National Parks Board
MND Cluster | NParks

Nature Begins with NParks

From rediscovering plants to observing plant and animal interactions, there is never a dull day at NParks for Scholar Yeoh Yi Shuen.
National Parks Board

NParks Scholar Yeoh Yi Shuen is a Manager in the National Biodiversity Centre and an NParks Undergraduate Scholar, who holds a Bachelor of Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford.

Despite being a highly urbanised city-state, Singapore boasts a surprising amount of biodiversity. Our island is home to more than 1,600 tree species, over 400 species of birds and almost 340 species of butterflies. And every year, we discover more plants and animals that have made Singapore their home.

National Parks Board (NParks) is the custodian of all flora and fauna on our shores, with the vision of transforming Singapore into a City in Nature. In the process, there is a need to be innovative in coming up with solutions to safeguard biodiversity and spread the conservation message.

In search of bright young minds who would provide such innovation, the NParks Scholarship is offered to promising talents such as NParks Scholar Yeoh Yi Shuen who works as a Manager at the National Biodiversity Centre.

Managing Biodiversity

As a child, Yi Shuen always liked playing outside. When stuck at home, she would watch nature shows and documentaries or maintain her garden.

When she grew older, she could put a name to her passion: biodiversity conservation.

“Biodiversity is important not just intrinsically, but also for its benefits to people. Trees help to keep the urban environment cool and hold the soil together, reducing storm water runoff during heavy flooding events. Nature provides an important space for recreation, social cohesion and for city dwellers to decompress from the stresses of urban living,” she said. “My main career interests lie in biodiversity conservation, as well as encouraging environmental awareness and a connection with nature.”

In pursuit of her passion, Yi Shuen began volunteering with the Conservation division of NParks around 2011, where she learnt more about the work and identified with their values of environmental stewardship and care and compassion.

Yeoh Yi Shuen

Yeoh Yi Shuen

Gaining A Wealth of Experience

This was also where she learnt about the NParks Scholarship. “I felt like I would be in a good position as an NParks Scholar to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity on a national level, and educate people about the importance of plants, biodiversity and conservation,” she recalled. “I would also be able to study the subject that I was most interested in, which was biology.”

Thanks to the scholarship, Yi Shuen studied biology at Oxford, immersing herself in learning about plant sciences, forestry, ecology and ecosystems, animal behaviour, as well as biodiversity conservation and policy. She appreciated the many opportunities to learn from experienced professors, small group tutorials that facilitated discussion and open invitations to seminars and talks.

“I learnt to appreciate different perspectives, articulate and justify my position to my coursemates and engage in a constructive learning process with them. This has shaped how I communicate with stakeholders with diverse perspectives and with different wants and needs today,” she shared.

NParks was active in her development as well. The organisation helped her link up with other scholars in the UK and encouraged her participation in summer programmes, including a research stint in the Cusuco National Park in Honduras, as well as internships at the National Orchid Garden and Native Plant Centre.

She puts her research background to good use as a Manager at the National Biodiversity Centre. On a given day, you might find Yi Shuen walking through sites with developers to understand the possible impact on biodiversity in the area and suggest sustainable solutions, or engaging the public through the OneMillionTrees movement, which aims to restore nature back into our city through the planting of a million more trees across Singapore by 2030.

“NParks offers a wide range of opportunities and roles for anyone wanting to work in the fields of landscaping, conservation, park management, animal management, plant and animal health, media and outreach, policy and planning and support services.” Yeoh Yi Shuen

“Right now, a key project I’m spearheading is on plant-animal ecology,” she told us. “Specifically, we are looking at plant-animal interactions in the field, which requires the use of camera traps and fruit characterisation to get a better understanding of the interactions between fruit-eaters and fruits in the forest.”

“Another aspect of my work involves conducting baseline surveys on the biodiversity of a site, which involves walking transects and recording the biodiversity encountered, including plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians and other groups.”

She enjoyed a rare achievement – a moment of discovery – during her work. “During my time at the Native Plant Centre, I rediscovered a species of climbing plant, the Gongronema wallichii, which is native to Singapore and was thought to be extinct for 198 years, and was able to propagate and grow it to flowering size!” she smiled.

As she looks ahead, Yi Shuen hopes to grow in her organisation and someday influence policy-making at more upstream stages of development project planning and design.

But she is quick to assure us that that is not all NParks has to offer: “NParks offers a wide range of opportunities and roles for anyone wanting to work in the fields of landscaping, conservation, park management, animal management, plant and animal health, media and outreach, policy and planning and support services.”

“Whatever the role is, you will be contributing to making Singapore a City in Nature and a more liveable place for people.”