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Bats off to you

Most people travel to Australia to enjoy theme parks and beaches, but not Miss Jaslyn Chan. The 22-year-old is proud that she spent five months in Brisbane, Australia analysing bat echolocation calls.

“I climbed into caves with known bat colonies and watched as they flew out at dusk for their daily hunting and foraging,” Miss Chan adds excitedly.

The opportunity to do such unique research came because she was part of the CN Yang Scholars Programme (CNYSP), offered by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Miss Chan is currently majoring in Environmental Earth Systems Science (EESS) with a specialisation in society and earth systems.

Miss Chan says, “The offers of overseas learning trips, sponsorships for science programmes and mentorships by alumni made me feel like I would be well-supported and valued as an individual.”

Long nights with bats
One key benefit of being in CNYSP was being able to pursue unique research projects. From March to Aug last year, Miss Chan was based in Brisbane, Australia, conducting an analysis of bat echolocation calls to help create an automated acoustic identification system for Australian bats.

“Using acoustic analysis programmes, I extracted certain call parameters that could be used to  differentiate between different bat species,” she explains. “We managed to create an identifier  that could differentiate between 23 Australian bat species with high accuracy.”

Miss Chan also embarked on a field trip to the north of Australia, where she set up bat traps to aid her research. This part of the research project involved waking up early in the morning every day, checking the bat traps to make sure the ones that were caught did not overheat.

Just the beginning
The research on bats was Miss Chan’s final year project. She had initially planned to do her  research locally but was inspired to travel overseas because of CNYSP’s promise of  administrative and financial support.

Dr Shawn Lum and Assoc Prof Adam Switzer, faculty members at NTU’s Asian School of the Environment, helped by putting Miss Chan in touch with relevant contacts.

“CNYSP supports budding researchers and it is a good stepping stone for anyone who is looking to go into academia,” she says.

It was this research trip that deepened Miss Chan’s passion for research and wildlife.

She says: “I’ve always wanted to work with wildlife in one form or another and this experience
strengthened my resolve in my plans for my future.

“I was very lucky to have experienced supervisors who taught me a lot about bats and their  ecology. I realised that I’ve only just skimmed the surface of this area of study, but I’m inspired by their passion and knowledge. This is an affirmation that I might be on the right path toward doing something meaningful and enjoyable in the future.”