What began as a childhood fascination with grasshoppers eventually led Mr Tan Ming Kai (Science ‘15) to the discovery of 63 new orthopteran species in the region.
The word “adorable” is not often used to describe orthopterans — an order of insects that comprises grasshoppers, locusts and crickets. But as a child, Mr Tan Ming Kai felt that these bugs were exactly that. This sentiment has not changed nor waned, for the now-28 year-old, who is currently pursuing his PhD in Biological Sciences at NUS. The child-like curiosity has evolved however into an even deeper appreciation. “I am fascinated by how diverse [orthopterans] are in forms and functions,” says Mr Tan. “Some have bright colourful patterns, while others closely resemble plant parts; some are carnivorous, whereas others are pollinators.”
Since 2009, Mr Tan has searched high and low to collect and identify these insects. His research has taken him across Singapore and also around the region to Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines. The efforts have paid off.