Mar 29, 2009

Chek Jawa (29 Mar 09)

Our first sunrise monitoring for the year, and Chek Jawa is glorious!It was tough getting into the swing of the 4am wake up call, but it was worth it!

Today we were joined by students from Duke University led by Dr Mike Orbach. They are here as part of programme to study how the city state of Singapore functions.Siti gave a brief outline about TeamSeagrass and our work before we headed out for the shore.Another first for today was the unfurling of the new TeamSeagrass banner designed by Siti. This will be posted up at Chek Jawa, Pulau Semakau and other places where the Team is at work. So everyone can find out more about us and how to join us!We clamber down the ladder at the pontoon at the end of the boardwalk. I am increasingly having problems fitting in between the narrow ladder top. Sigh.And then we're off to get the monitoring done.

I was with the Duke University team, so I didn't get to share in what the rest of the Team did and found. But I'm sure they'll blog about this soon.

The grasses were certainly doing well. It was very nice to see in particular, lush growths of Fern seagrasses (Halophila spinulosa) and Smooth ribbon seagrasses (Cymodocea rotundata). The Sickle seagrasses (Thalassia hemprichi) were also doing well. Of course, there were loads of Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis) and Needle seagrasses (Halodule sp.). Siti shared more about Chek Jawa's seagrass meadows and the work of TeamSeagrass with the Duke University team.

I shared with the Duke University students about the mass deaths that occured in 2007 following massive flooding. Among those that suffered mass deaths were echinoderms. So it was good to see the echinoderms doing well on Chek Jawa.

Just as we started, Adelle found a Knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) is the seagrass area! The little nocturnal sand stars (Astropecten sp.) were still zipping about in the pools, about ready to burrow into the sand for the day. Also getting ready to sleep were several large brittlestars (Subclass Ophiuroidea).We also saw lots of sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta). The sea cucumbers were doing well with many Ball sea cucumbers (Phyllophorus sp.), some smooth sea cucumbers.
It was great to see MANY Garlic bread sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) and relatively large ones they were, as these animals were among those affected by the mass deaths. And as we headed to the middle of the lagoon, the students found some Common sea stars (Archaster typicus), some of which were mating! Hopefully, these sea stars will multiply and again, become very common on Chek Jawa.

We also saw many carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) including some on the sand bar! That's great to see as many of these anemones were affected by the 2007 mass deaths. As it was still early and cool, many peacock anemones (Order Ceriantharia) in various colours remained unfurled, and we also saw some sea pens (Order Pennatulacea). Annabelle also showed them the strange 'strawberry' sea anemone that is common on Chek Jawa and Changi but which has yet to be identified. We also saw some jellyfishes!

A strange snail we saw was this moon-snail like creature.It looked like a moon snail with a very large body. But the body was hard, and the snail did not seem to be able to retract completely into its shell.
The shell was rather flat and was covered with tiny spiralling ridges. I have no idea what it is. The students saw several of these, burrowing in the sand.

We also saw several Noble volutes (Cymbiola nobilis) and their egg cases, and the students found one actually in the process of laying her egg case! These large snails were also affected by the mass deaths so it was nice to encounter many of them.

Other molluscs that made their presence felt were cephalopods. The students came across this bunch of squid/cuttlefish egg capsules.
And later on, Andy shared with us this cuttlefish with a white band between its eyes and a row of glittering spots around its fins.It rapidly changed colours as it cruised about in the pool.Sam found this strange thing which was tubeworm out of its tube. One of the students shared that it might be Family Chaetopteridae. She added that these were rarely seen out of the tube. We wonder what might have caused the worm to stick out.
Indeed, from the Family Chaetopteridae page on the A Guide To Singapore Polychaetes by Lim Yun Ping, the National University of Singapore, there is the above drawing of the worm. Sure looks like what we saw! There sure were a lot of tubeworms on Chek Jawa today. Even at the Southern sand bar.

We also heard all kinds of birds from the shores. From waders to kingfishers, and the melodious Straw-headed bulbul. A special treat was to see a large clan of Jungle fowl wander out to the shore to feed: cockerels, hens and little ones too! Thanks to Adelle for pointing them out to us.

All too soon, the tide turned rapidly and TeamSeagrass and the students headed back.
We take a quick look at more stuff, which will soon be blogged about I'm sure.Since it was a glorious blue-sky morning, and it was still very early (not even 10am), we went on a little tour of the mangrove boardwalk. Kindly led by Marcus Ng, Ivan and Andy who guide with the Naked Hermit Crabs. I heard that hornbills were sighted! Thank you to these gallant and able guides for introducing TeamSeagrass and Duke University to the Chek Jawa mangroves. While they were hard at work, Siti, Wei Ling and I had a quick look at the mangroves on our own.

It was a great pleasure to have Duke University with us today. We thank Ubin NParks and Adelle for support on the trip. We certainly enjoyed having guests learn about our seagrasses and our shores, and we hope they enjoyed the trip. The students are blogging their trip to Singapore at Urban Tropical Ecology 2009. So look out for their report about our trip!

Thanks also to the site leaders for helping to set things up and get things done during the montoring: Adelle, Andy, Michell, Suizlyn, Hannah, Charmaine, Sam, Kenerf.

Thanks also to all in TeamSeagrass for coming for the monitoring and washing up afterwards: Jocelyn, Richard, Jinwen, Suryati, Marcus, Ivan, Gerry, Yoke Xi, Sean, Justin.

And of course Siti and Wei Ling who make all this possible!

Hope to see more of the Team at the next monitoring session and especially the upcoming Seagrass Workshop!

More blog posts about this trip

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