Winners of the The Young Marine Biologist Award (YMBA) contest organised by Underwater World Singapore have been announced!
Tao Nan School
Kang Yi Xi,
East View Secondary School
Ni'mah Binte Mohamed Nasir
Nurliyana Binte Mohammad Hashim
Natassha Binte Hamid
NUS High School of Mathematics and Science
Tsai Tse Yin,
More details on the Underwater World Singapore webpage for the contest.
The low spring tides have switched to evening at this time of the year. So instead of glorious sun rises, shore explorers can enjoy spectacular sun sets!
As well as marvellous marine life of course. Here's some of the latest happenings over the last two weeks.
The Big Event of the month (and the year) was International Coastal Cleanup Singapore held on 20 Sep (Sat).
The months of preparation and planning paid off with smooth gathering of data and trash by thousands of volunteers on many of our shores. On the day itself, there was instant updates on the ICCS blog, with a particularly touching story of the effort on Chek Jawa.Despite 200 volunteers removing 2.1 tonnes of trash from Chek Jawa, it is estimated that "only 5% of the total trash load at Chek Jawa" was removed. There is much MUCH more that needs to be done for our beloved Chek Jawa, as well as our other shores. More results and photos on the ICCS blog.
There was also a quick check up of Sentosa's last accessible natural reef, much in danger from on-going and planned developments around it.
The shore was not at its best, but still revealed marvels such as this less frequently encountered cowrie. The delightful Four-spot cowrie (Cypraea quadrimaculata) is listed among the threatened animals of Singapore.
Crinoid experts and a small team of volunteers visited the reefs at Pulau Hantu. Crinoids, or feather stars, are beautiful animals with long feathery arms. They are not very commonly seen on our intertidal so it was fortunate that several were seen during the trip.
Of course, along the way, many other marvellous reef creatures were encountered, including lots of flatworms, nudibranchs, hard corals and everyone's favourite: Clown anemonefishes.Many outreach and other efforts continue during the last two weeks. Schering Plough volunteers were out once again to monitor the seagrass fields at Tuas.
Although the tide was brief and not very low, the team got the job done and had a quick look around. Tuas shores seem to be doing alright, with several clusters of the trademark seafans that are usually found there.
Meanwhile, Siti went all the way to Canada to share about Singapore seagrass meadows at an international seagrass conference.
Other field trips include
Other updates on our reefs and marine life
Other shore issues discussed recently
Updates on on-going works on our shores
Letter from Ms Kia Jie Hui to my paper
I refer to the article "Make Singapore a coral haven" by Mr Marcel Lee Pereira (my paper 10 Sep).
While it is encouraging to see the efforts of marine conservationists reflected in the print media, I feel that a crucial aspect of the issue of conservation has been neglected.
That would be: Why should Singaporeans care whether our country becomes a "coral haven" or not?
Too often, conservation projects are portrayed as the lofty concerns of a small group of scientists or idiosyncratic environmentalists.
The layperson is excluded from these efforts.
We do not see an issue like marine biodiversity as being relevant to our everyday lives, nor do we see how our individual actions could possibly make an impact on things like the welfare of coral reefs in our waters; and honestly, we would be hard-pressed to say we really give a hoot.
An article like Mr Pereira's does not exactly inspire passion for protecting our environmental reserves.
The only justification given for the implementation of measures under the Blue Plan is that "after all, corals may be a valuable source of biomedical products and serve as educational and tourist draws".
This sounds unconvincing to me, especially seeing as how it following a line calling for "the cost of such measures (to) be borne by the Government.:
At a time of poor economic forecasts and inflation, it is unlikely that increased government spending on environmental-impact studies would receive popular support.
Although it is important for readers to be informed of the proposals and plans that conservationists have in mind for our nation, what should be given greatest emphasis is the relevance of these efforts to individuals in our society.
In this case, it would be helpful to go back to the basic question: "Why is marine biodiversity even important?"
I was taught the importance of preserving Earth's biodiversity in a module on the topic.
Even after having gone through the module, I find myself at a loss when trying to explain the link between saving a community of coral reefs and its importance to Singapore tomorrow, or even in the next 10 years.
This is where an expert could and should step in to fill the gap.
