Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NIE fieldtrip to Labrador rocky shore

It has been a rainy week and I was worried if the rain will persist. Thankfully, the drizzle ended when we reached Labrador Park.

Yes, today some of the future Biology teachers were at Labrador Park for a field trip to a rocky shore. This will help us get an idea on how we can bring our students there in the future. We were fortunate to have Dr Beverly Goh, who is a marine biologist to share with us about the last mainland natural rocky reef of Singapore.

Before we head down to the shores, Dr Goh shared with us several coastal plants such as the Sea poison and Sea almond trees. Here, we were having a good look at the Sea Grape tree (Coccoloba uvifera).

This tree bears fleshy fruits that resemble grapes. It is actually relatively easy to spot- just look out for the rusty red colour of the trunk.

Here's more information about the tree with the signboard planted by National Parks Board.

Of course, the highlight of today's trip is the shore itself! Lots of green greeted us when we first stepped into the shores.

The green on the shore is made up of some patches of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) and mostly of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii).

And among the seagrasses, one can find marine creatures living in this marine nursery. Many of these creatures are very interesting, especially for first-timers to our shores. Dr Goh shared with us many exciting stories and facts about them.

As for me, I came across this Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.) that has many branches.

Next, we looked at the legs of the jetty. Living creatures found include barnacles, drills, nerites, ascidians, sponges etc etc.

There were some patches of different types of zoanthids on the shores and this is the Sea mat zoanthid (Palythoa tuberculosa). They incorporate sand and fine debris into their tissue so that can be quite rough to the touch. But please do not touch them because Sea mat zoanthids contain the highly toxic palytoxin.

This feathery animal actually is a worm and is known as the Orange fan worm. It has many feathery tentacles to help it to filter feed.

My favourite find of the day will be these White spiral fan worms. It's my first time seeing so many together and don't you agree they are very pretty?

On a rocky shore, it may be a good idea to flip rocks because many animals like to hide underneath rocks to prevent heat and dessication. Of course one has to be gentle and to flip the rock back into its original position after looking. Here I found a couple of Spotted top shell snails (Trochus maculatus).

More snails that inhabit a rocky shore include the Dwarf turban snails (Turbo bruneus) on the left and a Wandering cowrie (Cypraea errones) on the right. It's my first time actually to take notice of the eye of the turban snail. It's not very obvious here but can you spot it? :)

And at the same rock, there's even more cowries and this is a pair of lovely Ovum cowries (Cypraea ovum).

Encrusted on rocks here are colourful sponges like this Blue jorunna sponge (Neopetrosia sp.). It is eaten by the Polka-dot jorunna nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) and this nudibranch is often seen laying egg masses near the sponge. Too bad we did not see any of this nudi beside the sponge.

How are the corals doing in Labrador? I came across a couple of these Flowery soft corals (Family Neptheidea).

And also some colonies of the Branching pore hard coral (Porites sp.).

Other than that, hardly much corals that I see today. Labrador Park still seems not fully recovered from the different human impacts. I did not see any flatworms or nudibranch too. :(

On the brighter side, with some of the tiny recruits of corals sighted today, we hope that with time Labrador can regain its former glory.

For some unknown reason, there are quite a number of these shy Wriggly star anemones. Why are they shy? It is because they will disappear instantly at the slightest sign of danger.

Though fishes are not that active during the day, we got to see many crabs on the shore! Among which will be this Brown egg crab (Atergatis floridus). It is poisonous and should not be eaten.

Another inedible crab will be this huge Red egg crab (Atergatis integerrimus). Though it looks red and cooked, the bright coloration serves as a warning signal to others that it is poisonous and should not be messed around! Haha.

Other crabs seen include the swimming crabs, hermit crabs and hairy crabs.

Towards the end, I found this lone Long black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota). It seems to be a bit injured!

This was my last shot of the shore before we ended the trip. This shows a blue Spatula sponges (Lamellodysidea herbacea) with the background of the jetty and shore of Labrador.

Labrador rocky shore is a natural heritage that we should continue to preserve for our future generations to enjoy. Given its rather beaten up state as compared to its glorious past, it is apt of Nparks to close the gate of the shore to the public for it to recover.

However, if one wants to lead a group to visit the shore such as the teachers, he or she can write to Nparks_mailbox@nparks.gov.sg with the title 'Application for Visiting Labrador beach' , and furnish following details. Date and time of visit, no. of people, activity detail, organisation name, address and tel no.; contact person's name and h/p no.

May today's trip give a better picture to us Biology teachers of how fragile a rocky shore can be and that one should weigh the balance between bringing students to the shore and trampling it to death. If visiting the shores truly help students learn and appreciate about our natural marine habitats, it is still worthwhile to bring them to have a look provided the teachers are well educated and trained to lead such field trips.

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