Thursday, August 30, 2007

Study ecology at Labrador Park

After a two hour practical on how to design a rain guage and where to place them in the geography EARTH lab, had to rush over back to science faculty because today is our fieldtrip to Labrador Park for my module on Ecology and environmental processes. So much so that I had forgotten totally about my lunch for today..hhahaha.

The objective of today's fieldtrip is to learn how to study ecology by looking out for patterns regardless of scales and then derive a hypothesis out of it, following by divising of experimental setup and then to conduct it.

After a short and sweet briefing by our TA, we headed to the coastal forest to get ideas for our ecological observations. Only fished out my camera when I reached the shores, since its where my affinity lies. It was high tide and obviously the meadow of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) were out of sight. From this photo, you can see out of the edge of the shore, something that looks like a long barrier extends out.

This barrier extending out is the cofferdam built on Labrador July last year. It aims to divert submarine services between Pasir Panjang and Pulau Bukom. By right, the intertidal shore of labrador stretches beyond the cofferdam as I discovered almost exactly one year ago for my ecological system project under Geography department. There were more seagrasses doing very well there too, but now all gone. Sorry consolation is there was a relocation of some marine sessile species.

Those who are concerned and wish to check out more about it can take a browse at wildfilms blog.

The coastal forest area near Labrador is highly dynamic. Landslides are real, usually triggered by lack of fauna cover or by heavy rain or any human impact which I have no idea. This one is really high, it stretches all the way up.

After a short digression to satisfy my curiosity on the shores, had to head back to the forest. Our group found a few interesting observations. Was told that ants form mould trails along the tree trunk. Didn't know about it, that's what you will realize if you take time to understand how nature works.

A hairy clidemia is always a great plant to show to friends because not only you can see it, you can also touch it. YES, you are right, it feels hairy, thus called hairy clidemia...Duh.

This tropical American species is the only non-native species which can invade good forest patches in the Nature Reserves, growing at fringe areas or open patches in primary and secondary forest like Labrador Park.

It should be destroyed wherever it grows to prevent it becoming more widespread in the forest areas of Singapore. Wow.

Don't believe? See it for yourself. These 'hairs' on the leaves or outgrowths of the epidermis (top level of cell in leaves) are called trichomes.

It functions to repel heat and provide insulation. It may also reduce water loss by reducing evapotranspiration (by reducing windspeed at air-leaf surface interface) and also may deter herbivores. Some of these hairs of other species can sting, thus discouraging walking or eating. Surprising, some hairs of some species of plant leaves can even secret salt.

Walking along the steep steps of the park, we started to work out on the chosen observation to study further.

This was the subject for our study... white leaf fig (Ficus glossularioides).

What is so interesting about this is that many ants like to gather at the base of the leaf where the leaf stalk or petiole connects.

The process of coming up with hypothesis, and with a simple and doable experimental setup within one hour is definitely not easy, there were many mistakes made along the way.

But the BEST way to learn is to learn from mistakes :-)

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