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7 research projects awarded under marine science R&D programme

SINGAPORE — The National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the Prime Minister’s Office, has shortlisted seven new research projects to jump-start a S$25 million programme, to address pertinent national challenges such as enhancing the resilience of Singapore’s coral reefs and understanding the cause of algae blooms, among other areas.

SINGAPORE — The National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the Prime Minister’s Office, has shortlisted seven new research projects to jump-start a S$25 million programme, to address pertinent national challenges such as enhancing the resilience of Singapore’s coral reefs and understanding the cause of algae blooms, among other areas.

Apart from building up new knowledge, the national marine science research and development programme aims to develop a new generation of marine scientists and researchers, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday at the official opening of the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory.

Among the seven awarded projects is one that will study how coral reefs in Singapore managed to survive while coping with stressors such as land reclamation due to the island’s urbanisation.

The study’s outcome will allow researchers to exploit these habitats’ utility as real-time biological monitors of environmental change.

In another project, researchers will study the viral composition of algal blooms, which are a growing problem in Singapore waters, often causing economic losses to industries such as fish farming and tourism.

The team will study how algal blooms rise and later decline in tropical waters, to hopefully develop tools for risk assessment of environmental conditions that lead to their growth.

Mr Teo, who is chairman of NRF, said: “As a low-lying island, global warming and the rise in sea levels and temperatures can pose challenges to (Singapore’s) marine ecosystems.

“The environmental health of our waters will affect our water supply, which is partly from desalination. It will also impact aquaculture, which provides a local food source. Therefore, it is important for Singapore to build up a good understanding of tropical marine science and our marine environment.”

The National University of Singapore (NUS) would manage this programme, but it is designed for different universities and research institutes to work together with public agencies and industry players to address common challenges, Mr Teo said.

Mr George Loh, NRF director of programmes, pointed out that stresses caused by heavy shipping, urbanisation and climate change affect the marine environment, and new knowledge discovered from research could be translated into effective solutions to ensure the environmental sustainability of Singapore’s coastal area.

The programme will look into four main fields: Marine ecosystems and biodiversity, environment impact and monitoring, coastal ecological engineering, and marine technology and platforms.

Professor Peter Ng, the programme director, said that the seven selected projects had gone through “very rigorous screening” by local and international scientists.

The call for projects was launched in October last year, and 30 white papers were received.

In opening the laboratory yesterday to complement marine research efforts, Mr Teo said that the facility may now be used by all researchers in Singapore and international partners.

First launched in 2002 as an NUS research facility, it will be upgraded with new equipment, while a skilled core team of scientists and technicians will train and guide new researchers in marine science.

The lab will also share research outcomes with the public through educational outreach and activities such as nature walks.

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