Singapore has always been doing well balancing the needs of the environment with economic growth. However, to retain its status as a “City in a Garden” is something that takes consistent and conscious effort. It is a role that requires an understanding of urbanisation, a passion for the environment, and the wisdom to merge the two. This purposeful work is delegated to the talented team at the National Parks Board (NParks). We speak to one such talent, Kathleen Yap, to find out how her role as Manager (Jurong Lake Gardens) will enhance the flora and fauna in our island, and how the organisation has enabled her to blossom alongside the greenery around us.
Sowing Seeds of Passion
Kathleen’s seeds of passion for the natural environment were sowed during her childhood spent overseas. Her earliest memories were of being immersed in forests and observing wildlife by the lakes close to her home – happy memories that taught her how the natural environment has an immeasurable impact on one’s wellbeing.
Returning to Singapore, she observed the stark contrast between her past and new life, and began to understand the intricate relationship that urbanisation has with the quality of natural spaces. Driven to do something about this, she set her heart on serving the community through improving the green spaces around them.
Naturally, she was attracted to NParks. She reflects, “NParks has such an important role in protecting our nature and wildlife. They think of innovative ways to incorporate greenery into the city, and they encourage local and international involvement to do the same for urban developments. I knew I wanted to contribute to their good work.”
Kathleen Yap Kai Lin
NParks Overseas Undergraduate Scholar
Manager (Jurong Lake Gardens)
Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences
University of California, Los Angeles
Kathleen was offered the NParks Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship, enabling her to fly to USA to complete her education in the field of Environmental Science – an experience she says she is endlessly grateful for. Studying overseas and in a multi-cultural city gave her the opportunity to meet and interact with people from all walks of life, as well as to meet big players in the environmental science industry.
It was during this time that she became acquainted with different laws and policies – all of which, she believes have deepened her understanding of how political, social, and scientific realms come together to impact environmental policy.
Further ensuring Kathleen developed in her desired field, NParks enabled her to take on various internships with the organisation through the scholarship. Kathleen worked in three different departments, where she delved into a range of activities, including but not limited to wildlife conservation initiatives, facilitating habitat enhancement projects, and conducting greening programmes in schools. “Together, these experiences gave me good insights into the various roles in NParks and how these could range from working with the local community all the way to shaping international policies,” Kathleen shares.
Thriving in Her Natural Environment
Kathleen believes it is through these experiences that she has managed to acquire the skills needed to make an impact. During her time as a Parks Manager with the Arts & Heritage Division, she facilitated operations and events across parks, working on park development projects, and restoring national monuments. She was also co-place manager of the civic district, working closely with government agencies and stakeholders to organise events like Formula 1, the National Day Parade, arts festivals, and Car Free Sundays.
“Admittedly, there will be many aspects of a job that a college degree will not prepare you for, but at NParks, there is no shortage of expertise or lack of people willing to teach and help,” Kathleen says. “It is an amazing community to work alongside and I truly think that being in an environment where everyone is passionate about their work has helped me speed up my development and growth,” she adds.
Now involved with the development of Jurong Lake Gardens, Kathleen believes that with her passion, interest in learning, and the guidance of the organisation combined, she will be able to fulfil her aspirations and better integrate the natural environment with the modern lifestyle of Singaporeans.
To those looking to take up NParks scholarships, she advises, “Be bold and do not let good opportunities pass you by. Seek advice from those with experience, and take risks occasionally so you can broaden your perspectives and grow. Ultimately, the best way to learn about the natural sciences is to be in it – so go out and explore!”