Thursday, September 24, 2009

In conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2009, we had the first cleanup at Semakau together with the HSBC and Ministry of Environment and Water Resource(MEWR) volunteers. The RMBR nature guides did the cleanup at the mangroves, while the HSBC and MEWR volunteers did the cleanup at the coasts. All sorts of rubbish were found including tyres and big styrofoam pieces were found! Fishing nets are the headache as fishermen leave their nets discarded among the roots causing many creatures to get stuck. It was a refreshing experience as I totally did not expect the mud to be that soft. We had to crawl almost hip deep in the mud to remove the litters!

Although the cleanup lasted for about 2 hours, we have only cleaned part of it and there were certainly more trash to be cleared of! Of course we could not clear everything but to try our best in doing whatever we can within our own limits.

People dispose their trash into the sea carelessly, not knowing (or do not care about) the resulting consequences. These rubbish are swept to the shores, some animals may mistaken them as food and pollute the environment. Such cleanup sessions give us the opportunity to give back to the environment. Well if we do not clean up our own beaches, who else will?
*Sorry for the lack of pics. Will post more pics once I receive them.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

On the way to the intertidal flats, we spotted these feet markings on the sandbars. It belongs to the Monitor Lizard!(Thanks SY.) It probably come here in search for seafood eh.

That's sea turtle with Prof Tan crossing the 'death zone'!

A trail has been marked out in the seagrass lagoon for visitors to past through and this zone is known as the 'death zone' as no organisms are able to live in there. This is to prevent people from trampling all over hence minimizing the damage caused .

This spider crab was spotted by Prof Tan! They are hard to spot as they move slowly and camouflage really well with the surroundings. They are named after their long and skinny legs. Though they are small with a body width of 2cm, they belong to the same family as the Japanese Spider Crab- the biggest crab in the world! Its leg span can reach up to 4m!!

As a comparison, I have found this picture to show its size as compared to us!

Heart Cockle!
Unlike other bivalves, this shell opens at the centre vertically! People have been collecting their shells as a prove of their love to their other half. Isn't it ironic how people use such heartless methods to prove their love??

Giant clam can grow up to 227kg and 1.2m across! They are facing extinction due to overcollection of their shell and meat! They are eaten as a delicacy in certain places and their shells were used as ashtrays.

This noble volute is actually a very beautiful creature. Its body is even more attractive than its shell. This is a mother noble volute who is laying eggs. It's nice to see these animals are surviving well (: The noble volutes feed by suffocating the other bivalves till they have to open up their shells to breathe. Then it will scraps them off their shell to eat! Not so noble isn't it?

This jellyfish is usually found upside down as they habour zooxanthelle (symbiotic algae) in their tentacles. The algae photosynthesises in the prescence of sunlight hence provide food to the jellyfish. The upside down jellyfish in turn provide a home and minerals to the zooxanthelle.
We saw many other organisms but I didn't manage to get their pictures ><
  • nudibranch
  • flatworms
  • 4 Knobbly sea stars!!
  • Cushion Seastar (A big one!)
  • Spidercounch
  • Seahorse
  • Carpet Anemone
  • Synaptid Sea Cucumber
  • Sandfish Sea Cucumber
  • Ocellated Sea Cucumber
  • Squid
  • Dead Cowrie
Soon it was time to leave..

and the sky was looming with dark cumulonimbus clouds.

The kids could not bear to leave and bidded farewell as they leave their tracks in the sand.
Many thanks to the hunter seekers, we saw many great stuff yesterday! A big thank you to my participants as well for making this yet another memorable trip! (:

Friday, June 26, 2009

WOA what have we got here that attracted everyone's attention and snapping away with their cameras?

Sunrise!! Nice~ if only there's dolphins as well q;

Guided a bunch of enthusiastic happy people today, thanks mudskippers for making this walk such an enjoyable one!

Peek-a-boo seastar!

Soft corals- dead man's fingers!

It's best not to touch these soft corals as they have stinging cells. At low tides, it may look uninteresting as they flop over one another. But during high tides, they extend their polyps as they feed on planktons and it looks really beautiful! However its 'fingers' may look like calling out for us to join them and it is kind of eerie hence the name 'dead man's fingers' (;

There were plenty of red seaweed around! Compared to the green seaweeds, they can survive in deeper waters as being red allows them to photosynthesise in lower light levels. //edit (Thanks Ron) The 'nori' used in Japanese sushi is made of certain types of red seaweed. Some red seaweed are also used to make 'agar-agar' in jellies and stabilisers in processed food such as cholocate milk and yogurt.

