When you tell someone you are a scientist, the image that pops into their mind, is often that of someone working in the laboratory, wearing a white coat and retro safety glasses. And that is not far from the truth for many in the STEM fields.
But for those of us in the natural sciences, there often exists another glamorous component... Fieldwork. In our lab, this often involves travelling to different countries and exploring different kinds of habitats to sample insects. From swampy mangroves and dense forests to urban neighbourhoods, insects can occupy a whole range of niches. We collect insects from different environments and whenever possible, we try to observe what they do in the 'wild'.
One of the main insect models we use in our lab are sepsid flies: a family of flies that are closely associated with dung. Yep... they are poop flies. These flies play a vital role in breaking down organic waste and in nutrient cycling. Plus, they have really cool morphology and mating behavior (https://www.youtube.com/user/sepsidbehavior2009). Dr. P started working on them as an undergraduate and has now spent more than a decade chasing cows and their patties across the world.
Now, you might be wondering, where can you find cow dung in the urban jungle that is Singapore. Well, it turns out, the Zoo. Since 2006, the kind folk working at the Singapore Night Safari have been collaborating with the Evolution Lab at NUS in providing different kinds of animal dung to be used for research purposes. Now, we at the ReproLab, have joined the band wagon.