Singapore got marine biologists meh?

I get this question a lot! It would rank in my top three FAQ over my not-so-long career, apart from ‘Why giant clams?!’ Well, that’s another story for another day! 😉

Given that SO MUCH has happened for the marine science scene in Singapore over the past two years, I feel it is timely to share our research work as a community, and how we intend to strengthen marine science research in Singapore and the region. But first, watch this video of my colleagues talking about why they chose a marine science career!

Want to know more about the daily musings of marine scientists? Check out the other videos here!

Under the leadership of programme director, Professor Peter Ng, this is the latest effort of the Marine Science R&D Programme (MSRDP) office in promoting careers in marine science and to encourage the younger generation to take up studies in marine science in Singapore. The National Research Foundation (Singapore) has invested $25 million over five years for the MSRDP, which targets to augment local talent development in marine science research through training, internships, collaborative partnerships with agencies and industries.

In short, the focus is on capacity-building!

22 different projects are currently being supported and funded by these grants, as well as the establishment of the St. John’s Island marine station to a national research institute, and renamed St. John’s Island National Marine Laboratory. (duh! 😉 ) [P.S: I can still remember the time when we all thought that we were going to lose our only marine station in Singapore. Read more here and here.]

To help our young ones get the necessary training and education, there are a number of scholarships/fellowships (and internships!) that will be made available across various age groups. Here are some listed (UPDATED 17 January 2018):

Undergraduates/Diploma/JC students:

  • National University of Singapore (NUS), Faculty of Science, MSRDP Overseas Programme Award [Suitable for Undergraduates only. More details will be made available at a later date.]
  • EXPLORE Young Marine Scientists Award [Suitable for ALL categories]
  • FREE Online course on Marine and Antarctic Science by Professor Craig Johnson and Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas (University of Tasmania [Suitable for ALL categories]



  • National Research Foundation (Singapore), International Collaborative Fellowship for the Commonwealth (Collaboration with Royal Society UK) [Details here]

For those who are keen to join us on this (arduous) journey of being a marine biologist in Singapore – well, you’re in luck! Through my work, I learnt about the numerous and different local institutions that do marine science work in Singapore. Learn more about them at their home websites. [Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list!]

Also, a number of local institutions are now offering courses related to marine sciences such as:

Advice from one marine biologist to an aspiring marine biologist

Don’t give up easily. This is likely the MOST cliché and overused phrase, but hey! I walked the path, and I’m still on it because I didn’t give up easily. It may look like a glamorous and amazing job – we had to work hard for everything and at times, bear the harsh forces of weather elements.

I am blessed and fortunate to have achieved much in my career, and while it is decorated with honours and awards, I had my fair share of challenges, insecurity, and self-doubt. The definition of a marine biologist differs among individuals. For me, it was to become a skilled marine biologist, where I had gone through rigorous training of research skills, fieldwork, statistics, a lot of independent learning and thinking, as well as leadership and management. A fellow marine biologist shared her experience here, and tells of how it wasn’t an easy journey for her too.

However, I knew I had to keep trying if I wanted to succeed. I had to keep trying if my experiments failed. I had to keep trying if my proposals failed. I had to keep trying because I wanted to reach my purpose – to protect this fragile marine ecosystem.

Have faith in what you do, and know that whatever you choose to do – you have, at least, taken the first step towards becoming a marine biologist. Good luck!