Published on 05 Nov 2021

First-ever NTU BioBlitz led to ASE students winning the Mr & Mrs Kwok Chin Yan Award for Student Initiative 2021

Last year (AY20/21), current year 4 EESS Ecology students Alexis Goh and Tay Li Si led Earthlink NTU’s Nature Guiding committee as the Co-Directors. They planned and executed several events to engage the NTU community to discover our rich local biodiversity, pick up nature-watching and identification skills, and to inspire action for conservation and human-wildlife coexistence movements. In February 2021, they organised the first-ever NTU BioBlitz – a campus-wide wildlife monitoring effort. It involved mobilising volunteer survey teams to record the biodiversity that can be found along transects in NTU, and the EcoClick Nature Photography Competition which challenged photographers to capture the beauty of biodiversity on campus.  

They were first inspired to organise the event when they took Dr Shawn Lum’s ES4301 Conservation Biology & Biodiversity module in AY20/21 Semester 1. NTU’s location at the boundary between urban and the wilder Western Catchment meant the occasional wandering of wild animals into our campus spaces; including rare and even endangered species. Yet no formal campus-wide monitoring efforts have been organised to document the amazing wildlife we share our campus grounds with. Thus, Alexis and Li Si took it upon themselves to launch the NTU BioBlitz! 

 Photo credit: Alexis Goh (left and right), and Cheryl Yong Kai Lin (middle).

In just two weeks (22 Feb –7 Mar 2021), our volunteers counted 400+ individuals and 153+ unique species! Highlights include the nationally critically-endangered Sunda pangolin, the migratory (not-so-common!) common kingfisher, and buffy fish owl. Many exciting finds were made at Yunnan Garden and Nanyang Lake, but more elusive forest species were also spotted along Nanyang Crescent. Excitingly, the team has continued to update a campus wildlife species list since the event, and over 320 species have now been documented visiting or residing on campus.  

The EcoClick Nature Photography competition received more than 60 entries. The finalists were screened and selected by a stellar judging panel of conservationists and nature photographers: Dr Shawn Lum (NSS President; ASE lecturer), Jayaprakash Bojan (NatGeo 2017 Photographer of the Year), Zestin Soh (A Guide to the Bees of Singapore co-author), Kathleen Yap (Sony Journey to Greatness 2019 winner), and Karl Png (SG Youth Biodiversity Network leader). The EcoClick winners were finally decided after judge scoring and public voting.  

Photo credit: Phoebe Zhou Hui Xin (left), Tan Pek Yeu (middle), Cheryl Yong Kai Lin (right).

At the end of the successful event, a new NTU Nature Watch Telegram chat was also opened for like-minded NTU biodiversity lovers to share sightings and discuss conservation topics. The community has grown to more than 300 members today – you can join the group too via this link:  

For organising the NTU BioBlitz 2021, the Nature Guiding team was extremely honoured to receive the Mr & Mrs Kwok Chin Yan award for Student Initiative at the Student Leaders’ Night (4 Oct 2021) (video), for its contributions to creating a vibrant student life and improvement of our campus environment. With campus biodiversity survey data, and now NTU management’s recognition of our rich campus wildlife, the team will continue to advocate for greater human-wildlife coexistence on campus, ensuring the unique biodiversity of NTU will be well-protected and conserved. 


By Alexis Goh