People are more likely to be engaged with the cause if empowered with knowledge and, even in Singapore, the public does have an impact on policy.
Chek Jawa is an excellent, heartwarming case in point.
More public awareness of the relevance of environmental issues would also do well in improving Singaporeans' attitude to green initiatives.
In the long run, there has to be social recognition of the urgency of environmental conservation.
See the FAQs on this blog that cover these issues:
Do Singaporeans give a hoot about marine conservation? on the wild shores of singapore blog
10% of reefs proposed as 'no-go zones' in Blue Plan
Marcel Lee Pereira, My Paper 10 Sep 08;
More protection and better management of Singapore's coral reefs could turn the island into a "coral paradise" in 10 years.
That is the gist of a proposal by a group of marine conservationists, which they plan to submit to the Government by early next year.
Mr Francis Lee, chairman of consultative group Marine Roundtable, shared some of the ideas with my paper last week.
He is overseeing Singapore's participation in the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) campaing this year. IYOR is held once a decade.
This "Blue Plan", the marine equivalent of the Singapore Green Plan -- a national blueprint for a sustainable environment -- will be the highlight of Singapore's IYOR celebrations.
Work on the "Blue Plan" started in the middle of this year, and the ideas build upon an earlier version submitted to the Government in 2001 through its Feedback Unit.
Part of the group's vision is that at least 10 per cent of Singapore's coral rees, mostly along the southern islands, should be turned into sanctuaries.
These could be categorised into "no-go zones", where access is granted for only scientific purposes. Other areas with limited access could be allowed, or opened under proper management.
Currently, areas such as the Chek Jawa Wetlands and Pulau Sekudu are protected by the National Parks Board (NParks), which monitors the area. Vessels entering these wetlands also need a permit from NParks.
However, more areas should be covered, including the southern islands such as Kusu Island and St. John's Island, as well as diving spot Pulau Hantu, and live-firing areas like Pulau Sudong and Pulau Senang, said Mr Lee.
He believes that other agencies, NGOs and companies should play a part too.
Environmental-impact studies are not consistently done for land reclamation and other projects, he said.
Hence, another proposal will be to have an independent agency to conduct such studies.
This agency must also be consulted by other agencies to ensure that the marine ecosystem is given a higher priority.
Singapore has not paid enough attention to marine conservation, added Mr Lee.
"Management of our seas has been limited to preventing pollution from factories and oil tankers, and I think we've done a wonderful job in that area, but no to in serving the marine ecosystem."
He added that the cost of such measures should be borne by the Government.
After all, coral reefs may be a valuable source of biomedical products and serve as educational and toursit draws.
He said" "The region has more than 2,500 fish species, and 500-600 species of hard corals, five times more than the Caribbean and 25 times more than the Mediterranean."
He added that SIngapore may well have half or more of this biodiversity. Common species found here include butterfly fish and brain and staghorn coral.
To beef up scientific knowledge About Singapore's marine biodiversity, the group is consolidating data from scientists, universities and institutes into a database, which will be used as an indication of its marine heritage.
Professor Chou Loke Ming of the National University of Singapore's department of biological sciences added that there have been "positive signals" such as the translocation of corals when a development is built upon the site of a reef.
He added: "Coral-reef conservation and restoration run over the long term. It's not just a one-off exercise: it has to be a sustained effort".
The ozone hole is closing, but this could cause Antartica to become warmer due to weekened polar winds. This may lead to sea ice melting and sea levels rising.
THE Greenland ice sheet may be thousands of miles away, but the rate at which it's melting was a point of concern in Parliament yesterday.
Also in question was how much rise in sea level will Singapore experience as a result of global warming.
More about this in Teh Jen Lee's article in The New Paper 17 Sep 08
full article also on the wildsingapore news blog
Some extracts ...
Minister Yaacob Ibrahim answered both MPs by first stating that the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected last year that climate change could lead to sea level rises of between 18cm and 59cm by the year 2100.
This does not factor in the rapid melting of Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets, as the understanding of these effects is too limited.
Since 1991, all new reclamation projects have to be built to a level 125cm above the highest recorded tide level.
This is 66cm more than the IPCC's projected highest sea level rise of 59cm by the end of the 21stcentury in the worst-case scenario.
Singapore's development of drainage infrastructure over the last 30 years has reduced flood-prone areas from 3,200 ha in the '70s to 98ha today.
PUB will reduce it to less than 48 ha by 2011 through the development and improvement of drainage infrastructure, such as the widening and deepening of drains and canals.
While the objective of this is to reduce the flood-prone areas and alleviate flooding today, a better drainage system helps to reduce the possibility of upstream flooding when heavy rain coincides with high tide or sea level rise.
In addition, the National Environment Agency, in consultation with other government agencies, commissioned a two-year study last year to understand the specific implications of climate change in Singapore, based on the IPCC studies.
These include sea level and temperature changes, flooding and coastal erosion. The study is expected to be completed next year.
Is rapid melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets likely? These and more links on the wild shores of singapore blog
What to speak up about this? Send your comments to Sustainable Singapore, an effort to gather feedback on climate change issues. More in this earlier post.
Things are really revving up for the massive annual blitz on marine litter!
Haven't signed up yet? There's still places for the clean up at Pulau Ubin.
Behind this mammoth effort were months of planning and briefings for the various coastal locations.
And recces over the this weekend to Kranji, Kallang Basin, Pandan mangroves and more.
Coastal Cleanup is not just about picking up litter. It is about collecting data about marine litter.
This is the data collected in 2007 by more than 2,000 volunteers on 9 tonnes of trash.
The source of the trash is also recorded.
Data from 2007 reveals 49% of the trash is a result of "Shoreline and Recreational Activities", 7% from "Ocean/Waterway Activities", 12% from "Smoking-Related Activities" with 28% categorised as "Debris of Local Concern".
For "Shoreline and Recreational Activities" the main types of debris were Bags (13%), Food Wrappers/Containers (10%), Straws, Stirrers (10%), Plastic Beverage Bottles under 2 litres (4%), Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons (3%), Caps, Lids (3%).
The Cleanup in Singapore is part of International Coastal Cleanup run by the Ocean Conservancy. It is the world’s largest volunteer event of its kind. Last year, 378,000 volunteers from 76 countries and 45 states cleared six million pounds of trash from oceans and waterways and recorded every piece of trash collected.
In Singapore between 2001 - 2005, volunteers removed 33 tonnes of marine trash from our beaches and mangroves and recorded all aspects of this trash.
Killer Litter! Discarded drift nets kill countless marine creatures constantly. Called ghost nets, these cause unnecessary painful deaths for our marine life.Plastic litter is particularly insidious as these last for a long time, choking and killing marine life that accidentally eat them. Plastic litter breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces and end up in the food chain and thus eventually, in humans.
Links to more information
Understanding science will help people realise its impact on their lives
Leo W.H. Tan, Straits Times 13 Sep 08;
I TAUGHT biology when I began my scientific career, and I had a favourite living laboratory, a 300m stretch of seemingly barren beach called Labrador.
Every freshman in my class made a compulsory field visit.
Their typical first reaction was: 'Why did you bring us here? There is no marine life to observe.'
Using the 'learning science through inquiry' method, I'd take them on a journey of discovery about the wonders of nature and, three hours later, they would be asking if they could stay longer.
They had discovered the rocks were alive with algae, snails, barnacles, anemones, corals, crabs and a host of other creatures, and realised how rich the biodiversity was.
One striking impression they took away was not to make assumptions about anything until they tested out their hypotheses.
I would like to believe that first encounter had a stimulating influence on many generations of my students, including several now in key positions in academia and research, the school system and corporations.
Singapore prides itself on having a science and technology-based economy.
Everyone encounters science and technology in daily life.
I wonder though how many are actually aware of, and understand, the scientific content, principles or benefits that relate to their lives.
Only when people see how a light bulb is linked to power generation and climate change, or how losing a beach means the loss of biodiversity and bioactive products such as potential anti-cancer drugs from marine species, can they appreciate how science improves their economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being.
In a globalised, knowledge-based economy that is increasingly dependent on knowledge creation and innovation rather than merely on the goods and services of an industrial age, it is necessary to develop a science-literate society that is adaptable to change and able to make informed decisions.
This is where science communication can play a critical role.
