Through his love for birds, Frank E. Rheindt found his way to the field of evolutionary biology. An associate professor at NUS for >5 years now, Frank is happy to have so many hard-working, intelligent and bright students in his lab.
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.
Pratibha joined the lab in September 2016 as a PhD student. She did her bachelors in Zoology and Masters in Environmental Studies from the University of Delhi.
Pratibha used bioacoustics tools to describe a new species of Myzomela on Rote Island in Lesser Sunda Islands. Currently, she is using Next Generation Sequencing approaches to detect how gene flow affects species integrity in Storks in Singapore where hybridization between Painted Storks and Milky Storks is prevalent and is a cause of conservation concern for Milky Storks. Along the same lines, she is working with ancient DNA and using target capture approach to detect gene flow between various subspecies of Asian Pied Starling, where the jalla subspecies is endemic to Java and thought to be endangered due to illegal wildlife trade in South-east Asia. In her free time, she likes reading, writing and sketching.
Huiqing has an affinity for working with insects that suck (insects with sucking mouthparts). Her first love is assassin bugs, which she worked on for her undergraduate research.
Currently, she is working on mosquitoes for her PhD, specifically on studying the effects of habitat change on the movement of mosquito populations.
When not in the lab, Huiqing enjoys reading, doing a bit of art and playing tsum tsum. She hopes to see hummingbirds one day.
Laura joined the Avian Evolution lab as a PhD student in 2019. Her main interests are in ecology, behavior, and conservation. Laura currently studies seasonal patterns in the reproduction and behavior of resident tropical birds in Singapore and throughout the Sundaic region using bioacoustics, ringing data, and citizen science
In her free time Laura enjoys rock climbing, kayaking, and hiking.
Yen Yi obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the National University of Singapore in 2017 and a Master of Research degree from Imperial College London in 2018. Her patriotic desire to contribute to Singapore’s avian research motivated her return to NUS to pursue her PhD in September 2019.
Intrigued by the avian migration phenomenon and the chubby appeal of plovers, Yen Yi hopes to combine these two interests in her PhD project, where she aims to study the population genetics of Common Redshanks (Tringa totanus) and elucidate its migratory strategy in genetic detail using Next Generation Sequencing. She is also currently working on a population genetics project studying Lesser Sand Plovers (Charadrius mongolus).
Yen Yi’s conflicting loves for snacks and fitness have resulted in a well-stocked desk space, from which she altruistically distributes food to her lab mates in desperate attempts to alleviate her calorific addictions. In her free time, she can usually be found Googling pictures of her favourite plover the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), playing basketball, and planning her next bird banding holiday.
Yan is interested in research topics that apply data science to resolve societal and management issue. She’s working as a research associate in our lab, figuring out how modelling will help us to get cost effective ways to manage over population of pigeons in Singapore.
In her free time, she likes swimming and travelling.
Elize has broad interest in conservation and landscape genomics. She is currently investigating the effects of fragmentation on the population genomics of 23 local bird populations through the use of Next-Generation Sequencing techniques and landscape genomic methods. Through her study, she hopes to assess areas that are corridors or barriers to gene flow and advice on landscape management.
Prior to her current project, Elize studied 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. She found that the birds on the main Island of Singapore are largely comprised of captive birds that originate from Malaysia, highlighting the impacts of local bird trade on local bird populations.
She has also worked on a separate project, investigating 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.
Hui Zhen is working on elucidating phylogenetic relationships among members of wide-ranging species complexes, namely Numenius shorebirds and Aerodramus swiftlets. Prior to this, Hui Zhen completed an undergraduate research project and her Honours Project with the lab. For the former, she applied distance sampling to quantify the population density of an urban bird species. For the latter, she compared the population genomics of Eurasian curlews and whimbrels across the Palaearctic to investigate their biogeographic patterns.”
In her free time, Hui Zhen can be found outside viewing birds (and occasionally other animals) through her binoculars and camera.
