Monday, December 31, 2012

Crabby rain at Pasir Ris Park Mangrove

For the last fieldtrip of the year, I decided I shall do away with intertidal shore and reef.  Actually, it was not a planned fieldtrip. After reading about Ria's recent visit to the Pasir Ris Park's mangrove at night, I wanted to visit it. Having done a few guided walk at this place with the Naked Hermit Crabs and visited the place myself a few times, I have not actually seen a mangrove at night.

So I spent the last two days of 2012 at the Pasir Ris Park magrove with my friend. Two days because we started late at night on 30th December and ened on 31st December early morning.
Night Time is great for close observation of animals. They hardly move and you are able to get real close to them.

As we entered the mangrove, I spotted a pipefish and a juvenile dog-faced water snake emerging from its hole in a small stream nearby.
Juvenile dog-faced water snake (Cerberus schneiderii)

My work attachment at RMBR

While my colleagues are already enjoying their long deserved holidays, I set aside two weeks of my holidays for a MOE Teacher's Work Attachment programme. I have chosen the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) for my work attachment programme.

My work attachment period was 3 - 14 December 2012.
I chose RMBR as it was one of the places which I was interested to find out how specimens, after collected from sites, are processed, preserved, document and kept in a biodiversity museum. Furthermore, the work description posted for this organisation allows me to work with the available specimens to create educational materials.

However the museum's gallery was closing soon in view of the big house moving to the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, set for completion in 2014. There was not much of a need to create educational materials at the moment.

I spent my two weeks of work attachment in the wet collections section of the museum, helping out Siong Kiat, the wet collections' curator. Wet collections refers to specimens (mostly marine animals) that requires storing in preservation liquids such as ethanol and formalin (formaldehyde). Majority of the specimens I worked with are stored in 75% ethanol.

Here's the blog post from RMBR about my work attachment stint with them.
Image capture of the blog post.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

NParks annual volunteer appreciation day

Today is a special day as the National Parks Board (NParks) is having her annual Volunteers Appreciation Day this morning at Hort Park. This event was also organised in celebration of International Volunteer Day, which fell on 5 December.

Some of the volunteers from the Naked Hermit Crabs spent this special day sharing the beauty of Chek Jawa to our visitors while some others attended the appreciation event. Read about the happenings at Chek Jawa here.

I was unable to attend the event today as I was guiding at Chek Jawa.
However there are news reports from the media and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan posted an entry in his work blog.

I am one of the 3 volunteers to featured in Minister's blog post and I quote a portion of his entry.
"Ms Heng Pei Yan – a teacher– participated in the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey early this year.  Despite the risk of getting stung by marine organisms and having to trudge through knee-deep mud, she was undeterred and gamely participated in the survey simply because of her passion for nature."

The following are the links of the coverages of the event that I have found:

Media reports:
Channel NewsAsia [8 Dec 2012] - NParks sees healthy increase in volunteer numbers
AsiaOne News (SPH) - NParks volunteers honoured at inaugural event
Straits Times [8 Dec 2012] - More people volunteering at National Parks
The Sunday Times, pg 21 [9 Dec 2012] - Hats off to park volunteers

Blog posts:
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan - Giving back to nature
WildSingapore News

Social media:
NParks (Facebook) -

You can find out about how you can be a volunteer with NParks through their volunteer webpage.

Wild boars, hornbill and an unusual gathering of fiddler crabs at Chek Jawa

The Naked Hermit Crabs held our last guided walk at Chek Jawa for year 2012 today!

There were a number of interesting sightings at Chek Jawa today.
Upon arrival at the entrance of Chek Jawa, 3 wild boars came out of their foraging activities to meet us.
One of them approached us real close and started sniffing around without any fear. 
Wild boar sniffing at me
This can be disturbing as it could lead to unwanted accidents to members of the public if they were to start screaming and acting aggressive towards the wild boar.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stormy Trip to Hantu Lagoon

It was a scary day for fieldtrip. Constant checking with the NEA's weather animation since afternoon shows a huge scary cloud mass heading down south.
On the boat ride, the animation on NEA's website shows a very scary angry cloud covering the western part of Singapore. Even Pulau Hantu was covered. At the pier, we were showered with the fierce blowing rain while waiting for passengers in the boat to alight.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fishy and Sluggy Day at St. John's Island

Oh no.... As we landed on St. John's Island via private ferry service, we could see a fierce storm covering the skies of mainland Singapore.
Look at the cloud formation on mainland.
While round a corner of the island, the sky shows some of the pretty orange sunset with the fast moving storm clouds.
Sunset and storm clouds

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Magnificently Terumbu Semakau

We are blessed with good weather today at Terumbu Semakau. It was rather hot and sunny, very different from what I experienced yesterday at Labrador rocky shore.

