17 December 2005

Labrador Cleanup

Met Otterman and a bunch of helpful people yesterday afternoon for a quick cleanup of Labrador beach. Even bumped into some unexpected help in the form of a member of the public (a JC biology teacher), originally there to recce the place and take photographs, who kindly offered to chip in. Our main objective was to clear the beach of the glass fragments which littered the shore, but it was pretty amazing what kind of stuff (and the amount) we ended up hauling out. Otterman was a 1-man big-ass hauling machine. He claims that he was just about to enter into long haul mode when suddenly there was nothing left to haul though, and in retrospection I think it was somewhat easier than I was first fearing. In terms of pieces retrieved, glass takes the cake. Which is unusual because normally in clean-ups the main type of trash is plastic. NParks kindly offered logistical support with gloves (albeit the wrong kind) and canvas bags that was able to withstand glass, and even had some staff members meet me at the gate before the cleanup to pass me the equipment.

We cleared an estimated (didn't actually count) 200kg of trash from the beach in 1.5h, of which Otterman estimates about 75% (in terms of total pieces) was glass - with 20% plastic and 5% metal. Had to leave behind some really heavy tires which we'll feedback to the park staff about and have them get their clean-up team to retrieve. Most of the glass was concentrated at the part of the beach where the sand starts, and there was a lot of it especially at the bit after the fence demarcating the end of the beach. Many of the fragments had worn down sides and seemed to have been around for quite awhile.

Some thoughts about the cleanup. When people offer to provide gloves, must ask for the thick construction gloves, otherwise will have to arrange to bring our own. Arrange for some big burly guys to come later to exclusively provide muscle for hauling out the trash. Everything turned out rather well, all things considering. We weren't even sure if the 0.4m tide was going to be low enough, and it was relatively simple (too simple?) to send out a few emails to coordinate everything. Otterman thinks we didn't do enough publicity, which I disagreed since I didn't really plan for having clueless members of the public along, who need to be briefed and reminded and babysat. Perhaps next time we will advertise on Habitatnews as well.

As we were about to leave at sunset, Chee mentioned that there were 2 octopuses hanging out under the jetty. And sure enough, they were there just lounging around in the open. Amazing. Don't think I've ever seen 1 much less 2 octopuses at Labrador. They must be getting ready to hunt for some poor unsuspecting crabs coming out to feed at dusk. We also saw the Little Heron coming out to hunt as we were leaving while the sun set. There were also loads of fireworms. We spotted one that had just stunned itself a snapping shrimp and was about to polish it off when it was disturbed by us lifting the piece of fibreglass that was lying on top of it. Poor thing. I hope it managed to get back to its dinner after we left.

To follow-up: Will email volunteers to thank them again for coming. And email the NParks staff to let them know about the outcome and let them know about the bulky items which they can help transport out.

12 December 2005

Title: Pedal Ubin 11 December 2005

The Pedal Ubin Guides (Jungle Fowls) were all bubbly and cheerful as they gathered at Changi Jetty. We were conducting registration there for the first time instead of the basketball court as an experiment. Groups of visitors and their guides set off smoothly in bumboats to Pulau Ubin, in groups of 12.

When the ride began, there were no-shows. So participants enjoyed the luxury of a 1 guide: 4 participants ratio due to the no-shows. The first group headed west, led by Gurmit, November and Leong Wai while Vannessa, Tammy, Shiping, Kai Scene and Ivan took the second group to the coconut plantation near the village. The groups later visited various plantations and ecosystems, the Shrine of the German Girl, Jelutong Bridge, the Thai Temple, “Y U so like that” stall and Ubin Quarry. It was a beautiful day to be cycling about, with lovely cloud cover and cool breezes blowing throughout the morning so the pace was enjoyable and comfortable.

Apparently, some participants had been given the impression by friends that Pulau Ubin had very little to see! By the end of the trip, we were pleased that these participants were convinced their friends were wrong! Mind you, Pedal Ubin’s exploration of the island with the help of the Jungle Fowls, provide but a mere peek at the nature and heritage that Pulau Ubin has to offer.

The guides rode back enjoying the camaraderie and laughter, sharing the day's stories and engaged in a photo frenzy! The debrief was peppered with lots of questions, ideas, views and suggestions as we discussed some of the new ideas proposed for 2006. An issue that stood out were late comers who held back the the programme today by at least 30 minutes. They lost the second group the opportunity of a long and cool ride.

The no-shows were an even worse problem! The volunteer guides now realise the rationale behind the suggestion to introduce pre-trip charging. Most trips saw a proportion of participants not turning up without prior notice. They were not only wasting the time and effort of the volunteer guides and taking the free trips for granted, they were eliminating the opportunity of others who were told that registration was full. Although the no-shows go into Siva’s black list, he intends to do more than just ban them from Raffles Museum trips.

After a good morning's ride, the delicious spread of food that awaited us at Changi Village was a well-deserved reward for the cheery guides of Pedal Ubin!

02 December 2005

Thoughts on Raffles Museum exhibitions at fairs

Toddycats are setting up just posters at the Giving Tree @ North East 2005 this time, and guides, critical to any exhibit,will be there. No specimens no large photo blowups but we are lucky even to be there; it was pretty much a last minute decision with some heroics and Eco-Challenge had been holding the fort for us as liason.

One of the reasons I decided to get on board with this is it will serve as a first step in reviving outreach at fairs. It's been a long time since Raffles Museum Toddycats have participated in an exhibition to reach out to the public. Thankfully, in the past couple of years, Wild Singapore and Blue Water Volunteers have been very active in this arena over marine issues and have very nice and informative exhibits that they have setup in numerous places tirelessly. I've called on them myself and they setup their colourful booth during Terry Hughes coral reef public talk on 15th June 2005.

For the Humanimal Fair at The Substation's Sept Fest 2004, we were too busy with the coastal cleanup but thankfully, Wildlife Singapore got things coordinated and a joint booth was setup in the courtyard with BWV and WildSIngapore. That fair had a very charming feel!

The first and best Toddycats experience so far was at Museum Fest in 2002. We prepared exhibits in our usual Public Gallery style - print and mount photos and text and Ria loaned me her expensive screens complete with lights. We also brought out specimens from the museum and videos of local documentaries that we have collaborated on - these caught people's attention immediately and proved to be a magnet! With the interesting exhibit, voluble guides, the large crowds at Suntec City and the combined draw of many museums in one place, we ended up taking to an estimated 2,000 people in three days!

The dugong specimen in particular was a hit - the tragic orphan had died in our waters decades ago and was well preserved in a glass jar. That raised so many questions that led into a discussion to not only dugongs, but also about sea grass, marine ecosystems and the fate of these areas and marine life in Singapore and the world.

It helped that we had lots of manpower - we had a mixture of new and old guides - museum staff, senior guides, some Secondary two Chinese High students and two Singapore Polytechnic students on attachment, and a whole bunch of brand new Toddycats!

Museum Fest also served as an interview session for some new Toddycats and these novices were tasked to interact with the public after some rather basic background reading! That was quite exhausting but a lot of information as conveyed. I remember Oi Yee taking up post to explain ad elaborate on the exciting scenes on the television we brought down to screen the mangrove episode of Secret Worlds, a documentary by Charith Pelpola that we had collaborated on in 2001.

It was particularly delightful talking to the children. They were fascinated by the animal photos and specimens and when we talked about their biology and where they could be found in SIngapore, their eyes widened! I met my JC classmate who brought her daughters to finally get their questions answered!

It's a pity Museum Fest was discontinued. That was a wonderful platform and we were then prepared to repeat it year after year. And it led to raising awareness of the Raffles Museum's profile to thee Minster of Information and the Arts, with the help of National Heritage Board's CEO, Mr Lim Siam Kim.

In November 2003, we set up an ICCS exhibit at East Coast Park for the launch of NParks/NEA's "Litter Free Parks" campaign. Toddycats exhibits team worked on mounting ICCS information, and I got photos of marine life mainly from Chek Jawa from Alan Yeo and "Singapore Waters" posters from NSS' Marine Group. I remember dragging the heavy exhibit frames out from Sungei Buloh and later struggling with Patick Neo and Anand to set it up. The icing on the cake was the colourful and insightful RGS' reflections posters that their teacher and ICCS coordinator, Mariette Ong brought down for me.

RGS students came down to act as exhibit guides and amongst the visitrors was the CEO of NEA who found the information fascinating. I had earlier visited the Public Education Branch and gave them all our information as we are all working towards the cleanup of our shorelines.

I recycled the exhibit the same day when I bundled it into a taxi and set it up that evening at the Singapore International Foundation. We were giving a forum about Chek Jawa so it was perfect for the occasion!

Later that December (2003), the exhibit was set up at Sungei Buloh's 10th anniversary and Mr Mah Bow Tan visited the exhibit and I was abler to explain about the sources of the pollution. A surprisingly large proportion was originating from land!

Most of the RGS students who served as exhibit guides were later trained in the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk programme that year which was the 10th anniversary; and some are still involved this year!

Sungei Buloh and Labrador were designated Nature Reserves in November 2001. This was the first time in Singapore's post-colonial history that nature areas had been given such protection. Unprecedented, surprising, and a cause for celebration after decades of loss.

When we interviewed 115 people at Suntec City during Museum Fest 2002, only 9% had visited either site. All were surprised by the animal life depicted in specimens, videos and photos at eh exhibit. This the museum exhibit on Wildlife in Singapore at well frequented locations on high-profile public events are an effective way to share information about Singapore's biodiversity with our urban population.

I guess this is a less than subtle hint to the Toddycats about reviving the exhibits team!

Toddycats at the Giving Tree @ Northeast

After last minute week-long rush, Toddycats had a riotous time setting up booths on Thursday evening!

Hmm..Wai is contentedly sleeping after her exams it seems! Actually she was starving and exhausted from the high energy action courtesy of Nov, Anand and Oi Yee!

28 November 2005

Pedal Ubin! Clean And Green Week Special Edition 12 Nov 2005

It was a wonderful morning to be biking about, with a heavy downpour earlier in the morning of the event. This made it both comfortable and challenging to ride, as the air was cooler and big pools of water covered many parts of the road.The bulk of the participants came from the Xiyao Culture Association, with 25 youths and 10 adults (mostly of teachers from the association). The remainding 10 participants were members of the public, and the turn out rate was at 90%. The ride groups covered the Jelutong Bridge, German Girl Shrine, Thai Temple, Tianci Quarry (where our friendly Ubin Police gave us a friendly 'reminder' not to go in), Nordin Beach and the hill overlooking Ubin Quarry. The participants certainly had a lot of fun, as they went through the Cycle of Discovery- from knowledge receiver to potential knowledge distributor!Throughout the ride, animals, especially birds, came out to 'greet' the participants ( or were probably awaken by their excited chatter). We couldn't see wild boars or jungle fowls (though we heard many of them crowing), partly because we were noisier then an amoured tank column.All said and done, we rolled back into the village at 12.15pm with happy adults, happier teens and delighted guides. With the sun in our eyes and the wind in our hair, we set forth back to the mainland.

22 October 2005

Toddycats Engage! October Series

Date: 21 October, 2005
Time: 6-8pm
Venue: RMBR

Toddycats Engaging in October: (back l-r) ivy, ivan, kiah shen, wendy, yuanting, anand r. (front l-r) november, marcus

This is the 3rd monthly Toddycats! Engage! meeting and we saw a strong support of 8 toddycats in total, with 2 very enthusiastic new faces - Anand R. and Ivy.

