Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Amazing Starfish

Did you know that…

Not all STARFISH have five arms? Some only have three, others six or seven, some twenty, and a few up to fifty arms!

STARFISH have thousands of tiny, sharp spines covering them from the tip of one arm to the tip of the others? That is why starfish belong to a group of sea creatures called echinoderms. Echino means “spiny,” and derm means “skin.” These spines protect starfish from tiny sea creatures that try to attach themselves to them and feed off their strength.

A STARFISH’S mouth is on the bottom of its body, right in the center?

STARFISH have very small feet called tube feet? Each tube foot has a tiny suction cup at its tip. Starfish use these suction cups to walk and also to pump in oxygen—so starfish actually breathe through their feet!

STARFISH do not have eyes? Instead, at the end of each starfish arm are many cells that are very sensitive to light. As a starfish travels slowly through the water, these special cells and the sensitive tube feet help the starfish find food.

STARFISH eat oysters? When an oyster senses that a starfish is near, it will quickly close its shell with a snap! But the starfish wraps its arms around the shell and uses the suction cups on its tube feet to pry the oyster’s shell open just a crack.

A STARFISH actually pulls its stomach out through its mouth to eat? Because the oyster’s shell only opens as wide as a piece of cardboard, the starfish must slip its stomach into the shell and eat the oyster while it is still in its closed shell.

When a STARFISH loses its arms in an accident, it will grow new ones? One kind of starfish can grow an entire body from a piece of its arm one-half inch long!


Starfish are pretty amazing creatures! They were designed to see, walk, breathe, eat, protect themselves, and heal themselves when they are hurt, all in a special way that fits their specific underwater environment. God is the Master Designer behind starfish, all sea creatures, land creatures, and yes, humans! God is your Designer and Creator. He made you with the ability to know him and love him. Starfish can do lots of cool things, but they can’t learn about God and love him like you can.

You are an amazing creature. Just think of all the cool things God has designed you to do: think, jump, learn, sing, love, run, play, laugh, help others… and there are probably many more things you can do and special talents that you have. But nobody is perfect; all humans do things that are wrong. Can you think of some things that you have done that were wrong? Maybe you were mean to someone at school or told a lie to your parents. God calls those wrong things sin.

Everyone who sins must be punished. But God loves us and does not want us to sin. He wants us to be like him—loving, kind, and good. And he designed a way to save us from our sins and to help us become more like him. God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to be a human, just like us, except Jesus never sinned. Even so, he chose to die so that he could pay the death penalty for our sins. Three days after he died, God raised him back to life again! Isn’t God amazing?

Do you want to have a clean, new life? Then just believe in what Jesus did for you. Tell God that you are sorry for your sins and thank him for sending Jesus to save you. When you trust in Jesus and believe that he died for you, God will begin working in you every day, helping you to become more like him and to avoid doing wrong things. If you want to begin this new life with God, talk to him and say something like this:

Dear God, I am sorry for the bad things I do. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to pay the penalty for my sins. I believe that he died for me and rose again so that I could go to heaven. Please change my heart and make me more like Jesus. Amen.

From: http://www.hopeway.org/gospel/TheAmazingStarfish.asp?ct=1

Written by: Bob Devine

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sand star transect at Pasir Ris

Yesterday I was with a team of friends who came to Pasir Ris to help me with my sand star transect. Some of us were early and we saw the WaterFest Jet Jam 2008 going on at Pasir Ris.

There were some tentages set up at the very high shore for this event.

And off the coast, there are indeed jet skis enjoying the water sports.

They even have a mini jetty or pontoon stretched out from the beach.

Just less than two months ago, news reported of the poor water quality at Pasir Ris. The National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued an advisory that cautions against swimming, wakeboarding and waterskiing in the waters there because of “high bacteria content” specifically, the enterococcus bacteria found in human and animal waste.

This WaterFest event has proven to show that water activities can still go on. Indeed, the sea and the shore is an attractive place for people to have different recreational activities. To make our shores sustainable and accessible for the long run, it is important for us to keep it in good shape.

As individuals, we can make a difference even in small ways: don't litter, don't pick marine creatures home, don't leave a mess behind etc. And hopefully, the sources of pollution (if any) will be detected in the future in order to improve the water quality of the sea surrounding Pasir Ris.

In this way, we can continue to enjoy these places of recreation.