The word "terumbu" describes a reef that is only visible at low tide. Hence "Terumbu Semakau" refers to a submerged reef next to Semakau Landfill. You can get a better visual idea from this image.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Great surprises on my first seagrass monitoring.

A few days after I became a member of TeamSeagrass, I did my first seagrass monitoring session along the shores of Labrador. It was also my first time exploring the shores of Labrador beach and there were many other first surprises for me on shore.

Ria was my seagrass teacher for today. She taught me how seagrass monitoring was done and the data we need to record on the data sheet. It was rather easy and I picked up very quickly. We started off at site 3, the furthest site from the Labrador jetty. Andy was assigned site 1 to survey.

On the sandy part of Site 1, we found a white sea urchin. Ria mentioned to me that it rather unusual to find white sea urchins here on Labrador. We have no idea how it got washed up on this shore. Not sure it the urchin was still alive when we found it. We transferred it into the shallow waters and some spines moved a little. Hopefully the urchin is alive and surviving.
White sea urchin
Photo by Ria Tan
However the weather was not in our favour at the beginning of the trip. After taking 3 sets of readings, the fiercely approaching dark clouds and lighting threatened us to retreat back to the jetty, where we seek shelter from the heavy rain and nature's light and sound show. Here you can see the red patch on NEA's weather animation website against the actual weather condition.
NEA weather animation vs Actual weather
Photo by Ria Tan
The weather animation has been a favourite weather guide for many of our fieldtrips as it tells us the movement of clouds.

While waiting for the angry clouds to move past the area, the team explored the underside of the jetty and the vegetation next to it.
Even tree cavity became interesting as I observe how the rain water flows down the ridges on the tree trunk.

After a wait of about half hour, the team is back to the shore to continue with the monitoring session. Rain does not stop us, but lightning does. Even in the rain, we worked hard making sure we get accurate data collection.
Hard at work in the rain.
Photo by Ria Tan
Animals play an important role in every ecosystem. We do not just focus our attention at the seagrass during monitoring, we need to also check for animals that are found with the seagrass within the monitoring quadrant. Sometimes, the animals are so tiny, we need to get close to the ground to examine carefully.
Bending down to get a better look at any animals found on the seagrass.
Photo by Ria Tan
At site 1, the seagrass meadow is huge and lush.
Site 1
Photo by Ria Tan
While at sites 2 and 3, the seagrass comes in patches, but they are doing well.
Site 2
Photo by Ria Tan
At one patch of spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), Ria noticed tiny grains on a few spoon seagrass. And with some cleaning, they are the fruits of the spoon seagrass! It was not just my first time as a newbie in seagrass monitoring seeing the fruit of a seagrass, it was also Ria's first time seeing the fruit of the spoon seagrass after doing many years of seagrass monitoring. AMAZING!
Fruits of Halophila ovalis.
Photo by Ria Tan
Ria also informed me that one of the fruits had opened when she got home, releasing tiny seeds that sink.
Fruit and seeds of Halophila ovalis.
Photo by Ria Tan
After seagrass monitoring, we had some time to explore the shore. There were a few small corals dispersed on the shore and quite a number of sponges can be seen.
Photo by Ria Tan
Different types of sponges.
Photo by Ria Tan
I do hope that the Labrador shore will get better. Looking at dead coral fragments on the shore, I can image how it was like in the past and I am very sure that people who have seen Labrador shore in the olden days will find the status now depressing. Nonetheless, this shore is still quite alive with many amazing findings.

As the tide was about to turn, Ria found a driftnet about 50 metres long. Driftnets are damaging to the marine environment as it traps animals, entangle corals and eventually kills them. You can find out more about driftnets at the Project Driftnet blog.
Me, working on the driftnet to cut into smaller size for removal.
Photo by Ria Tan
Though we did not find any fish trapped in the driftnet, there were many coral rubbles entangled in it. From the driftnet, we rescued 6 spider conch snails (Lambis lambis) and a crab.
Spider conch snail (Lambis lambis)
Photo by Ria Tan
Photo by Ria Tan
The team helped to free the animals while the tide starts to rise.
Cutting away the nets to free the animals.
Photo by Ria Tan
Before we found the driftnet, Andy had already removed 101 BBQ mash scattered along the shore. Initially I thought there were only a few. It turned out that there were over a hundred of the BBQ mash on this shore. Oh my!