Out of so many organisms in Semakau, my favourites are flatworms and nudibranchs (: They come in such vivid colous and patterns! They are poisonous since they feed on sponges and corals. That is where they acquire their toxins from as this is warned to their predators by their bright colours!

//edit. As we venture further in, we saw a school of fishes! It's best not to approach too close these fishes as we do not know if these fishes have protective mechanism like venomous spines.

Another red flower crab that was ready to fight us out. This swimming crab has a pair of paddle-like legs at the back allowing them to swim faster than other crabs. //edit. The male flower crab has brighter colouration in blue whereas the red female crabs come in duller colours. Now why the flower crabs that I usually see seem to be ready to declare war with me S:

The highlight of the day was the Aerobatic Flying Displays!

That was a bonus to all of us! We were awed by the displays and that certainly stopped most of my participants in their tracks! The airplanes had captured my participants' attention and boy was I jealous!

The trip ended off with holiday mode for the participants...

and I spotted two olive-backed sunbird within such close proximity on the way home! That certainly ended my day on a perfect note! (:

//Thanks Ron for the edit! (:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Set off to Semakau again last Sunday (: always love the skies on our way there.

Nice clouds!~

Guided with Kim today (: Our group- horseshoe crab passing the seagrass lagoon.

The moon snail may look gentle but it is actually a ferocious predator! They can suffocate the bivalves and if they still refuse to open up their shells, the moon snail can secrete acid to soften their shell and suck them out! So now when you see empty seashells with a hole on them, you know who's the culprit huh.

Strawberry topping on the chocolate sponges!

Aha that was described by one of my participants (; Sponges do come in varied colours and shapes. Sponges are cosy home for animals to stay. With the constant flow of water, it acts like air-conditioning for the tiny animals living within. They can eat the bits of food flowing in with the water too! Some animals like the velcro crab use the sponges as their protection as well as sponges are poisonous and distasteful to some animals.

This pic depicts a budding sponge. Sponge reproduce both sexually and asexually (for this case). So when a sponge buds, a part of the parent sponge falls off and this grows into a new sponge.
We saw many other organisms but did not manage to take a picture of them as was busy guilding.
Some of them include:
  1. Seahorse
  2. Spidercounch
  3. Dead Cowrie
  4. Octopus
  5. Cushion/common/knobbly Seastar
  6. Stonefish Sea Cucumber
  7. Sunflower Mushroom Coral
  8. Fanworm

Another great trip! It's interesting to see how the kids got fascinated by the intertidal animals (; Thanks rmbr for organising and horseshoe crabs for being such attentive audience despite the hot weather!

Some other entries to check out!





Thursday, June 11, 2009

Went to Semakau at 4+ am to guide a group of PLMGS girls. There they are posing as our group- upsidedown jellyfish (;

During the walk to the intertidals, we saw an obstructed view of beautiful sunrise!! How often do we get to see this in mainland Singapore? Never in fact, with all the highrise buildings.

Horseshoe crab is spotted by one of our participants (: It is a harmless creature, often seen burrowing quietly into sands feeding on worms, clams and anything edible including dead animals. They may also scrape off algae. Another interesting fact: It needs to exercise in order to eat. It has no jaws. So walking movements grinds up their food, and its bits are then passed on into its four pairs of 'food processing' legs!
Also their blood has a substance that is so sensitive to bacteria that 10% of them died in the process of harvesting to test for the presence of bacteria in human medication. Thank goodness a team from NUS Dept of Zoology has cloned a substance with similar characteristics to replace these wild harvested horseshoe blood.

As they grow, their body shape become rounder and looks like a cushion!~ More often seen in diving, hence always a TREAT to see them in shores. They have been seen on feeding some species of hard corals and their diet include immobile animals, organic particles found on sand and seaweeds.

Upside down jellyfishes passing the 'dead sea zone'..

That's hen talking to our participants. Guided together with hen today (:

Juvenile Giant Glam.

That's a giant giant clam haha.
Giant clam feed in both ways. Besides filter feeding for food, the zooxanthelle (symbiotic algae) is also present to make food and provide extra nutrients. They are endangered due to overcollection as a delicacy and making into souveniers like ashtrays.
I always find the way flatworms swim mesmerising. Flatworms are very delicate creatures and should always be handed with care.

A group pic with the star attraction of the day: Knobbly Seastar (: They are one of the biggest seastar we have around.

On the way back, we accidentally intrude the territory of this blue flower swimming crab! It was very agressive waving its claws, ready to declare war with us aha. This is a first sight for me! (:
It is one of the few crabs that are swift and agile due to its last pair of paddle-like feet.

