Seminar by Nanyang Assistant Professorship Finalists

Seminar by Nanyang Assistant Professorship Finalists

Event Type: 

  • Seminar


ASE 3D Visualisation Laboratory (N2-B1c-16c)


28 January, 2019 - 11:00 to 14:30

About the Event: 

Five Nanyang Assistant Professorship finalists will each give a 30-minute seminar. There will be also be a lunch and networking session at 12:00 pm.

Seminar 1: Seeing through clouds: Radar remote sensing of natural hazards and disasters across Southeast Asia


Eric Lindsey, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Southeast Asia is among the most hazard-prone regions in the world and disasters here commonly occur in densely populated but poorly instrumented areas. In this talk, I will highlight several ways I have used remote sensing data to construct a better understanding of Earth hazards in the region, and to help us rapidly respond to both expected and unexpected natural disasters. In Nepal, radar remote sensing (InSAR) observations of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake suggested that seismic hazard there might be controlled by the three-dimensional fault structure, an idea we validated using new physical models together with ground-based remote sensing (GPS) observations from across the Himalayas. In Myanmar, we have collected a large set of new GPS observations that reveal activity on some unexpected faults and are helping us begin to piece together the puzzle of this region’s complex tectonic history. Beyond the monitoring of long-term Earth hazards, radar remote sensing data are virtually unaffected by clouds and therefore provide a key tool for rapid assessment and response to disasters across the region; for example, I will show results from the 2015 Kinabalu, 2016 Kumamoto and 2018 Lombok and Palu earthquakes; the 2017 Mt. Agung and 2018 Mayon eruptions; and the 2018 Laos dam collapse. The InSAR data have also revealed a concerning trend of accelerating subsidence in cities across the region, reflecting unsustainable use of groundwater that has resulted in new flooding hazards. These examples show how remote sensing data has the potential to transform our understanding of the distribution of disasters and their impacts, so that Singapore and its partners can prepare effectively.

Seminar 2: Quantitative Remote Sensing of Solar Induced Fluorescence for Photosynthesis Monitoring from Space


Tiangang Yin, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA

Accurate estimation of key physical, chemical and physiological variables of vegetation over large scale is important for better understanding the Earth system dynamics. Solar induced fluorescence (SIF) that is synchronously emitted during the photosynthetic activity of vegetation can be detected from novel remote sensing platforms. This has a great potential to map vegetation primary production with improved accuracy. Although abundant satellite resources have been publicly provided and maintained by NASA and ESA, most of them aim for global products with relatively low temporal and spatial resolution, and inadequate local adaptations. The interpretation and calibration of remote sensing data at biologically and evolutionarily diverse and spatially heterogeneous regions must be further addressed with three important questions: How to solve the inconsistency compared with local ground-based measures? How to downscale the data to acquire information on the functioning of trees? How much SIF emitted by leaves can escape the canopy and get measured in space? My research focuses on earth-atmosphere coupled 3-D radiative transfer modeling of remote sensing measurements and the advanced model inversion for estimations of physical, chemical and physiological variables of vegetation. In this seminar, I will explore the upscaling linkage from chemical constituents of the leaves and the physical representation of the canopy, to the remote sensing measurements. I will introduce the novel approaches in using physical models to link the SIF measurements from space to the photosynthetic activity of vegetation canopy. I will illustrate the capabilities and limitations of SIF remote sensing and how to quantitatively interpret the data at a local scale (e.g., Southeast Asia), while considering various environmental conditions as well as stress impacts influencing the vegetation primary productivity.

Seminar 3: Understanding the benefits of natural infrastructure to co-create resilient and inclusive cities


Perrine Hamel, CIRED - International Research Centre for the Environment and Development, France

Identifying pathways to urban sustainability is critical for society, especially for cities in the South that face the greatest challenges. Natural infrastructure (urban forests, parks, trees, green roofs and other urban green infrastructure) is a promising solution for urban development: it provides multiple benefits to citizens, from urban cooling to stormwater management, noise attenuation, and improved mental and physical health. My research focuses on quantifying these benefits and identifying the beneficiaries, to design urban systems in a way that maximizes environmental protection and human wellbeing. I will present a suite of software tools, InVEST, that I currently develop for this purpose and show how this information is being used in urban planning around the world (US, Europe, and China).

Seminar 4: Ecological processes governing Southeast Asian forests and consequences from the ‘big four’ human disturbances: hunting, deforestation, oil palm expansion, and climate change


Matthew Scott Luskin, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Community ecologists study how species interactions structure ecosystems, such as through predation and competition for limited food. In my talk, I will explain how high rates of hunting, deforestation, and oil palm expansion in Asia have impacted wildlife and plants and their interactions. Then I will propose a new approach to researching these effects by focusing on the basic underlying ecological processes structuring food webs. I will show how my application of new methodical advances to understand complex systems will lead to breakthroughs in terms of both basic ecological knowledge about Singapore’s ecology and applied conservation solutions. Finally, I’ll explain how climate change may fundamentally alter ecosystem regulating processes in Asia and I will highlight novel approaches to researching this issue.

Seminar 5: The hidden world of marine protists


Adriana Lopes doc Santos, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore  

At some point of your academic life, you probably heard about cells called protists. I would bet you can remember or heard the name of some iconic protist members such as Entamoeba histolytica (which causes dysentery), Toxoplasma gondii (parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis) or Plasmodium falciparum (the Malaria parasite). However, the diversity and function of protists go well beyond human parasites. The term protist refers to single-celled eukaryotic (cells with nuclei) organisms. Protists can be found in nearly every ecosystem on Earth that harbors life. Many thousands of species have been described, including fossil “species” which are commonly employed as tools for reconstructing climatological conditions of ancient oceans and lakes. Still entire groups are only known from their DNA and their form, life style and biology remain unknown. The evolution of protists holds the keys to understand the origin of the eukaryotic cell and the emergence of multicellularity. Protists are responsible for numerous essential ecological and biogeochemical functions in terrestrial and aquatic environments, including photosynthesis, trophic coupling, elemental transformations and decomposition. Photosynthetic protists (phytoplankton) form the base of food web in aquatic environments including the world oceans while heterotrophic protists are essential in the decomposition and remineralization of nutrient elements in water, sediments, and soils. During this talk, I will lead you through the fascinating diversity of the marine protists with a special focus on marine phytoplankton.

About the Speaker: 

Tiangang Yin

Dr Tiangang Yin has been a joint postdoctoral researcher at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center of the University of Maryland since January 2018.

Prior to joining GSFC, he was a SMART Scholar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART). He obtained his B.Sc. in Physics and M.Eng. in Computer Sciences from National University of Singapore, and his Ph.D. in Remote Sensing and Geoscience from the Centre d'Etudes Spatiales de la BIOsphère, Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse, France.

Tiangang’s research interests include retrieval of solar induced chlorophyll fluorescence from remote sensing data, 3-D reconstruction of vegetation and biophysical parameter estimation from airborne and terrestrial LiDAR, and 3-D radiative transfer modeling and energy balance of the Earth’s surfaces coupling with atmosphere. He aims to use quantitative remote sensing to monitor carbon cycling in Southeast Asia and to better understand the forest ecosystem. Since July 2017, he has been a co-Principle Investigator for a Singapore National Parks project “Remote sensing for urban tree management: species classification and health monitoring”. He is co-advising two Ph.D. students from Paul Sabatier University and ETH Zurich on LiDAR remote sensing and urban vegetation.

Perrine Hamel

Perrine is a senior scientist at the Natural Capital Project, a partnership between academic institutions and environmental NGOs (WWF and The Nature Conservancy) with a hub at Stanford University. Since 2017, she leads the Livable Cities research program, which aims to understand and elevate the role of nature in urban environments. Her research focuses on the relationship between nature and human well-being, with a particular interest in hydrologic services and urban environments. She has worked with NGOs, public and private actors around the world, most recently in Latin America and South East Asia (Myanmar). Prior to this experience, she has worked as an environmental engineer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and as a researcher in environmental modelling. Perrine holds a Master of Civil and Environmental Engineering from Ecole Centrale Nantes, France, and a PhD from Monash University, Australia.

Matthew Scott Luskin

Matthew Scott Luskin obtained his PhD from UC Berkeley in Environmental Science, Policy and Management in 2016. He has spent 10 years working in Southeast Asia’s most pristine rainforests and researching apex predators, such as Sumatran tigers and clouded leopards. He is currently a research fellow at NTU in the Asian School of the Environment. Dr. Luskin now coordinates wildlife research at the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent research sites in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. In the past 12 months, Dr. Luskin’s work has appeared in top journals and gained considerable interest (two first-authored papers in Nature Communications and one co-first authored paper in PNAS, with coverage by The New York Times and National Geographic. More information about Matthew and his work is available on his website:

Adriana Lopes doc Santos

I received my bachelor degree in Genetics and Molecular biology from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Wishing very early to follow an academic career, I enrolled in the Master (2004 – 2006) program and soon followed by a PhD in environmental Microbiology (2006 – 2010). During my PhD, I was awarded a government scholarship that allowed me to spend a year at University of Michigan in Dr. James Tiedje laboratory. There, I had the opportunity to discover the potential of high throughput sequencing technologies to investigate the microbial diversity in different environments. When I graduated, I was fascinated by the oceans and decided to pursue an academic career in marine microbiology. I started as a junior postdoctoral research fellow at the Oceanographic Institute at the University of São Paulo, Brazil (2011 – 2012). Late in 2012, I moved to France, where I worked for the 5 years at the Station Biologique in Roscoff (France), focusing on oceanic microalgae, connecting the analysis of large scale molecular biology data sets from the marine environment with classical methods such as isolation and cultivation of marine phytoplankton. I took my new position at Nanyang Technological University in May 2018 where I am pursuing my quest of the phytoplankton world, determined to place NTU as a forefront institution in this research area.