A great day at the shore of Labrador and great job by everyone in the team. Look at the pile we hull out from the shore.
101 BBQ mash and driftnet at the back
Photo by Ria Tan
Labrador beach and jetty is closed for public access, but we are given the permission to conduct the seagrass survey from NParks.
Shore and jetty closure notice
And not just the Labrador rocky shore we should leave the animals alone, we should do the same for any shore that we visit. Animals caught from the wild are not able to survive in captivity and they die quickly. They may be pretty and nice to bring home for your aquarium but they need their natural homes to live.
No picking of any marine creatures.
Many thanks to Ria for sharing her photos with me to make this blog post possible as my cameras were not waterproof. I should invest in a swimming camera soon.

I look forward to another great trip tomorrow.

More blog posts about this trip:
Project Driftnet Singapore - 50m Net Abandoned on Labrador
SgBeachBum - Rain, Seagrass, Driftnet, 101 bbq mesh
TeamSeagrass - Labrador (14 Nov 2012)
WildShores by Ria Tan - Surprises on Labrador

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jellyfishy at Chek Jawa with the Naked Hermit Crabs

The Naked Hermit Crabs volunteers had another great guided walk session at Chek Jawa today despite the hot and humid weather, and the threatening approaching storm in the late morning. We had about 40 visitors today with us.
Group photo of the visitors

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Girl Guides Fun at Chek Jawa Guided Walk

It is the time for the Naked Hermit Crabs' monthly guided walk at Chek Jawa.
Today I have arranged for my school's Girl Guides (student leaders only) to join us for the guided walk since they needed to do recee trip for their upcoming camp in November.

At the Ubin jetty, the captain (Mrs Teo) explains and show the guides about the granite rocks that can still be found near along the Ubin jetty and all the way in to the area in front of Pak Ali's shop.
Explaining about the granite rock next to the Ubin jetty.
The original Malay name of Pulau Ubin was Pulau Batu Jubin, which meant "Island of Granite Stones", because of the many granite quarries available to obtain these stones.

For their recee trip, they had the luxury of taking van rides to and from Chek Jawa. I had fun sharing some of the interesting stories along the journey to the guides as the van drives past the Headman's house, the route to Chek Jawa, the Pulai Tree. I shared about the ostriches which used to be found at the backyard of the Headman's house (I have seen the ostriches myself before they were being relocated). It's so interesting to hear the funny answers the students gave.

Upon arrival, I highlighted the presence of a bee hive in the roof of the Ubin map. Being leaders, the students need to understand their environment well and be on the look out for threats that might harm their group members. They are then given the task of finding out the name of the hut next to the alighting point - Punai Hut.

I proceeded on to show the girls about the rubber tree and explained how the latex from the rubber tree is tapped and collected. Unfortunately, the demonstration setup has been removed from the tree but there were still some traces of dried up latex along the tapping. The rubber tree needs to be tapped and the latex collected early in the morning, before the sun rises. Mrs Teo further elaborates that this is why we hear stories about rubber tappers being eaten up by pythons - probably due to the lack of light, the rubber tappers do not have a clear sight of their environment.
Me, sharing about rubber trees to the guides.
(Photo by Ria)
Just nice, it was time to report for the guided walk.

Brief introduction by Ley Kun
At the information kiosk, the crabs (nature guides of the Naked Hermit Crabs) have gathered with the visitors. I called order for the girl guides to assemble and Ley Kun gave a brief welcome and introduction to the girls, followed by a group photo taking session. I had the help of Chay Hoon, who guided the other half of this 22 ladies girl guides troop.