This is sandfish sea cucumber is the haisheng that we eat during chinese new year. It breathes using water that is being flushed in and out through its backend. With this constant flow of water, some tiny creatures find the backside of a seacucumber a cosy and safe place to be! I like how one participant liken it to being in a jacuzzi (;

This black phyllid nudibranch cannot be kept in an aquarium. It release toxic substances when dtressed and this kills the entire tank of fishes!

Very soon it was time for us to leave again as the tides come in. A big thank you to upside down jellyfishes for being such attentive and enthusiastic audiences today!

Do check out other guides' posts:

God's wonderful creation

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Woots it was a first for me at St John's Island! Volunteered with RMBR to help out in coastal cleanup together with members of Deutsche Bank(:

First and foremost, we started with a mangrove tour led by Ron..

Albizia falcataria

The Albizia is a valuable multipurpose plant for the tropics. It is used for pulp and other wood products, fuelwood, ornamental paintings etc. It is highly regarded as a shade tree as well. Albizia is a native plant to this region, but may not be in Singapore. Though it is a very useful tree, it regenerates too easily by natural seeding on any clearing that it may be regarded as a pest.

Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus)

It can be identified by its distinctive heart-shaped leaves. The plant secretes a sugary substance through a small slit near the stalk of the leaf. Hence sometimes you can see many ants drinking from them when you turnover to the underside of the leaves. The ants, in turn will keep off insect pests hence protecting the plant.

We spotted a dead dried paradise tree snake lying on the grass. They are able to flatten their body and glide from one tree to the other.

Ron was talking about how peacock feather symbolises human courtship(; Male peacocks display their feathers to prospective female mates. The females will then check out the feathers of different male peacocks before making a choice. The length and quantity of male peacock feathers actually indicate his age, vigor and status! Just like how some girls may prefer guys with big cars and houses, the male peacocks with big and heavy feathers conveys the message that they have strong genes and have the resources aha.

The pong pong trees that are commonly seen on our roadside are non-native. They are commonly planted and its flowers are yellow in the centre.

Our native pong pong trees have flowers that are pink at the centre and have elongated fruits(:

Haha of course the journey is not all smooth. We had long walks and even crossed fences. If not this way, how can we see these many different species of plants?(;

We saw many of these volcano-shaped moulds. These are actually made by the mud lobster. They feed on organic particles by digging the sand and mud. Their action help to loosen the mud and allow air and water to penetrate through the soil. These facilitate the growth of mangrove seedling. The moulds also provide shelter for small aquatic creatures during low tides, forming a habitat otherwise known as the 'mud lobster condominum'!

Nipah Palm is a mangrove plant with the oldest known fossil, with pollen dated 70 million years old! Being a very useful plant, its immature fruits (also known as attap chee) are white translucent and hard jelly-like are a common ingredient used in local desserts.

Fig tree (also known as the Bodhi tree)
Although commonly referred as the fruit, the fig fruit is also the flower of the tree, in which the fruits and flowers grow together to form a single mass! The flower is invisible, as it blooms inside the fruit. Warning! Embrace yourselves: Small fig wasps crawl through the opening in search of a suitable place to lay eggs. The flowers provide a safe haven and nourishment for the next generation of wasps. The wasp pollinates the flower with pollen from the fig it grew up in. When the wasp dies, it is broken down by enzymes inside the fig. However fig wasps are not known to transmit any diseases harmful to humans.

These green dopping structures are often mistaken as the leaves of casuarina trees. They are actually casuarina stems that are grooved with tiny scalelike leaves(: Casuarina is a flowering plant as well.

After the mangrove tour, we proceed to our coastal cleanup. The amount of rubbish we collected is no joke!! People just litter their trash carelessly into the sea not knowing the circumstances brought about to our sea creatures. These trash can suffocate our poor marine animals and of course pollute the environment. Fishing nets leftover by fishermen have worse aftereffects! The long stretches of nets can trap all kinds of animals including birds. They all either get roasted under the sun or get drowned during high tides!

It was definitely hard work (looking at their sweat) and a great job done!- a big thank you to the participants!! (:(:

Everyone can do their part to the environment by not littering and better still, pick up rubbish along the way. We can do our part by practising the 3Rs- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Small little action like this goes a long way~

After that we had a short tour of the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI). TMSI is a centre of excellence for research, development and consultancy in tropical marine science as well as environmental science. It is quite interesting as we tour around and see how they cultivate the marine animals in nurseries such as the giant clams(as shown in the right picture).

All in all it was a great trip despite the heavy downpour and thunderstorm! My first experience in St John's was good and I definitely want to go back there again, this time exploring the shores(: