Rachel Tan is a NParks Undergraduate Scholarship recipient who currently works as a Manager at the National Orchid Garden, NParks. She studied at Imperial College London and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with Management.
The National Orchid Garden is one our most iconic landmarks, hosting more than 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids in its collections.
Behind this dazzling display is the tireless work of the National Parks Board (NParks), our leading agency on greenery, biodiversity conservation, and animal health, welfare and management. It manages four nature reserves and over 350 parks and gardens, including the National Orchid Garden and the island-wide Park Connector Network, to provide green spaces for biodiversity and opportunities for residents to connect with nature in our urban landscape.
To work at NParks is to take part in turning its "City in Nature" vision into reality. NParks Undergraduate Scholar Rachel Tan is one of the many dedicated individuals behind this transformation.
The Manager at the National Orchid Garden spoke to us about her journey with NParks and the commitment to conservation and biodiversity inherent in a career with this focused and driven organisation.
How did your interest in Biology lead you to NParks?
I've always had a love for nature, as my parents took me to explore different parks in Singapore and hiking at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve every weekend when I was a child.
So, as I was considering what to study after my GCE-A levels, I had a good think about where my interests lay, and I eventually decided to pursue Ecology so that I could build upon my understanding of the natural world and equip myself to better conserve our living environment.
I was attracted to the NParks Undergraduate Scholarship as I could see a link between what I would study and the values NParks stands for. I felt drawn to become a part of the wonderful work NParks is doing in creating and maintaining our green spaces and conserving our natural heritage.
Under the NParks Scholarship, you studied at Imperial College London. Any scholar-specific experiences?
Definitely! As part of the scholarship, NParks supported me to go on some of the most exciting and memorable trips of my life, so I'm very thankful to NParks for that!
The first was a scientific expedition to Romania with my other NParks scholarship batchmates, where we got to conduct biodiversity surveys in the rolling grasslands of Transylvania while living on farms.
The second was to South Africa for one of my university modules, where I honed my field ecology skills while exploring the breathtaking coasts and mountains there.
The third was to Berkeley for summer school, where I got the chance to enrich my learning through taking courses in soil and ocean science, with the San Francisco area as my home for a few months.
These seem to have provided you with a good grounding for your current position. What does being a Manager at the National Orchid Garden entail?
In a nutshell, I am in charge of maintaining the orchid nurseries. I help manage orchid cultivation and enhance the various nursery collections so that we can not only provide orchids for display, but also contribute to the Gardens' orchid hybridisation and conservation programmes. I can honestly say that I enjoy this job a lot!
We understand this is not your first position with NParks. Can you tell us about your previous rotations?
Before my current role, I was in NParks' Conservation Division, where I helped to manage the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Managing such an ecologically sensitive yet highly visited nature area gave me the opportunity to learn to balance operational requirements with conservation and recreational priorities. It was very meaningful to me that my work could have a direct impact on visitors' experiences and of course on conserving the nature reserve as an invaluable habitat for our native flora and fauna.
Besides my core work, I am also involved in several cross-divisional projects. For instance, I help to plan and coordinate tree-planting events and community engagement efforts across Singapore under an important pillar of our City in Nature vision, the OneMillionTrees movement which aims to plant one million more trees across Singapore by 2030. The OneMillionTrees movement is a force driven by the community — Singaporeans from all walks of life coming together to plant trees to shape their living environment, build a sense of environmental stewardship and forge stronger bonds.
Tell us more about what a "City in Nature" means to you and your work.
Singapore has evolved over the decades from a Garden City to a City in a Garden, and now to a City in Nature, and I think this very clearly reflects the direction not only for our organisation, but for the whole of our nation.
At the core of NParks' work is connecting people to nature. Knowing that the work I do can have an impact on the entirety of Singapore and make a tangible difference to both people and the environment — this is something I really appreciate about my job!
We imagine that to make this vision a reality, NParks would require more than those in botany and horticulture. Can you tell us about other opportunities with this organisation?
Certainly! NParks offers a wide variety of job scopes, from the management of our parks, gardens, streetscapes, and nature areas, to parks planning and development, animal and veterinary service, communications, and corporate strategy, just to name a few. Working at NParks certainly opens the door to a whole range of career possibilities and can cater to many different interests!
An exciting array indeed! Let's close with some final words of encouragement: What would you say to convince someone to join NParks?
There is never a dull day at NParks!
If you enjoy working outdoors, doing hands-on work, being close to nature, and learning more about our natural environment, you should definitely consider joining NParks!