Mar 26, 2007

HOT Seagrass Weekend!

This last weekend was a seagrass extravaganza. With four back-to-back HOT events, some of which were literally scorching.

HOT event #1: TeamSeagrass Workshop 24 Mar 07

Baffled by seagrass IDs? Wondering what's the deal with the transect lines and quadrats? Puzzled by why we measure the things we measure?All these and more were made clear when Len McKenzie and Rudi Yoshida from Seagrass-Watch HQ (Australia) gave TeamSeagrass a special workshop. In a classroom session held at NParks BioD's fabulous briefing room, we learned everything we wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

The briefing also gave us a deeper appreciation of the importance of seagrasses and the many threats to this special ecosystem throughout the world. We are truly fortunate to have good stretches of this threatened ecosystem on our very own shores. And glad to be making a difference for them.Siti also gave a presentation on what we've been up to.

And shared some preliminary findings from all your hard work in data collection.Seagrassers had lots of fun immediately putting the new knowledge into practice. Checking out the live seagrasses which were set up in a tank, specially for the workshop.

The tiny features of seagrasses are quite fascinating!

Even better seen through the fancy microscopes provided by NParks.

Marcus tried to photograph the tiny bits seen through the microscope. But alas, this approach didn't work.

The workshop proceedings provides lots of useful information for TeamSeagrass!If you missed the workshop and would like a copy of the proceedings, just email Ria at (put "TeamSeagrass Workshop Proceedings" in the subject line)

Len and Rudi brought along lots of lovely seagrassy presents of newsletters and bookmarks!NParks BioD friends really made TeamSeagrass felt welcome!Thank you everyone for making the workshop possible!

For coming to the workshop: Anil, Annabelle, Chay Hooon, Gaytri, Helen, Jo, Lyn, Marcus, Qie Lan, Ron, Genevie, Faizah, Laimun, Ching Ling, Jocelyne, Choon Beng, Tay SL, Serena and Christina.

For help in setting up the tanks: Kevin, Wilson and Robin.

HOT event #2: TeamSeagrass Makes the News!

While Len was hard at work giving the workshop, others were busy sharing the TeamSeagrass story with the media.Charming Shufen makes even wilted and tanked seagrasses come alive with stories about their special role.

Yes, we've decided to go public with TeamSeagrass! And what better occasion than during Len and Rudi's visit to Singapore!

Other special guests for the workshop were Choo Chee Kuang (left) and Dr Chua Ee Kiam (right).

Choo runs Seagrass Watch at Pulai just opposite our Tuas monitoring site, and also champions the Save our Seahorses campaign in Malaysia. It was such a treat to have him with us to share his vast experience about seahorses, seagrasses and shore stuff.

Dr Chua is of course Singapore's renown nature photographer and author. He shared his latest book about Singapore's shores with the media too! (Photos of Dr Chua by Mr Wong Tuan Wah)

And of course, Siti shares the TeamSeagrass story! Bravo!

Here is CNA's media report about TeamSeagrass!
Nature conservationists focus on seagrass to preserve eco-system
Channel NewsAsia 24 Mar 07

and the video is on the CNA website too!

Hot event #3: Cyrene Reef with Len, Rudi and Choo 24 Mar 07

Earlier that morning, TeamSeagrass were out at Cyrene Reef to show this fantastic reef to Len, Rudi and Choo.Here's the usual hearty TeamSeagrass group photo!

And we were off into the sunny morning to explore this vast reef.Len, Rudi and Choo were hassled by Siti, Shufen and Wei Ling about all things seagrassy.

Rudi identified yet ONE more species of seagrass on Cyrene: Cymodocea rotundata, bringing the total at Cyrene to 8 species! WOW! Amazing for a reef that's smack in the middle of busy shipping lanes and ringed by petrochemical plants and container terminals.Cyrene reef has a patch with lots of sea stars. All, of course, busy making new sea stars.

And other echinoderms like cushion stars and pencil urchins!

The sunny morning turned into a REALLY hot day and TeamSeagrass got well roasted. Shufen, Wei Ling and Siti decided to just sit in the cool water at the end of the trip. Alas, I didn't get a photo of that.

For more stories and photos, see blog entries by Seagrassers who came for the Cyrene trips: the budak blog, tidechaser blog and blue heaven blog.

Hot event #4: Semakau Monitoring 25 Mar 07

Bright and early the very next morning, TeamSeagrass were out on Pulau Semakau with Len and Rudi for the field portion of the workshop and to do some monitoring.

On arrival, TeamSeagrasser-Semakau guide Ron Yeo gives an impromtu introduction to the Landfill and the intertidal wonders of Pulau Semakau.

We take the traditional Team photo just before bashing through the mosquito-infested trail of the forested portion of Pulau Semakau to reach the shore.

Reaching Semakau's vast seagrass meadows, Len holds the Team enthralled as he explains the finer elements of monitoring.

Under Len's guidance, one team starts off the first transect.

Then everyone heads off to the transects, to put into practice what we've learnt.

Semakau's shores are enormous!

