects including the resolution of swiftlet phylogeny, discovery of the Northern Boobook as a winter migrant to Singapore and the identification of retrotransposons in avian genomes. She loves Chinese food and sniffing Tiger Balm.

Ng Wen Qing

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Wen Qing has always been interested in avian-related research work since her undergraduate years. She’s particularly fascinated by the field methodologies that are used to carry out various avian studies in different habitats for different bird species. Some of research work that she has assisted in include DNA-collection work of shorebirds in China; quantification and identification of raptors migrating through Thailand; breeding and developmental studies of montane birds via a combination of field studies and videography in Malaysia; bird population studies through mist-netting in Singapore etc. She is currently hired as Research Assistant for a project that uses telemetry to determine the home range of several bird species, which are adapted to the urban habitat.

On the side, she enjoys recording and editing videos of bird behaviour, and providing preparation services on donated avian window kills.

Gwee Chyi Yin

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Chyiyin is working on the taxonomic reclassification of an Australasian owl lineage using bioacoustics. These owls can be found in Australia, New Zealand and some of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Though classified as a single species, differences in vocalisation can be observed in some subspecies. Her research will provide insights to the evolution of this owl lineage and suggest possible taxonomic reclassification. Chyi Yin is an adventurous nature-lover who likes kakapos and rabbits. She is also known as Madam Owl.

Elize Ng

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Elize is currently studying the population structure of the White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) in Singapore using Next-Generation Sequencing. Prized for its melodious song, the Shama is regionally threatened by the caged bird trade – including Singapore where it is Critically Endangered. Through her study, she hopes to understand the impacts of the caged bird trade on local Shama populations and assist in conservation efforts of the species.
 
Prior to her current project, Elize investigated the species limits of an Indo-Pacific Cuckoo Dove (Macropygia amboinensis) species complex with bioacoustic. The study revealed multiple cryptic lineages that are bioacoustically distinct and proposed for their elevation to species level. 
During her vacation, she enjoys traveling to seek the best of food and nature.

Honours Students


Alumni

Yan Ming Tan

Yan Ming

Yan Ming worked on the evolutionary relationships of the endangered Black Partridge (Melanoperdix niger) and Long-billed Partridge (Rhizothera longirotris) as the relationships of these 2 poorly known species remain contentious. However, since DNA materials of these shy and elusive species have never been collected, this study was done using the ancient DNA extracted from the Lee Kong Chian Natural Heritage Museum’s specimens.

He is currently a honours student under A/P Song Jian Xing, researching the molecular mechanism of the TDP-43 causing Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The highlight of Yan Ming’s life was his solo trip to Nepal and India, trekking mountains and panicking big time when he got lost. He also aspires to be the strongest powerlifter in Singapore although he knows that will never happen.

Grace Tang

Grace

Grace investigated the population genetics of the Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus) in Singapore, and sought to determine the levels of genetic diversity and connectivity present in the population. Fieldwork was done to collect sampels from across Singapore and three mitochondrial genes (COI, ND2 and cyt-b) were sequenced and analysed. Results were heartening as they showed very high genetic diversity and potentially high levels of gene flow within the population.

She is currently working at the Bird Park as a Junior Avian Management Officer.

Soo Yun Jing

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Yun Jing is an honours student currently working on a project on the conservation of the Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis). The Siamese Crocodiles are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, and there have been many on-going conservation efforts to preserve the species. Yun Jing’s project aims to identify potential pure-bred Siamese crocodiles from captive individuals in the Cambodian crocodile farms for a captive breeding programme using the Next Generation Sequencing method.

Dominic Ng

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Dominic is studying the population structure of the nationally threatened Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa), and is using genomics to better understand the phylogeny of the species complex. This majestic myna species has been identified by the Asian Songbird Crisis Summit team as being in urgent need of conservation action within the Sunda region. He hopes to assess the impact of the caged-bird trade on local populations and inform conservation efforts both locally and regionally.

Dominic is perpetually restless and hungry, and unsurprisingly spends most of his time seeking novelty. He enjoys being outside, physical activity, eating, languages and culture (though not all at the same time).

Bryan Lim

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Bryan is currently working on the phylogenetic resolution of the Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) species complex in Sundaland using Next-Generation-Sequencing. Bryan’s aim is to identify genetically distinct subspecies within the complex and their regional conservation implications as this species are highly poached in the regional cage bird trade. In his free time, Bryan just enjoys birding right on his hall’s rooftop with a cold beer in hand.

Lim Jia Ying

Jia Ying

Jia Ying is working on the rock pigeons (Columba livia) in Singapore, which is perceived to be a pest bird species. This invasive species seems to be thriving in our urban habitat, irking some citizens. She looks into the population assessment and behaviors (nesting, roosting, food source establishment) of the rock pigeons, of which may aid with developing a strategy to manage their population. She aspires to pass on the enthusiasm for Singapore’s biodiversity to those around her.
Tan Hui Zhen
Hui Zhen
Hui Zhen is currently pursuing a UROPS (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science) project in the Avian Evolution Lab. Her project involves studying the House Crows (Corvus splendens) in Singapore.
In her free time, Hui Zhen loves to bond with dogs and her camera (not to take selfies).
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