MSc Biological Sciences Graduate Wins Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Jeffrey Cheah Scholastic Award!

Tee Thye Lim

Tee Thye Lim, who recently graduated with a Master of Science in Biological Sciences was conferred the Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Jeffrey Cheah Scholastic Award. This award includes prize money of MYR2,000 and a certificate signed by the award’s namesake himself.

Thye Lim’s research was supervised by seasoned bear researcher, Associate Professor Dr Shyamala Ratnayeke of the Department of Biological Sciences at School of Medical and Life Sciences, Sunway University. He worked on a project entitled, “Habitat relationships of sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), and an evaluation of non-invasive methods for estimating sun bear population size at Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia”.

For his project, Thye Lim developed logistically feasible methods to gather data on sun bears non-invasively. He also developed a landscape model of sun bear habitat use at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Thye Lim capitalized on the unique chest marks in sun bears, and that sun bears tend to rub on surfaces with strong smells.  Using  shrimp paste, duct tape and remote cameras, he was able to capture images of sun bear chest marks and simultaneously collect hair samples.  This method led to his research success. Thye Lim’s publication on his study can be found here: https://doi.org/10.2192/URSUS-S-20-00004.1.

According to Dr Ratnayeke, Thye Lim’s findings are an important breakthrough and will turn the needle on sun bear research. She added, “Thye Lim is a tough field biologist who is very independent and responds well to feedback. He was based in Sabah throughout his research work and we communicated as close as was possible, via limited network coverage, when he conducting his field work. I’m very proud of his achievements because his work will make propel research efforts on sun bear population size and habitat conservation for their continued survival in the wild!” Further reading on Dr Ratnayeke’s research can be found on this link.

Originally from Kerayong, Pahang, Thye Lim completed his undergraduate degree at the University Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) with a degree in Conservation and Management of Biodiversity in 2011, after his pre-university qualification with a Malaysian Higher School Certificate (STPM) from SMJK Yok Bin, Malacca. He became at centre coordinator at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in 2012.

When asked about his award, Thye Lim expressed surprise at his win and was very appreciative of being nominated for it. He said, “Team effort contributed to the research success. I am extremely grateful to have had a very supportive supervisory team that guided me throughout the whole research process. Committed research assistants were in the field with me to overcome difficulties together. It was a thrilling achievement at the end of this project. I hope this award will give our society better exposure to wildlife conservation issues.” 

A recipient of a partial tuition fee waiver at Sunway University, Thye Lim has this to say about his experience being a postgraduate research student, “I had a great time studying at Sunway University. I thank Sunway for being instrumental in starting my research journey. I’m grateful to all the staff who supported me throughout my studies, especially to my supervisor, Dr Shyamala who inspired me to keep making positive progress despite the challenges I faced in the field and to improve my thesis writing.” Despite leaving his job at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in February 2021, he hopes there will be continued collaboration between the centre and Sunway University. “Sunway University’s mascot is a sun bear, too! There’s even poster on the Tabin sun bear project outside the sun bear enclosure at Sunway Lagoon!”, Thye Lim added.

We, at the School of Medical and Life Sciences, wish Tee Thye Lim the best of success in his future endeavors. We hope that he continues to actively contribute to wildlife conservation and inspire others along the way. Sunway University is a champion of sustainable development and is truly proud of such projects.