Along the boardwalk, a very friendly dog joined us. According to the NParks staff on duty, this dog comes from the Ubin town center and has been visiting Chek Jawa on a number of occasions. He did mention to me that this dog is expensive. The dog was rather well groomed and quite happy walking around in the mud, sniffing.
Friendly dog
I shared many interesting information with my group - Jejawi tower, Jejawi tree, Nipah palm, mudskippers, sea holly, tree-climbing crabs, mud lobster and its mount, the mangrove trees, marine animals... etc. I had to talk more as I am building up future nature guides. The girls were jotting down notes in their notebooks as they will be conducting the same walk for their Patrol members (Patrol in Girl Guides is similar to groupings, with each group having a leader as assistant leader).
View of the guides from the Jejawi Tower.
(Photo by Ria)
At our first sheltered rest stop, I noticed the usual mudskipper is sitting outside its hole. The only difference this time is that its hole is filled with water. During last month's guided walk, Ria saw a pair at the entrance. On closer look at my photo, it looks like a giant mudskipper has taken over the very same hole. I wonder what happened to the usual mudskipper.
Mudskippers seen during last month's walk.
(Photo by Ria)
Mudskipper at the entrance of its hole.
 What an unusual sight! A golden pupae was found. My group member and I had never seen such shiny pupae before. Chay Hoon saw it too. This is very intriguing and I have yet to identify the ID of this pupae. (Sorry for the poor image. My camera decided not to work its macro function on this.)
Mystery golden pupae seen.
At the end of the guided walk, the girls helped to contribute to our guestbook with what they saw/feel about Chek Jawa. (At this moment as I typed this post, I realised some did not get the full story about Chek Jawa.... Nevermind. It was already an information overload journey for them.)
KCGG working on their guestbook page
Referring to their camera for pictures.
(Photo by Ria)
I had a great time guiding my own students, sharing my information with them in the hoping that they will do a good job to their Patrol members. They are a lively and fun group of visitors.

The KC Girl Guides student leaders were given two assignments by me today:
1. Locate the hibiscus plant in the school.
2. Locate the rambutan tree in the school.

As the guided walk ends for the day, and being threatened by the approaching storm, the crabs retreated to the sisters' restaurant for our usual lunch dishes. I don't have photos of the food, just only empty plates and shells.
All cleared.
More photos will be added to this post when I have the links to the photos taken by other nature guides.

It's Nature Guides vs Girls Guides

Other posts about this trip:
WildShores - Family fun at Chek Jawa with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A great gift for my greatest colleague

It is very difficult for me to get gifts for my friends, regardless of the occasion.
My greatest colleague is leaving school soon and she was the best working partner I ever had.
She being an art teacher, I decided to do something artistic and informative for her.

It was not an easy process deciding what to create for her. Since I had not use the modelling clay I bought long time ago, it was time to put into good use. The idea was to create a family of False clown anemonefish living in a sea anemone. The family will represent my colleague's family.

So here are the images of the product.
Incomplete work, mama fish on the anemone.
Incomplete work, top view.
Incomplete view, juvenile fish hiding in anemone.
Papa fish completed
Final arrangement
Final arrangement, angled view
Final product, in a display tank.
Gift comes complete with information sheet about the animals.
And... My colleague loves it.

TMSI @ St. John's Island 10th Anniversary Open House

I had the privilege of helping out in the recent 10th anniversary open house of Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) at St. John's Island, on 30th Sept. I was at the event as a volunteer of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey (CMBS) group.
Welcome banner at the entrance of TMSI
Through this event, I had the chance to see many interesting experiments and projects housed on this institute, one of which is Mei Lin's project on Giant clams. It was such an excitement to be able to see the baby giant clams.
Some of the giant clams out for visitors' viewing.
Tiny juvenile giant clams. So cute.
As a volunteer with CMBS for the open house, my station was the touch pools located outside the kitchen. I enjoy doing touch pool, showing visitors live animals ever since I did the live animal station at the Festival of Biodiversity in May this year. It so fun to see the before and after reactions of visitors touching the animals as they are inexperienced in holding live animals. At the same time, rough children creates sudden heart stops as they accidentally drop the animals into the pool.
Other volunteers manning the touch pool, with visitors around.
Ria manages to take a photo of me in action at the touch pool.
Photo by Ria
The CMBS volunteers did not manage the touch pool for the whole session. By noon, we were feeling more stressed than the animals in the pool due to the strong heat. It was difficult to stay long at the touch pool even though it was sheltered. Many of us disappeared into cooler areas after lunch.

I went to hide in the CMBS lab to cool off most of the time.
At the CMBS lab, many specimens collected during mudflat and dredging surveys were out on display.
There are also CMBS staff and volunteers helping out in the lab, explaining to visitors about the survey and the usefulness of the specimens collected.
CMBS lab
Some of the specimens on display:
Icon star and sea cucumber
Sea fan
Recently dead hermit crab. Helen says it died fighting in the touch pool.
Frog fish
In today's The Straits Times, the open house was reported and it had a picture of me showing an animal to Dr Tan Swee Hee's daughter. Unfortunately, they have cropped off my head. So the image only has my hands, with my left hand holding onto an animal. The Straits Times also has an online photo gallery here.
Newspaper article, The Straits Times, 2nd October 2012
To find out more about CMBS (a.k.a. Mega Marine Survey) and how you can volunteer, do visit the Mega Marine Survey blog.

More about the TMSI Open House from other blogs:


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