Museum drives biodiversity research
The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) opened its doors as part of the celebrations for NUS’ 110th year and Singapore’s 50th year. Supported by private gifts, the Museum will make Singapore and Southeast Asia’s rich natural history accessible to the general public and play a critical role in facilitating transformative research.
Built with philanthropic support from donors including Lee Foundation, Tote Board, Far East Organization, Dr LEE Seng Gee, Dr Della LEE and a special group of donors who prefer to be anonymous, LKCNHM stores and showcases one of Southeast Asia’s largest and oldest natural history collections.
These priceless treasures had been packed away for many years and only a small selection used to be accessible to the public at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research in the Faculty of Science. With the new museum, a much larger part of this grand collection of important plant and animal species, some dating back to 1862, can be exhibited in an ultra-modern 2,000 square metres public gallery, with three gigantic original dinosaur skeletons as its centrepiece. This gallery will be a valuable teaching and learning resource NUS researchers and students; as well as the general public. In addition, the over half a million plant and animal specimens are now stored in perpetuity in a state-of-the-art facility with full temperature and humidity control; with modern research facilities to allow scientists from all over the world to examine and study them.
Prof Peter NG, Head of LKCNHM at NUS, shares, “The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is as much about preserving our collective memory of Singapore’s natural history as contributing to the biodiversity knowledge of Southeast Asia. The new Museum will not only share with the public the natural treasures that existed at the time of Sir Stamford Raffles, it will also tell the story of our planet’s evolutionary past and present, using the magnificent family of dinosaurs as a focal point.”
Behind the scenes at the Museum: transformative research highlights
Making new discoveries under the sea
Researchers from LKCNHM were part of the first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, a study of Singapore’s marine ecosystems conducted by the National Parks Board and the Tropical Marine Science Institute. Apart from the discovery of several dozen new species, more than 100 kinds of sea creatures have been found for the first time in local waters, including the zebra crab and lampshell.
Lending environmental expertise
LKCNHM is working with TEMASEK to help implement a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as part of the government’s plans to build a mega nature attraction in the Mandai precinct. The Museum will tap on its biodiversity expertise to ensure that the plans are environmentally sensitive and the integrity of the natural environment is maintained.
A modern cryofacility storing thousands of important tissue samples from the region has put the Museum at the forefront of conservation research. State-of-the-art genetic sequencing has allowed researchers at NUS to find out more about the critically endangered banded leaf monkey and aid the country’s efforts to save the species from extinction. The Museum will be doing more genetic work on other endangered species to help conserve them.