On March 17th, the Smithsonian Institution signed a memorandum of understanding with Nanyang Technological University to expand both science and education related to two global environmental monitoring networks pioneered at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama: the Forest Global Earth Observatory, ForestGEO and the newly established Marine Global Earth Observatory, MarineGEO.
NTU recently established the Asian School of the Environment to address key issues of the environment and sustainability by integrating Earth systems, environmental life sciences, ecology, engineering, humanities and the social sciences. Focusing on Asian environmental challenges, NTU will hire two new faculty members who will also be appointed as Research Associates at the Smithsonian and spend time in Panama and Washington, D.C., where STRI’s Stuart Davies, director of the Center for Tropical Forest Science, coordinates the ForestGEO network of more than 60 tropical and temperate long-term forest monitoring sites in 24 countries.
NTU Provost Professor Freddy Boey and the Smithsonian’s Interim Under Secretary for Science, John Kress, signed the MOU at the Smithsonian’s Castle in Washington, D.C.. His Excellency Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States also attended.
This agreement builds on a long-standing collaboration between Stuart Davies and Shawn Lum, Associate Professor at NTU’s National Institute of Education. “CTFS-ForestGEO has had a 23-year partnership with the Institute. We have 3 large forest dynamics plots in Singapore where we monitor over 420 tree species, and where we have trained numerous students.”
Some of NTU Singapore's ambitious environmental science projects include the establishment of observation sites at the Sumatra subduction zone for seismic activity, the study of biofilms in urban waterways, the building of a comprehensive global oceanographic database and the sequencing of the air microbiome.
NTU trustee and professor Alexander Zehnder was instrumental in sealing the partnership between the university and the Smithsonian Institution. He said: “The quest for sustainability is even more crucial today than ever, given the rapid climate change fuelled by the world’s population boom.”
“The tropics are home to about 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity," said professor John Stephen Lansing, co-director of NTU’s Complexity Institute. “Just to the south of Singapore is the Coral Triangle, and most of the world’s marine biodiversity. These are the crown jewels of our planet. Half of the world’s children live in the tropics, and that number is projected to rise to two-thirds by the middle of the century. But the future is a time that we can change.”
“This agreement will strengthen our ForestGEO partnerships in the region and help ensure that ForestGEO has a robust presence in Asia,” said Matt Larsen, STRI Director. “It is testament to the scientific vision that began with a single 50-hectare plot in 1980 at STRI’s Barro Colorado Island Nature Monument.”
Sources: NTU press release
Position description from Nature magazine