Of course for my friend and I, we love the shores because its alive! I have a group of friends with to survey the sand stars on the shore. After some preparation with the equipment, we quickly make our way down to the shore to catch the low tide.

We saw many leaves moving very quickly and my friends were intruiged! I overturned the "moving" leaves and they found out that there are leaf porter crabs underneath which is mainly for camouflage. During the day, it hides in soft mud, with the leaf above. However at night, it swims upside down at the surface, the leaf hiding it from aquatic predators.

I encountered carpet anemones that look harmless. However, they have stinging cells that can stunt animals like crabs and fishes. When captured their prey, the tentacles will bring the "food" to the centre where the mouth is to eat its meal.

The shore was also made colourful with different sponges and anemones.

It was interesting to encounter a snapping shrimp that is green in colour. When my friend Wei Ann first saw the snapping shrimp, he told me he saw a lobster. Haha. :-)

Soon, we started our transect, mainly to study their density and natural occurences of damaged arms. And yes, there was no time to take any photo of us at work but believe me, we worked hard because there were many sand stars!

Among the many sand stars we came across, I think for the first time I see this six-armed sand star. We also found a four armed one that was not four armed because of damage. That's really cool!

In all, it's fun to see them excited and exclaiming whenever they find a sand star. They go shouting "Starfish!". Thanks a million to Ginny and her sister, Lester, Bingquan, Kian Wah, Wei Ann, Geraldine and Yvonne for taking time out to help my project.

The shore at Pasir Ris though was reclaimed, is indeed alive. Hopefully if left untouched and given more time, this shore will be livelier and the amount of life may start to be comparable to well known places like Chek Jawa and Changi.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pandan Mangrove field trip

This morning, the marine biology class with lecturers and teaching assistants were out somewhere in the southwest.

Isn't this Pandan reservoir? What has a reservoir got to do with marine biology?!

We are actually visiting Pandan mangrove organized by Siva. I really appreciate his effort in converting a classroom lecture on mangroves into a field trip. That's why we were all so happy today. In orange is our wonderful TA, Yujie!

Just at the reservoir itself, there is already life, I saw a monitor lizard or water monitor, too bad it wasn't photogenic enough to stay so long.

Distancing ourselves from the reservoir we are near the mangroves.

According to Siva, "Pandan mangroves is typical of the sort of mangrove strip that peppers several areas in Singapore, often escaping the public eye. Their presence is a footnote to a much larger expanse of forest that gave way to development. Thus these strips are all in close proximity with the urban areas that ate in to the original forest Although these are thin strips, they contain all of the symptoms of a mangrove ecosystem and are host to an an interesting diversity. Zonation inevitably overlaps in such small areas but can still be differentiated. Bordering Pandan mangroves is a clay-ey estuarine flat that hosts shorebirds and a different community of organisms from the mangroves."

To some, Pandan mangrove is special because it houses Api-api jambu (Avicennia marina) which is now thought to be only found at offshore islands like Tekong and St John Island. This rare mangrove tree that is considered endangered was not sighted by me though. Perhaps it is there and I've seen it, just that my mangrove id skill is still not there yet.

Nevertheless, I still got to encounter another mangrove plant that is considered rare also. This is called the Chengam (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea) and what you see are the flowers.

These are its fruits. Chengam is a shrub that grows both in the mangroves and along sandy beaches. It has waxy leaves which reduce water loss through transpiration (A common feature for some plants found in the mangroves, along sandy beaches and coastal forests)

This plant also has durable wood which is useful for making small, hardy objects. Indigenous people are known to use the warm extracts from the leaves to treat stomach aches.

There also also many sea hibiscus with their pretty yellow flowers.

Unfortunately, one of our buckets started to float away but we have a hero to save the day!

Soon, we went more inland into another part of the mangrove.

At this zonation, we can still walk on the substrate despite the not so low tide. It was definitely an experience for many first timers down the mangroves. We saw many interesting organisms like snails, crabs, worms, mudskippers etc etc.

Not forgetting this TV junk! Which was later coined (in a corny fashion) as the water monitor.

All too soon, we completed our field trip!

What should one do while waiting for the bus to pick you up?

Take out your umbrella/big hat and start the anti-sun/glare/UV campaign.

Or embrace the nature by lying and relaxing on the grass, suntaning yourselves.

Or start talking to each other to exchange ideas.

I guess all of us enjoyed the trip and thank God for there is no rain. Nice first time visiting this special patch of mangroves.

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