Newtonian science was about scientific discovery and knowledge for its own sake, but after the deployment of atomic power as a weapon of destruction in the last world war, science must now be answerable to the public.
The public should exercise its right to be informed not only of the benefits of science but also about possible downsides and areas of concern.
There are so many interesting and contemporary issues to keep the public engaged - climate change and global warming; genetic engineering and stem cell research; health and disease; biodiversity and conservation; biotechnology and nanotechnology.
Unfortunately for many scientists, communicating their work to the layman does not come naturally, most notably because of their propensity to talk and write in jargon.
There is also a reticence to write or talk to the media, which undeniably is the major vehicle for stimulating public debate and shaping public opinion on scientific issues.
There are two other influential groups of professionals who need to communicate science - the teacher and the health professional.
The former has to engage students in thinking critically about how science works and why it matters to society. Students have to be excited about science as a possible career choice and not merely as a study option.
The latter has to communicate effectively on health and related issues and in a timely manner. The 2003 Sars outbreak, for example, demonstrated the vital importance of reaching out to the masses.
The National University of Singapore, in partnership with the Australian National University, is introducing a joint Master of Science degree programme in science communication.
The participation of the Science Centre Singapore in this programme, with its hands-on approach to learning, enhances the value of the degree. Both theory and practical aspects will be emphasised.
School teachers, in particular, will find this programme relevant as it helps them upgrade communication skills and scientific content knowledge, so they can engage students in creative ways as well as being confident of supervising them in project work.
In the 1980s, as director of the Singapore Science Centre, I had to seek funding to bring the famous Royal Institution of Great Britain's lecture and demonstration series to Singapore.
I was introduced to the head of a well-known chemical corporation, and he agreed without hesitation to sponsor the series. As an A-level student in London, he had attended a Royal Institution lecture given by a Nobel laureate in chemistry, Professor George Porter. He was so awed by the simplicity of the explanations that he decided to become a scientist. He went on to do a PhD in chemistry, joined the industry and rose to top management.
An effective science communicator had influenced his career.
Prof Porter was the director of the Royal Institution and a reputable researcher. He chose to communicate science not only to his peers but to the public too, and schoolchildren in particular.
As a result of the three-year sponsorship here, thousands of our students benefited from the lecture series.
The story does not end there.
A disciple of Prof Porter, Professor David Phillips, now an Emeritus Professor at Imperial College, London, had similarly influenced one of my students through his science communication lectures. That young man recently obtained his PhD from an Ivy League institution.
It is time this discipline took its rightful place in our society.
As for Labrador Beach, there is one clear benefit from introducing it to the students.
Some were instrumental in quietly proposing over three decades its conservation, and this became reality in 2001 when Labrador became a nature reserve.
Here was a tangible result of communicating science to my students.
They and other Singaporeans saw the value of keeping a living heritage that mattered to them.
The writer is president of the Singapore National Academy of Science and immediate past director of the National Institute of Education. He also chairs the advisory board for NUS-SCS Science Communication Programmes.
More about Prof Leo Tan and his influence on the shores and shore volunteers on the wild shores of singapore blog.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) is seeking ideas to turn Pulau Semakau green: test-bed for renewable energy and recreational and educational activities. NEA has posted a call to tender for consultancy services to a concept plan to this effect. The final masterplan is expected to be unveiled end of next year.
Plans for eco-park on Semakau landfill
It may be a test bed for energy studies and a place for 'green' recreation
Ang Yiying, Straits Times 10 Sep 08;
FROM the ashes of Semakau landfill, a new eco-park will rise.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) is seeking ideas for its brainwave to turn Singapore's first offshore landfill into a test bed for renewable energy technologies and a place for 'green' recreational and educational activities.
Eventually, Pulau Semakau will be self-sustaining, meeting all its own water and energy needs, according to a document posted on the Government Electronic Business website.
An NEA spokesman said it was 'premature' to reveal further information as the agency is still evaluating tenders for consultancy services to the concept plan.
The area proposed for development would be about 90ha of the 350ha Pulau Semakau.
Created by connecting two small islands, Pulau Semakau started operating as a landfill in 1999 and contains ash transported there from Singapore's incineration plants. It is clean and scenic, and has been open to the public for recreational activities since 2005.
