Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review on Once Upon a Tree: The bigger picture

Juanhui, who is supposed to do reviews, is busy tonight and I'm being arrowed by her to do a simple review for this episode of Once Upon a Tree, Tides and Coastlines- Episode 4: The bigger picture.

What the show is all about in general from Arts Central Website:

"Once Upon a Tree - Tides and Coastlines builds upon the themes explored in the first season, and applies them to the waters that surround us. Join us as we explore the physical, ecological and cultural dimensions of the tides - and perhaps discover something about ourselves in the process."

The episode starts off with with Professor Peter Ng sharing with the audience about what conservation is about. He compared conservation in a country that is well of with a third world country where attention definitely cannot be given to. There is no right or wrong in conservation. Also, nature is surprisingly resilient, especially for marine life because the sea is interconnected. However, nature takes time to grow so we should not try to destroy them. The first segment end off with a quote from John James Audubon, "A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children."

The second segment of the show is where cohost Sue-lyn brings someone out again to share Singapore's nature spot. This time we were treated to Mandai mangroves and mudflats. Of course, there is no better person to share about this place other than Sivasothi, the mangrove guru! Siva brings Sue-lyn to the mangroves first where they explore with crabs, mudcreepers and mangroves trees. These mangrove fauna and flora can provide humans with food and also wood for burning and building materials.

Photo of Mandai mudflat taken by Sivasothi, retrieved from Habitatnews flickr gallery

Soon, we were also brought nearer the shore, which is the mudflat of Mandai. Siva shares with Sue-Lyn and us that many of the birds on the shore are migratory birds and some come all the way from Russia. He also gave an analogy of the mudflat as a buffet table where hungry and tired birds can feast on. To prove this, Siva and Sue-Lyn started to dig into the mud that are stepping on and true enough many polychaete worms were found. The second segments ends off sharing with us the message of the importance of seeing the bigger picture (that this place also serve for birds from other parts of the world) in order to love nature and conserve it.

The last segment hosted by Dr Shawn Lum introduces to us on how many of our inventions are actually modelled after nature's ways, for example computer antivirus program from the immune system of living things. There was a part regarding the production of the mollusc shell producing the internal layer of mother of pearl that I'm not too sure on. But I remembered the narration saying something about the interaction of seawater and protein, and that it is done without damaging the environment and thus we as human should follow suit. Whatever pressures we put on of waters will lead on a downstream effect as waters as interconnected and it might led to consequences even at another country. Therefore responsibility is very important for us to ensure nature's survival.

In all, I thought this statement is meaningful, it says "how can we learn from nature and its way, if nature is no longer there for us to learn from."

More links
Ria's preview to Episode 4 of Once Upon a Tree on Wildfilms.
Mandai mangroves, Western Johor Straits, Singapore on the Mangroves of Singapore guidebook website.
Mandai Besar today and Mandai mangroves and mudflats featured on Arts Central on Otterman speaks where Siva personally shares a bit on his filming experience and also about the show.
Marine Biology class visit Mandai mangroves on The Biodiversity Crew @ NUS blog.
Habitatnews Flickr gallery of LSM4261 Marine Biology class visit Mandai mangroves, 13 Feb 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

My first OJT at Semakau

Many posts have been done on various blogs on last Sunday's trip to Semakay landfill (please refer to bottom of this post for the links) so I think I'll focus more on those that others did not emphasize on their posts.

On Sunday afternoon, we all set off to Semakau and this was my first OJT with the Semakau guides. OJT stands On-the-Job training which is designed to allow volunteers to get their training in a flexible manner that suits the volunteer's schedule, as well as the schedule of the volunteer trainers. This was an opportunity for me to observe and learn how to conduct a fun and effective tour where I also will learn the route and the procedures for the walk.

This time, Juanhui is my "mentor" as I tagged along with her to guide "Mangroves" group. We had a group of friends from LTA. Yay.

