NTU partners US Smithsonian Institution on tropical ecology research

WASHINGTON D.C. - Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has partnered the world's largest museum and research complex in a collaboration to advance research on tropical ecology.

The partnership between NTU and the Smithsonian Institution in the United States - a complex of 19 museums and galleries, a zoo and nine research facilities - was inked on Monday afternoon in the states.

The event took place at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C., between NTU provost, Professor Freddy Boey, and Smithsonian's interim undersecretary for science, Dr John Kress.

This is the facility's first formal research agreement in Asia.

Prof Boey said: "Together with the Smithsonian Institution, our combined research efforts will be instrumental in advancing forest and marine ecological science, to better understand nature and the world around us.

"The discovery of such knowledge will allow scientists to tackle the huge challenges we have today, such as climate change and environmental degradation."

Under the collaboration, scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute will work with their counterparts from NTU's new Asian School of the Environment on research projects in the areas of biodiversity, forest and marine ecology, climate change, human-environment interactions and genomics.

The partnership will also establish NTU as the Asian scientific hub for the Smithsonian's Forest Global Earth Observatories programme (ForestGEO). It is a global network of more than 60 tropical and temperate forest plots in 24 countries where scientists examine forest function and diversity. For instance, a small patch of forest in Singapore's Bukit Timah is one of the sites studied under ForestGEO.

A joint professorship, for a "world-class scientist well-versed in the area of tropical terrestrial ecology", will also be set up between the two organisations. The candidate, who has not yet been identified, will act as a conduit and coordinate research projects between NTU and Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian's Dr Kress said: "The partnership with NTU will greatly benefit our Global Earth Observatories initiative and open new avenues for Smithsonian scientists in Asia. Together, NTU and Smithsonian scientists will make discoveries that neither could accomplish alone."

audreyt@sph.com.sg