Meanwhile, Nigel brings the media to have a look at the coral reef edge. The amazing reef animals do Pulau Semakau proud!It was another SCORCHING sunny day!

After a thorough wash up with lots of water specially provided by NEA...

...Mr Poi from NEA drives us to have a look at the Southern Islands from the landfill.Helen, another TeamSeagrasser-Semakau guide, gives the commentary along the way.

During the stopover, some Team members spotted a shark swimming in the large lagoon within the seawalls! Wow!

For more photos and stories about the Semakau adventure, see koksheng's blog. Ron also has a very informative entry in his tidechaser blog about the day, outlining things like how you CAN get more than 100% if you add seagrass and algae % cover. As well as many delightful finds such as nemos! Although Ron has been out with TeamSeagrass countless times, it was the first time he got to do monitoring because he's constantly being arrowed to do other things on the occasions. And MORE photos by Kevin Lam.

What a HOT seagrass weekend!

Thanks to all TeamSeagrassers who came for the monitoring: Anil, Annabelle, Dickson, Gaytri, Helen, Jo, Kok Sheng, Lyn, Marcus, Qie Lan, Ron, Vyna, Genevie, Yikang, Laimun, Ching Ling.

Mr Poi and his colleagues at NEA, as always, took the best care of all our needs. With courtesy bus transfers, an impromtu landfill tour, providing LOTS of washing up water and access to the much-needed office water cooler. Thank you!

It was a nerve-wrecking, break-neck build up to a no-sleep weekend. At the end of it all on Sunday, the exhausted Team Leads could finally fall sick and catch up on sleep. Thank YOU to Siti, Shufen and Wei Ling most especially for all the hard work put into making this weekend possible!

Apologies once again to those who got kicked off boats because Ria couldn't count to 12, others who got missed out in namelists, heart attacks due to extreme lateness and other inadvertent errors and omissions!

Mar 22, 2007

Stunning Cyrene: 22 Mar 07

Early this morning, just off our container terminals, the sun rose haltingly behind gianormous clouds that served as a backdrop to a burst of lightning display...In denial, as usual, as to the possibility of rain, a bunch of sleepy seagrassers peered into the gloom to try to find the reef that lies in the middle of our shipping lanes.As the tide fell, Cyrene Reef 'grew' and we made landfall without having to swim!We christened the boat, Onchi Boat (because it's as slow as a slug).

Cyrene Reef is simply thick with seagrasses!!There were seagrasses even where we landed, and everywhere else we wandered.

Before we wandered off, we had our usual mandatory group photo......although those documenting were already hard at work.

First we tried Siti's suggested "intrepid explorers" pose.

But as usual, I prefer our standard "we are so sexy and wide awake" pose. Really hard to do early in the morning.

Cyrene Reef is ENORMOUS. And full of lovely clean, green seagrasses.Of all different kinds mixed up together!
And what a treat! The Sickle seagrasses (Thalassia hemprichii) were blooming!
Elsewhere, the Reef is thick with corals hard and soft.
Other sightings include sea stars (cushion, knobbly, common), sand dollars, sea urchins, kinky slugs, pufferfishes and the dreaded stingrays.

Cyrene Reef is very much alive! Even though it is right smack in the middle of our shipping lanes, next to massive industrial sites like Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom, and opposite our container terminals.

We can't wait to go back again on Saturday and share it with Len, Rudi and Choo!

Lots more photos and stories about the visit on Dickson's the blue heaven blog and the Annotated Budak blog

Mar 20, 2007

Team Seagrass & RGS at Labrador

As many of you probably know, the seagrass monitoring at Labrador Beach will be carried out by three lovely young ladies from Raffles Girls School (RGS) and a few members of Team Seagrass (Shoop, Nor Aishah, Ria and myself) met up with the girls and their teachers, Cheng Puay (also a Seagrasser) and Beng Chiak to do a recce of the shore.

As always, the mandatory (made so by Ria) "We are Happy Seagrassers" pose was needed -or demanded- before we start the session, but the girls cheerfully obliged and spurred by their cheer, the rest of us managed something more than our usual grimace...Then we got right to work, estimating the dimensions of the seagrass bed at Labrador. The Thalassia hemprichii or sickle seagrass, in particular seems to be doing very well and has spread to the other side of the jetty. There were several more clumps of Enhalus acoroides (Tape seagrass) than I remembered as well. The girls did their homework and were pretty spot on with their seagrass ID as well, which was impressive.

We laid out a 100m line and did five 25m transects running perpendicular to the shore at 25m intervals. This is a method modified from the original 50m x 50m that is used on Chek Jawa and Semakau because the seagrass area at Labrador is much narrower.Before we knew it, we were done and the girls had a bit of time to explore the shore. Wai (of WildFilms) found a nudibranch and we soon gathered around to have a closer look.Here it is up close:All too soon, the tide was coming in and it was time to pack up and leave. Keep watching this space for updates on the girls' first monitoring session at Labrador Beach coming up in April.

[Ria: The RGS team now have their own blog! Drop by for a look at their latest seagrass adventures.]