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More noteworthy fish for Singapore 20 Mar 2013

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My article on new and rare sightings of fish in Singapore is out in Nature in Singapore.


Stalking a Blue-tailed Dartfish 2 Jan 2013

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Zee and Debby have a paper out in Nature in Singapore, documenting the observation of a new fish record for Singapore: the Blue-tailed Dartfish (Ptereleotris hanae). Check out the video link the electronic version of the paper, showing a pair of them at Palau Hantu. A really beautiful fish, but shy and elusive; up till Zee asked me for a still image of the fish, the video was our best record for its occurrence in Singapore.

I’d seen the fish twice before at Hantu, once at the western side, and once at the northern tip near Bukom; both times, I didn’t get a useable image – being a particularly shy fish, getting up close and personal with it was very difficult, and the sediment in the water made long-distance shots almost impossible. The third time was the charm though, because this time, the fish was out and about, apparently busy feeding on plankton. After several attempts at long-distance (long distance here meaning more than 1.5m away) proved unsuccessful, I decided to just acclimatize the fish to my presence by just hanging around its feeding range, and trying my best to look busy taking photos of anything else except the fish. The ruse seemed to work (or maybe it was just very hungry!) – after about 15mins (and my inching in about half a meter), the fish seemed to ignore me and my buddy’s presence.

Taking this once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity, I happily snapped away before cold and lack of air ended our encounter. Of the 2 dozen or so images I took, only about a quarter of them turned out to be useable, and the best one was chosen for the paper.


Yay! 😀

Pasir Ris-visited 12 Jun 2009

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I finally visited Pasir Ris beach at low tide – I’m not much of a low-tide walker, preferring instead the weightless-ness of scuba diving, but Pasir Ris, for all it being a “developed” park, still held many wonders.

Our organiser for the walk.

The first thing we noticed as we hit the beach was the greenness of the inter-tidal area. Seagrasses mixed with the green alga Ulva were common around the rock bunds. Here and there, as busy as bees, were various snails, worms and hermit crabs, getting on with life, eating (or being eaten), making out or making eggs, and generally trying to run away from the big lumbering behemoths trampling on their turf.

Scattered amongst the green Ulva seaweed, hermit crabs!

Green, green grass of Pasir Ris!

Snails gliding over the green mass of seagrass and weeds.

Even with eight legs, this octopus couldn’t get away from the paparazzi!

The seastars too seemed very active today, although how they co-ordinate so many feet to move so fast, is still beyond me. But I suppose having many legs is better than just two, as we encountered the remnants of the last visitor to these shores.

A “biscuit” seastar looking quite appetising as we were getting hungry!

Residents of the two-legged variety were also out in force, despite the gathering storm clouds, preying on the local shore life. Many a worm or marine snail sur-“combed” these predators.

The approaching storm clouds did not deter the beach combers from scouring the inter-tidal area.

I was surprised by the fairly large amount of rubbish on the shores, comprising mainly plastic bags. One wonders where they came from? No surprise were the fishing lines, which criss-crossed the inter-tidal zone like a spider’s web. What makes fishermen think that their line will not get snagged on rocks or other things when they fish from shore is a bit of a mind-boggler.

Shufen and Kevin providing a reference to the amount of rubbish we saw. Lots of plastic bags.

Cheng Puay trying to gather up loose fishing line that criss-crossed the inter-tidal area like a spider’s web.

Alas, the impeding storm forced us to cut short our visit (along we had been there for almost two and a half hours already), so we made a hasty retreat to Changi Village for a well-earned treat of carrot cake and nasi lemak.

More pictures here.

Blue Plan for Singapore – an update 22 May 2009

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So it seems the draft Blue Plan is finalised, and will be submitted to Minister Yaacob (MEWR) tomorrow (23 may 2009) at the opening of the Envirofest 2009. More on habitatnews. Good show to the drafting committee on getting the plan out in a timely manner!

Blue Plan for Singapore 24 Apr 2009

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The latest Blue Plan for Singapore has been released by local marine conservationists. You can read about it at the IYOR 08 Singapore site, and the WildSingapore site.

There’s also a big spread in the Straits Times, on page C10 (sorry, I don’t subscribe to the internet version of the ST), and probably on the other newspapers as well.

Good stuff!!

Earth Day 2009 talk 22 Apr 2009

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An old (well he’s old, too, but I meant that I’ve worked with him from a long time ago) collaborator and friend is stopping by Singapore and giving a talk for NParks’ celebration of Earth Day 2009.

Clive (Dr Wilkinson to you), among his many talents, is an internationally recognised coral reef scientist, and Co-ordinator of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. His Public Seminar is on “Status of Coral Reefs in Asia and the World: the search for solutions to reef decline.”

The talk will be held on Monday 27th April 2009, from 11am – 12pm, at the Function Hall, Botany Centre (SBG Tanglin Core). For us poor and always-in-need-of-food types, light refreshments will be provided after the seminar too!

Full details can be found here.

