7 marine research projects awarded under R&D programme

Lianne Chia Channel NewsAsia 28 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has one of the most urbanised marine environments in the world. And yet coral reefs are thriving in its waters, with more than 200 species of reef-building corals and about 200 species of fishes documented on reefs here.

A research project by the National University of Singapore (NUS) hopes to find out why these reefs have managed to survive.

The project is one of seven awarded by the Government under the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) marine science research and development programme. Deputy Prime Minister and NRF chairman Teo Chee Hean made the announcement at the official launch of the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory on Monday (Nov 28).

NRF will invest S$25 million over five years in the programme, which hopes to develop more talent in marine science research by training research scientists, engineers and PhD students in the field. There will also be internships and collaborative partnerships with industry for technology development and applications.

"As a low-lying island, global warming and the rise in sea levels and temperatures can pose challenges to our marine ecosystems," said Mr Teo, adding that the environmental health of Singapore's waters will also affect Singapore's water supply, which is partly from desalination. "It will also impact aquaculture which provides a local food source.

"Therefore, it is important for Singapore to build up a good understanding of tropical marine science and our marine environment."

PROJECTS TO ADDRESS "PERTINENT NATIONAL CHALLENGES": DPM TEO

The seven awarded projects cover a variety of topics including the development and decline of algal blooms in Singapore, the ecological engineering of seawalls to enhance biodiversity, and how Singapore’s coral reefs could be affected by planned development projects.

These projects will address "pertinent national challenges", Mr Teo said.

NRF said it received 30 white papers since the call for projects under the programme was launched in October last year. An international evaluation panel recommended awards to the seven projects based on their quality and relevance to Singapore.

A well-equipped marine science facility like the St John's Island National Marine Laboratory will also complement Singapore's research and development the manage and conserve its waters and coastline, added Mr Teo.

The laboratory, which is Singapore’s only offshore marine research facility, was designated a national research infrastructure in March. This means that the laboratory will be open to all researchers in Singapore and international partners.

The facility will also be upgraded with new equipment to support emerging research areas. A skilled core team of scientists and technicians will also train and guide new researchers in marine science, Mr Teo said.

The laboratory will also undertake outreach and education initiatives to share research outcomes with the public. "Activities such as nature walks and residential training workshops will enhance understanding of our marine environment," added Mr Teo.

- CNA/lc


7 research projects awarded under marine science R&D programme
Today Online 29 Nov 16;

SINGAPORE — The National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the Prime Minister’s Office, has shortlisted seven new research projects to jump-start a S$25 million programme, to address pertinent national challenges such as enhancing the resilience of Singapore’s coral reefs and understanding the cause of algae blooms, among other areas.

Apart from building up new knowledge, the national marine science research and development programme aims to develop a new generation of marine scientists and researchers, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday at the official opening of the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory.

Among the seven awarded projects is one that will study how coral reefs in Singapore managed to survive while coping with stressors such as land reclamation due to the island’s urbanisation.

The study’s outcome will allow researchers to exploit these habitats’ utility as real-time biological monitors of environmental change.

In another project, researchers will study the viral composition of algal blooms, which are a growing problem in Singapore waters, often causing economic losses to industries such as fish farming and tourism.

The team will study how algal blooms rise and later decline in tropical waters, to hopefully develop tools for risk assessment of environmental conditions that lead to their growth.

Mr Teo, who is chairman of NRF, said: “As a low-lying island, global warming and the rise in sea levels and temperatures can pose challenges to (Singapore’s) marine ecosystems.

“The environmental health of our waters will affect our water supply, which is partly from desalination. It will also impact aquaculture, which provides a local food source. Therefore, it is important for Singapore to build up a good understanding of tropical marine science and our marine environment.”

The National University of Singapore (NUS) would manage this programme, but it is designed for different universities and research institutes to work together with public agencies and industry players to address common challenges, Mr Teo said.

Mr George Loh, NRF director of programmes, pointed out that stresses caused by heavy shipping, urbanisation and climate change affect the marine environment, and new knowledge discovered from research could be translated into effective solutions to ensure the environmental sustainability of Singapore’s coastal area.

The programme will look into four main fields: Marine ecosystems and biodiversity, environment impact and monitoring, coastal ecological engineering, and marine technology and platforms.

Professor Peter Ng, the programme director, said that the seven selected projects had gone through “very rigorous screening” by local and international scientists.

The call for projects was launched in October last year, and 30 white papers were received.

In opening the laboratory yesterday to complement marine research efforts, Mr Teo said that the facility may now be used by all researchers in Singapore and international partners.

First launched in 2002 as an NUS research facility, it will be upgraded with new equipment, while a skilled core team of scientists and technicians will train and guide new researchers in marine science.

The lab will also share research outcomes with the public through educational outreach and activities such as nature walks.

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