At first, the sky really gloomy as mainland Singapore was raining and it seems that the rain is moving towards the south. When we disembark from the boat, the rain arrived too, and it was heavy. Thank God it moved as quickly away as it came.

We have with us Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Environment and Water Resources, and also his family. What a honour to have him join us to explore Semakau.

Dr. Yaacob and family and also a non-family member: Ron Yeo. More about Dr. Yaacob's interesting interaction and encounter that day on the Nature Scouter blog.

Soon we arrived! When we disembark from the boat, the rain arrived too, and it was heavy. Thank God it moved as quickly away as it came.

During the landfill tour, filled with weird jokes, my attention was diverted to something more interesting... Raffles Lighthouse (Pulau Satumu). This marks the southermost of Singapore's straits and it holds one of the best reefs intertidally and subtidally. Do note that this is not Pedra Branca as some may get confused with.

Beside Raffles Lighthouse is Pulau Biola, aka Violin island.

The best part of the whole Semakau trip arrived which is the intertidal tour. Before that, we have to taste some bitter before sweet. That will be to walk through a mosquito infested trail that was quite flooded due to the rain. Everyone was carefully threading to avoid stepping into the dirty puddles. The funniest thing is that when we came back at the end of the walk, everyone simply care less and walk on the puddles quickly. This is because they already got soaked enough during the intertidal trip, and also we all want to run away from the mosquitoes.

After some sharing on mangroves, creeper shells etc, its time to cross the glorious seagrass meadow of Semakau which Team Seagrass proudly monitors its health. It is important to cross through a line called the zone of death so that we do not destroy the other parts of the meadow by careless trampling.

I found this beautiful Pebble crab (Family Leucosiidae) along the way. These crabs tend to hide in small pools or along stream banks. They are slow-moving and tend to hide during the day. As such, they are rarely seen. Glad we saw it!

Like most leucosiids, they feed on small animals in the substrate,

The participants were quite excited to see so many common seastars which they can learn more about them and get to feel and touch them first hand. It is important not to leave them out of water too long.

Baby noble volutes and moon snail.

Juanhui sharing the wonders of our marine creatures with the participants :-)

This is actually my first time seeing Chromodoris lineolata nudibranch. How exciting even for a guide. Haha.

More about this charismatic nudibranch at the where discovery begins blog.

Flatworms are also plenty. This is one of them. Justin has done a great job sharing on how these hermaphrodites species will literally duel to be the male in the courtship.

Our reef is colourful with corals, blue sponges and zoathids.

A lame joke, this is not Fann Wong but fan worm. Haha. Beautiful isn't it.

We also encountered many sea cucumbers. Don't miss the cute photo of Dr Yaacob and his family with the three different sea cucumbers at the Nature Scouter blog.

This is a Gymnodoris nudibranch (Gymmodoris rublopabulosa).

Soon, sun sets and in this glorious landscape, we have to slowly walk back before darkness fall and tides retreat.

A visitor himself found something exciting along the way back. This is a black-lipped conch (Strombus urceus) that was leaping when its was discovered. Can you see from here its two eyes?

According to A guide to seashore life in Singapore,

"The local conch shells are characterised by a narrow, blade-like operculurn on their foot. The black-lipped conch (shell 3-5cm) is common in muddier substrates adjacent to reefs, being a detritivore and herbivore. They move in jerks, using their bladelike opercula to thrust them forward. In neighbouring countries, they are a popular seafood. A related species, S. canarium, which is white to yellowish in colour, with a thicker shell, is rare nowadays, but the dead shell can still be seen along the shores."

Great that we can still find them at Semakau.

In all, it was a great OJT trip where Juanhui and I shared with the participants of Semakau intertidal area. I enjoyed myself! Looking forward to the next guiding, which will be some time, after my exams in May.

More about Sunday's trip to Semakau on the raffles museum news blog and nature scouter blog with a separate post on critters seen.

Also on the discovery blog and manta blog and tidechaser blog and justin dive adventure blog

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