Noteworthy fishes of Singapore 18 Feb 2009

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I managed to get a paper (article 12 on the list) published in “Nature in Singapore“, and e-journal edited and published by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (formerly known as the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research). It documents 5 fishes recorded in Singapore that we’ve seen during surveys of the coral reefs. Three are new records, namely the titan triggerfish, Janss’ pipefish and humphead bannerfish. Of the remaining two, the polka dot grouper had not been observed live by divers locally, although two specimens exist in LKCNHM; the banded goby was previously reported by other researchers, but strangely, no specimen or photograph exists of it, until now.

It still amazes how much our marine environment, just a stone’s throw away from where most of us live, still harbours such beauties. Makes me wonder what else is out there.

Other “new” finds …. Lots of nudi’s at Colourful Clouds blog; sea stars on the Wild Shores blog and many more, I expect.

*Updated links 7 March 2017

The origin of the name “Lazarus” Island? 23 Oct 2008

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I tried to compile a list of Singapore island names and their meanings and origins a while ago, and recently (20 Oct 08), I received an email from a Harold Somers from the UK, who recited this piece of family history:

Quote from Harold’s email:
Hi, do you have any idea when Lazarus Island actually got its English name?
I came across your posting from 2005 while searching for some information about my great-uncle Lazarus Rayman. There is a family story as follows.

“Uncle Laz was a diplomat in Singapore who was credited by the locals with saving their gold reserves from the Japanese by moving them before the invasion. He was then incarcerated in Changi where prisoners were severely maltreated and that ruined his health leading to his eventual death in England at the age of 57. He was commemorated in Singapore by a portrait (of which I have a print) that was hung in the consulate for many years and through a small park/garden that was consecrated in his name.”

OK, a small park/garden is not the same as an island, but I cant find any mention (on the web) of a Lazarus Park or Rayman Park in Singapore.

Harold Somers

I don’t know (and neither does Harold) if this is the basis for the name of Lazarus Island .. anyone out there who knows?

Good (G)reef celebrations!! 18 Sep 2008

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Shamelessly plagiarising from Charlie Brown, it was a good event Saturday, in which more than 400 people (adults and children) participated. The talks were all well presented (I thought this was my best talk to date), and covered a wide range of volunteer effort. So much so that our special guests, the crew from the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation ship SV Infinity, were suitably impressed with the enthusiasm and hard work put in by everyone there.

Aside from the interaction with visitors to our booths, I also learned several somethings new today from the conservation and IT guru, Siva – like how to use Twitter, and linking it to my Facebook account; and how to use forms in Google Documents. Siva also introduced me to Posterous, a new blog that accepts email and converts it to a blog entry automatically.

I’m not sure if this old dinosaur wants to be *so* connected … but it was interesting to finally know how to do the stuff that I’d been having difficulty with (like Google Documents). Was a most productive 45mins on the computer next to Siva, before getting back into the fray of the event.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted – my back and feet ached, I was hungry and a headache was starting to build up (probably from not drinking enough water, despite the 4 cans of 100plus, pilfered from Ria’s stash for volunteers).

The dismantling of the hall was much much faster (30-45 minutes) than the setting up (3-4 hours) – it always amazes me how much easier it is to “destroy” something than it is to build it up.

All in all, a good dive … er, I mean … day.

Other resources:
Blue Water Volunteers
Singapore Celebrates the Reef
My Flickr photos of the event

To Infinity and beyond 12 Aug 2008

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The SV Infinity, the research vessel of the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation, recently returned to its Asian home at Raffles Marina, two years after it left Singapore for it epic, 16,000 nautical mile journey, which covered Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, PNG, Fiji, Vanuatu and the The Solomon Islands.

Time really flies – I recall the last time I was on the Infinity in 2006, and she was just getting retro-fitted for the voyage by her crew at Raffles Marina. The steering wheel hadn’t even been fitted in yet, at that time. The decking of the main cabin was bare and there were wires hanging all over the place, a stark contrast to the “sea”-soned vessel that greeted me as I clambered aboard her tarp-covered deck.

Me on the deck of SV Infinity at Raffles Marina.

The named tarp covering the sails.

The sky seemed to reflect the melancholy feelings etched on the faces of the crew – it drizzled on and off for the whole time during the get-together. The last leg of the Infinity was to be from Singapore to Thailand, where the owner of the boat would be waiting.

As with all endings however, new doors open – for Gae and Laser, the monumental task of looking for a new vessel to continue the extraordinary work, for Klaus (the captain), it was to return home to take care of his family, for Ola to write about the research findings from the voyage, for Michelle the chef/visual artist to start the process of cataloging his image and video collection, and for the younger crew, to pursue their higher degree’s.

As before, when I first hooked up with the PCRF people on Heraclitus (their first ship), and now on the Infinity, my best wishes for safe journeys, wherever they are headed.

David?, Francis (Raffles Marina), myself, Orla (PCRF) and Abigail (PCRF).