I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, supported by a Clarendon Scholarship. My independent research on community ecology is advised by Prof Owen Lewis (Oxon) and Asst Prof Benoit Guénard (HKU), and funded by the National Geographic Society and a Varley Gradwell Fellowship. Most of my current research focuses on ant communities in Hong Kong, drawing on empirical and experimental approaches. The first paper from my DPhil, a review of the trait-based ecology of terrestrial arthropods, is published in Biological Reviews. The second, which shows the functional homogenization of tropical ant communities by invasive fire ants, is published in Oikos. Several other papers are currently in preparation.
Previously, my Honours research at the Australian National University showed that parapatric populations of an Australian funnel-web spider displayed marked intraspecific variation in their morphological traits – but not physiological traits – which was congruent with their extensive underlying phylogeographic structure (Ecology and Evolution 7: 5094–5102). This work was advised by Prof Dave Rowell and Dr James Woodman, and was funded by the National Geographic Society, the Australian Wildlife Society, and the Australasian Wildlife Management Society.
From 2015 to 2017, I served as a Manager at Singapore’s National Parks Board, where I oversaw arboriculture contracts for urban greening and led citizen science and outreach programmes. Concurrently, under Asst Prof Guénard's long-distance mentorship, I explored the taxonomy and ecology of ants in my free time. I described 3 new ant species from Singapore and documented the natural history of rare genera (Publications 2016;2017). I also reviewed the diversity, ecology and sampling methods for the world's subterranean ants, a surprisingly diverse yet enigmatic and understudied community (Myrmecological News 25: 1–16).
Being extremely fortunate to have had only excellent mentors throughout my academic journey, I am motivated to help develop the next generation of scientists. At the University of Oxford and the University of Hong Kong, I teach undergraduate courses and mentor final year students in their research projects.
I am also passionate about outreach and science communication, particularly concerning uncharismatic fauna such as the arthropods. As a National Geographic Explorer, I have presented my work to the public and to universities at various events held by National Geographic, such as the Young Explorers Meetup in Washington DC, the Young Explorers Grant Workshops in Singapore and the Explorers Festival in Hong Kong. My research and observations have also contributed to National Geographic News pieces about funnel-web spiders, ants, and trilobite beetles.
My first attempt at science writing was an award-winning essay based on my research on the fascinating biology of subterranean ants. I've found Instagram to be an effective tool for bringing science to a younger audience, and on my account @ants_of_singapore you'll find brief write-ups on ants as well as myrmecology, the study of ants.
Finally, as a Founding Member of the Entomological Network of Singapore (ENSING), the country's only society dedicated to promoting entomology, I have organized educational installations, public talks and guided walks, and occasionally blog about Southeast Asian insects and their kin.
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