Melody has a keen interest in using genomics techniques to study evolutionary biology and biogeography. Melody studied the population genomics of Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) populations in Singapore using whole genome resequencing data for her honours thesis and currently continuing the Red Junglefowl project as a research assistant.
Melody loves to paint with watercolours in her free time. However, she is still figuring out how to paint something that resembles a bird to other people.
Geraldine is currently doing a Honours project on the challenging Locustella complexes. These are a group of grasshopper-warblers in Wallacea which are morphologically nearly indistinguishable in field. She is analysing bioacoustic data to reassess their taxonomic classification and flag cryptic species.
Geraldine hopes to one day whistle competently enough to communicate with birds.
Stacia is currently working on her UROPS project – Technology in conservation: Investigating sound attenuation of different species and distance estimation based on passive acoustic monitoring. She hopes to be able to create a profile for 7 Asian Hornbill species as well as the critically endangered Straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) to be used for conservation purposes. Since young, she has always been interested in wildlife and in her free time, she either volunteers her time to help various animals or works as a part time Veterinary Technician (having graduated from Temasek Polytechnic Veterinary Technician).
Clara is working on a final year project seeking to define the conservation units of the white-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus) through mitochondrial genome divisions between subspecies. With its ongoing rapid decline in the Western Sumatran archipelago due to trapping, Clara hopes her project can better inform breeding programme efforts to save the adorable songbird.
Clara aspires to continue working in conservation genomics and dreams of birding in every continent and climate. She takes joy in writing and her guilty pleasure; playing video games.
Han Wei is an Honours student working on White-eyes (Zosterops) that have been illegally brought into Singapore. White-eyes are the most commonly sold songbirds in Singapore and are heavily trafficked. Through her project, she aims to clarify the origins of these imported birds using Next Generation Sequencing and hopes to better inform local and regional conservation efforts.
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 worked 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. Keren is now doing her PhD at Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, where she is now doing functional work on Aerodramus swiftlets. She is still collaborating with the Avian Evolution Lab for this project.
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.
Nathaniel pursued 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.
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 Xylocopa, Amegilla, 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. He is currently doing his PhD at Monash University, Australia.
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 was 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.
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.
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.
Yun Jing was an honours student 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.
Bryan was 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.
Jia Ying was 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.
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 was hired as a 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.
Shao Hua was working on a UROPS project on the population estimation of a wide-spread native bird in Singapore. He is conducting island-wide surveys to gather their population sizes across the nation and also at specific localities. In addition, he is employing radio tracking techniques on several individuals to understand their movements and behaviours.Shao Hua enjoys bird-watching in his free time, and hopes to be able to visit Papua New Guinea one day to see the Birds of Paradise.
Kelsey was a year-long exchange student from the University of Texas at Austin earning her B.S. Genetics and Genomics degree. During her tenure at the Avian Evolution Lab, she spent most of her time working on the population genetics of the Common Redshank (Tringa totanus), on which she constructed her UROPS thesis. For her project, Kelsey aided in mist-netting activities, collaborated with international museums and labs, performed DNA extractions, prepared a ddRAD library for Next Generation Sequencing, and analyzed SNP data to evaluate the species’ population structure. In her spare time, Kelsey enjoyed travelling around Southeast Asia and Australasia, eating the local vegetarian food, and acquainting herself with Singlish. She returned back to the University of Texas at Austin to complete her degree and Honors thesis.
Wen Xuan is an honours student currently working on songbirds in Singapore. The threat of exploitation is second to habitat loss, for species extinction. Songbirds in particular, are trapped and traded extensively due to their melodious songs. His project aims to ascertain the population and distribution of trade-threatened songbirds in Singapore and better inform conservation efforts in the region.
He hopes to work on wild felids in the future, but is often distracted by noisy (melodious) songbirds.
Qiao Le is an Honours student currently working on the phylogeny of Napothera wren-babblers across Asia using whole genome and bioacoustics.
She only recently started her growing love for birds when a fantail followed her for an hour while she was trekking in New Zealand.
