Oct 19, 2009

Pulau Semakau (18 Oct 09)

It's our LAST major monitoring for the year! And the Team is back out in booties on the vast vast seagrass meadows of Pulau Semakau!
Today we are joined by the Scouts! Led by seagrasser Tan Sijie, who is also very active with the Scouts. This is part of Sijie's SWA Discovery Workshop, of the Scouts of the World Award programme, to introduce local and international Scouts to Singapore's wild places and the work being done for them.

Siti briefs about our seagrasses and the Team's work to the Scouts before we leave Marina South Pier.
And then it was off in our very orange ferry. It was a slow trip but eventually we got to Semakau Landfill. Here's the orange ferry, behind it the Marine Transfer Station where the big barges bring in our incinerated trash twice a day to be buried at the Landfill. Despite being next to a fully operational landfill, Pulau Semakau continues to harbour amazing marine life, a testament to how well the Landfill was built and is maintained.
It was time for another quick introduction to Pulau Semakau by Sijie.
And soon we were out on the shores! Here's the SP Water Quality Team who have been joining us for our trips to take readings of the water quality in our seagrass meadows.
The shores of Semakau are vast! The teams doing Site 2 and Site 1 are tiny as they head out to the far northern edge of the shore. In the horizon are the petrochemical plants of Pulau Bukom.
Today, the Tape seagrasses (Enhalus acoroides) were blooming!
Here's a closer look at the large female flower with three white corrugated petals. The male flowers are tiny and often stick together to float in rafts on the water surface.
The Scouts are attached to the Team to help do the monitoring. We had a low turn out of the Team this trip, so it was a godsend to have the extra help. And we hope the Scouts had a good experience learning and discovering about our seagrasses. Here's Jocelyn leading one of the transects with the Scouts attached to her line.
And here's Sijie, filling in for Andy who was taking GPS points. Sijie carried the mallet all the way from Site 4 to Site 1 so that we could pound in the new stakes! The Scouts really helped in a big way today.
After the monitoring is done, we have a little bit of time before sundown to have a quick look at the rest of Pulau Semakau. There was a public walk going on at the same time, so they have marked out the 'death zone' with an orange flag. This is the path that we take through the seagrass meadows when we move in large groups, so as limit the damage to the shores.
As we reach the reef edge, we see different kinds of things.
Some of the hard corals were 'sliming'. The mucus produced helps to clean themselves off sediments and other icky things. That is why living corals generally look clean despite murky waters. But producing the slime takes up resources, so very murky waters with a lot of sediments can weaken corals. Murky waters are also not good for seagrasses which need sunlight to make food. Thus monitoring seagrass health also gives an idea about the how the rest of the shores might be doing.
And here's flourescent green Sunflower mushroom coral (Heliofungia actiniformis)! This is a solitary polyp and not a colony of tiny polyps like other hard corals. Also, this hard coral is free-living and is not attached to a hard surface!
And this coral had tiny brown flatworms on its tentacles! Called Acoel flatworms (Acoela) they are generally harmless, merely grazing on mucus or other stuff produced by the bigger animal. They are found on all kinds of hard corals and sometimes soft corals too.
Here's a much bigger flatworm spotted by one of the Team. It has fine lines and I still have no idea what it is.
Animals living on animals is commonly encountered on reefs. While we couldn't find a False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) on this Giant carpet sea anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea), there was a tiny anemone shrimp (Periclimines brevicarpalis) near it. It's small and nearly transparent and hard to spot.
Kok Sheng shared with us the strange sea star who identity remains a mystery.
Earlier on, I shared with the Scouts the Cryptic sea stars (Cryptasterina sp.) which have so far only been found on Pulau Semakau. These boring looking, flat and limpet-like animals are found under stones and generally overlooked. But I think they are cool!
As the sun set rapidly, more animals emerged. We saw several octopuses, Marcus found a gigantic sea hare and an enormous Durian sea cucumber (Stichopus horrens), Kok Sheng and Mei Lin looked at the Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa), while the rest saw lots of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus) and other intriguing encounters in the dying hours of the day.
Soon it was time to head back and run the gauntlet of mosquitos that swarmed in huge clouds at dusk. While I was well protected in my trusty raincoat, the rest unfortunately made much unwilling blood donations.

But all ills are forgotten as we get back on the Orange Ferry for the slow ride back home. We share photos of our encounters with one another, take a nap and generally chill out.
Sean and Jocelyn are still lively as they continue to share with the Scouts.
I forgot to take a group photo of everyone today. Sorry. Well, this just means we will have to do it the next time we get together for a monitoring session.

As soon as the tide tables for 2010 becomes available, we will sort out next year's monitoring dates! Looking forward to that!

It was great to have these Team members with us today: Charmaine, Marcus, Vanitha, Kok Sheng, Mei Lin, Kah Ming, Suryati, Michell, Chi Keung, Joo Yong, Phong Chun Fong, Andy, Jocelyne and Sean. Also joining us today were the SP Water Quality Team: nUaN qIn, Joycelyn, Suzanna. It was also fabulous that Siti's colleagues could join us: Dan, Jennifer and Eugene.

On our trip, we were also joined by Nelson and Bernard from the Navy who are doing a recce for and upcoming major, much-needed and very manly clean up of Pulau Semakau. More on this on the wild shores of singapore blog.

The trip was also an opportunity for various researchers to check out Pulau Semakau: Mei Lin to look at the Giant clams (Family Tridacnidae), and Suryati to look at the Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii).

More posts about this trip

1 comment:

Flowers said...

nice blog with nice pictures. Picture of starfish is my fav. enjoyed going through your blog very much.