Energy researchers welcome its use as a test platform not always possible - especially for the private sector - on limited and expensive land in Singapore.
Being near the sea, one possible use would be the creation of biofuels by cultivating marine algae as seed stock, suggested Mr David Liang, vice-president of technology and commercialisation at the Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering.
Another renewable energy source which could be researched and developed on the island is solar energy, said Dr Jiang Fan, manager of the Technology Centre for Clean Energy at Singapore Polytechnic.
Building and testing systems for solar energy can take up a chunk of space.
For example, a new 46.8 kilowatt- peak solar photovoltaic system that the polytechnic is planning to install will consist of 12 different types of photovoltaic modules and will take up 480 sq m.
Zero-emission vehicles, like electrical cars and fuel-cell cars, could also be tested in the eco-park where charging stations based on renewable energy sources can be set up at lower cost.
Singapore Environment Council executive director Howard Shaw welcomed the idea of turning a landfill into a productive showcase for the environment.
Mr Shaw said: 'I think it will be a gem for Singapore to show not just its commitment to being clean and green but also to provide education facilities for new generations.'
But he added that monitoring and adequate measures would need to be continued to minimise risk of leakages from the landfill site.
Dr Ho Hua Chew, who chairs the Nature Society of Singapore's conservation committee, also noted that the plan 'must include ways and means to protect or enhance the habitat of the natural biodiversity'.
Pulau Semakau is home to rare tape seagrass, which grows along its shores, and replanted mangroves. It is also a favoured spot for birdwatching. The proposal states that care should be taken to minimise impact on the existing eco-system.
Based on the schedule in the document, the final masterplan for the development is likely to be rolled out by the end of next year.
Our efforts are listed on the main IYOR website!
Visit the main IYOR website to find out things you can do to protect coral reefs and more...
There's lots of information about coral reefs ...
What Are Coral Reefs?
As well as find out more about IYOR, what activities are being held and lots of other educational materials.
A seafood guide for Singapore soon! WWF announced today that they would be coming up with a guide on the seafood eaten in Singapore to guide consumers in making a more sustainable choice.
WWF also launched a two-year project to get Singapore restaurants and hotels to serve up less of the grouper and another fish, the Napolean wrasse, also known as the humphead wrasse.
After Hong Kong, Singapore is the second-largest consumer of these fish in the region.
WWF says more than 500 tonnes of fish consumed here in a year are coral reef fish, and three-quarters of these are various types of grouper. The reason the consumption of the grouper and the wrasse is worrying conservationists is that these fish are at the top of the food chain in the reefs.
'When they are gone, it means other fish normally eaten by them will increase in number. And some of these fish are harmful to the reefs'
'We're not saying one has to stop eating fish but perhaps we can choose to eat those which are in abundant supply. With the seafood guide, we hope to help consumers make these decisions.'
According to AVA, Singaporeans consume about 120,000 tonnes of fish a year, most of them from the waters of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Among the 15 most popular fish consumed here are the Spanish mackerel, commonly known as batang, salmon, pomfret and seabass.
WWF also says destructive fishing practices, such as blast or cyanide fishing, pose a serious risk to the health of reef ecosystems and the long-term future of the live reef fish trade.
The WWF has already produced such guides for Hong Kong and Indonesia.
More about the fish guide
from the WWF HK fish guide
What is the aim of a fish guide?More links
Call the 'Seafood Choice Initiative', it aims to tackle the problems with marine fisheries and aquaculture through 'consumer-power'.
Do people care?
According to a 2005 TNS survey, conducted on behalf of WWF, more than 70% of people in Hong Kong didn't know or were unsure of the origins of the seafood they consumed. And more than 50% of them didn't know whether there were any environmental impacts associated with the food they ate. But an impressive 97% of the Hong Kong public said they would either stop or reduce their seafood consumption if they knew a species was threatened.
How were the different species assessed for the HK fish guide?
All species were assessed using rigorous criteria for either wild caught, or farmed species, developed collaboratively by a number of WWF offices, including Hong Kong. For wild-caught seafood, we examined in detail whether the fishery is sustainably managed, and whether the fishing methods are destructive to the environment. For farmed seafood, we looked at the impacts of disease, pollution, the use of medicine, and where the juvenile animals come from.