She also loves a good flat white.
Hong Yao is investigating niche differentiation between Edible-nest and Black-nest Swiftlets in Singapore for his Honours project, which involves numerous approaches including nesting phenology, GPS tracking, bioacoustics, and diet analysis.
He has a thing for appreciating biodiversity and spends all his money on birding and photography.
Balaji has a broad interest in understanding the evolution of natural populations under changing climatic regimes, both earth-historic and human mediated. The present age of human domination, or the Anthropocene is characterized by drastic environmental degradation and associated climate change. However, we are yet to fully comprehend the consequences of this dramatic change for the existing wildlife. Balaji has provided one of the first evidence of Anthropocene mediated population endangerment of urban wildlife; assisted and opened new avenues for genomically informed field-based conservation efforts of endangered populations. He performs a broad spectrum of biodiversity and conservation research in South and Southeast Asia, specifically using integrative approach and high throughput genome scale data. In his free time, he enjoys long discussions over tea, photography, hiking, good food and lots of anime.
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.
Emilie has a broad interest in evolutionary biology with a particularly keen interest in the study of acoustic communication. She graduated with a Masters degree in Ethology from University Paris XIII (France). During the past 10 years, she took the opportunity to study acoustic communication in different model systems, as well as to further expand her skills for the study of evolution.
She joined the Avian Evolution Lab for her PhD. She used vocal and genome-wide data to investigate the emergence and loss of phenotypic and genomic diversity in sylvioids of Southeast Asia. She is currently working on a population genomic project on dogs.
Chyiyin was previously involved in the taxonomic reclassification of the Ninox boobook species complex using bioacoustic and genetic data. Although generally recognised as a single species, her results revealed multiple Wallacean members of the boobook complex including the owls endemic to Alor and Rote each, are vocally and genetically distinct. She continues to uncover cryptic diversity in other groups of birds such as the Cyornis jungle-flycatchers. Chyiyin has a broad interest in evolutionary genomics, and is currently involved in using ancient DNA to unravel the evolutionary patterns of some Australasian birds.
Chyiyin loves Kākāpō and was lucky enough to have met Sirocco, the official Spokesbird for Conservation in New Zealand. She enjoys a morning cup of coffee and is also known as Madam Owl. Spot the owl in her photo!
Dominic studied 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).
Keita is working on a UROPS (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science) project to cast light onto the complicated phylogeny of Asian flycatchers, in particular those from the genus Muscicapa. Generally referred to as “little brown jobs” by birdwatchers, humans struggle to identify them in the field. The birds, however, are able to tell each other apart, and he hopes to unravel the history behind their speciation.
His favourite bird so far is the Pacific Swift (Apus pacificus), but he is sometimes unfaithful when Needletails (Hirundapus sp.) fly by.
Shiva is currently working on his UROPS project- a comparative study of population-genomic diversity across two closely related species of river frog in Singapore, Blyth’s River Frog (Limnonectes blythii) and the Malesian Frog (Limnonectes malesianus). He hopes to investigate how the population genomics of the two species has changed over time, by comparing fresh genetic data with historical samples from various local sites
In his spare time, Shiva is always ready to go birding in the morning and herping at night, sometimes taking the occasional nap in between.
Denise is currently investigating avian blood parasites for her final year project. She hopes to broadly learn more about them, including their prevalence and the larger implications on avian health and conservation.
Despite living in a concrete jungle, she loves animals and is interested in a variety of animal-related issues, from animal welfare to human-wildlife conflicts.
Gabriel is working on the large hawk-cuckoo (genus Hierococcyx) species complex, using bioacoustic measurements to see if there is a potential split within the genus.
Gabriel is from BES (Bachelor of Environmental Studies), specialising in Geography, so his home faculty is FASS (Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences). He enjoys birding with his friends, and his favourite bird would be the collared kingfisher, simply because it’s the first bird he really started noticing in his neighbourhood. Gabriel enjoys playing sports, mostly football.