Updates of the seafood guide
The ultimate aim of the guide is not to completely halt the fishing or farming of any marine fishes or invertebrates, including those currently in the "Avoid" category. WWF recognises the importance of marine species as food. Rather, we hope that gradually all fisheries will become properly managed, and that the problematic side-effects of aquaculture become addressed. With this in mind WWF will periodically update the seafood guide to reflect changes in the way that wild-caught and farmed species are caught and reared. We will also update this webpage with the latest changes, assessments for new species, and more detailed information, to create an invaluable resource for consumers and the industry.
Yang Shufen of TeamSeagrass gave this talk at Reef Celebration on 9 Aug.
IYOR 2008 Singapore - Yang Shufen - Green Mean Photosynthesizing Machines from BeachBum on Vimeo.
Thanks to Andy for filming and uploading this video clip on his sgbeachbum blog.
TeamSeagrass is planning their annual Orientation on 27 Sep (Sat). Come for the session to learn more about our seagrasses and how you can make a difference for them.
Want to make a difference for our shores? Curious about our seagrasses and the wacky team that monitors our marine meadows?
Want to get a glimpse of some of their adventures? And find out more about what actually happens during a monitoring session?
Come for the annual TeamSeagrass Orientation session. It happens only once a year!
There'll be a quick introduction of our seagrasses and monitoring methods, aimed especially at those who have just joined the team. And quick look at some of past adventures throughout this year.
It's also PARTY TIME! A chance for seagrassers new and old to get to know one another.
Not on the Team yet? Just join us!
If you've always wanted to join TeamSegrass, now is a great time to do so. You'll get a proper introduction to the seagrasses and to the Team, at this annual seasonal gathering of Seagrassers.
How to join? Simply email these details
(a) your full name
(b) your age
(c) your email address
(d) your contact number
(e) any previous experience
to Ria at email@example.com, please put "TeamSeagrass" in your subject header.
Please do read the FAQs on the teamsegrass blog for more details about the programme.
Venue: Function Room, Botany Centre
Location map http://www.sbg.org.sg/tanglincore/tanglincore.asp
How to get there http://www.sbg.org.sg/visitorinfo/openinghours.asp
Contact: Ria at firstname.lastname@example.org
Explorers had a quick look at our shores during the last of the pre-dawn low tides for the year. Among the amazing encounters were Very Large Stars and stunning sunrises.
Although Changi is often dismissed as a reclaimed shore, it remains very much alive with intriguing finds on almost every trip.
Besides the usual stunning variety of beautiful sea stars that is commonly seen there, a strange anemone was also encountered.
Most astounding was the encounter with Very Large Stars. Unfortunately, they were dead and disintegrating, although smaller living individuals of these Luidia sea stars were seen on previous trips.Where do these large stars hang out when they are alive? Why were so many dead ones encountered? There is indeed so much yet to find out about our shores.
Meanwhile, a quick trip to Kusu Island resulted in an encounter with a pretty shrimp goby and its associate, the snapping shrimp. This odd couple share a burrow, with the keen eyed fish keeping a look out, while the more short-sighted but well armoured shrimp tidies up their hideout. Other sightings on this shore included loads of mating sea stars.
As well as beautiful corals and clown anemonefishes.
And of course, a beautiful sunrise. Kusu Island lies just 15 minutes away from the city centre! City Reefs: uniquely Singapore!
Another quick trip to the smaller of the Sisters Islands rewards with views of rich living reefs, crowded with lifeforms.Among the sightings there were a giant clam, special anemone and this very large bright red feather star, shared on facebook.
The Hantu Bloggers also made their monthly foray beneath the waves at our wild reefs at Pulau Hantu.
And the reefs there are most definitely alive! There were sightings of seahorses, fishes galore. Alas, also some abandoned fishing lines, which were duly removed.
It was also a NUDIful day for nudibranch diehards. With sightings of new nudis as well as lots of the more familiar of these colourful slugs.
The Hantu dive resulted in a sighting of a special fish that merited a record at the Raffles Museum!
Other shore activities this week includes the free guided walk at the Chek Jawa boardwalk by the Naked Hermit Crabs.
More blog entries about recent trips to our shores