We were prompt and on time in tackling all the issues on our agenda without straying off topic as the whole meeting was kept on track by most in attendance. At the same time, all topics were given fair amount of attention and everybody present was given a task for the month. Deadlines were set for those that required further monitoring.

Agenda included:

1) Printer cartridge recycling: Anand reported his finding and we resolve that we will start a recycling program by January 2006. In-charge: Marcus

2) Freezing Lecture Theatre Air Conditioning: After reviewing various sources and problems with the issue, including how to tackle the problem in a constructive way, we decided to have Anand R. find out from SOC OED managers if LT are on a thermostat system and thus waste more energy if we increase the lower range of the thermostat and resulting in the aircon being turned on and off repeatedly.

3) OED Campus Recycling: We decided that increasing public knowledge of the existance of recycling bins is not enough as people are abusing the bins. Thus, Kiah Shen will write to OED complimenting their simplified posters showing graphic representations of what can be put in the bins and suggest they show what CAN NOT be put in the bin. Wendy will write to SAVE to compliment them on their poster on existance of recycling bins but also ask them to focus on educating users.

4) November's tree issue is now officially a non issue as the contractor responded one month after the initial letter of complaint and days before the handing over and closure of the whole upgrading project. The trees that are left standing are safe.

5) Rebates for Hybrid Vehicles: We discussed the different hybrid vehicles available in the market and read a newspaper article that stated current rebates are not sufficient. Discussed what are the steps we could do and include: writing to ministries such as NEA to recommend they support the scheme by using hybrid vehicles only. Also recommendations such as having lowered or no parking cost for hybrid vehicles in places like NUS, etc. Finally, thought of writing to forum to promote such things. Action: Ivy is to talk to Prof Koh of APCEL and find out what we can write about and who and where we can write to.

6) Biodegradable plates during Toddycats Dinner: Marcus will find out the name and email contact of the new and old caterer from airani. Marcus will write to compliment the new and Ivan will write to make recommendations to the old caterer.

7) 95 having print out timetables: November to write to compliment on their attempt to promote ease of using public transportation

8) Lights left on in engineering: OED said they will change the sensor to only turn on when in night time conditions. Marcus to monitor and follow up by January 2006.

9) Plastics issue: left out of agenda since Siva was absent and this was his topic.

Next toddycats! Engage! Meeting date:
Due to exams, December will see two engage session.

November Series
2 December 2005 (Friday) 6pm

December Series
30 December 2005 (Friday) 6pm

We now no longer write letters on the spot but with specific task for each member and then they will send their letter to the group to vet before sending on to the intended recipient. Finally, in order to aid discussion and vetting of letters during the month of November, Anand will be helping to set up a online forum session via NUS IVLE to facilitate the process. Non-NUS members will be able to participate. This will help to have more regular discussions too.

21 October 2005

Exotic Species Project

The Exotic Species of Singapore Blog (revived) aims to provide a list of known introduced species present in Singapore.

18 October 2005

24 September 2005

Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail Special Edition!

As the 60th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War approached, the heritage trail guides bounded into action to present the Heritage Trail special 60th Anniversary Edition! As you may know, the Heritage Trail is normally conducted every year on the 12th Feb, which is the anniversary of the start of the Battle of Pasir Panjang, also famous for being one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in Singapore during World War II. The other time we conduct this trail is in July, which is part of the Heritage Fest activities.

This time round, however, the 60th Anniversary Memorial Edition proved to be a multisensory, engaging and exciting journey that even surprised the guides themselves! The nature guiding portion remained the same (as it was already exciting enough, with all the green crested lizards, happy white crested laughing thrushes and oriental whip snakes basking in the morning sun) After the initial nature walk through the Kent Ridge Park, the participants were brought to the Reflections at Bukit Chandu. This was the part that was new, exciting and absolutely unexpected.

It was a play. A play about the wartime period. But it was not just a play that you watch while sitting on a small red plastic chair. It was one that managed to momentarily transport each and every one of the participants back to the war torn Singapore of 1942.

The sounds, the people, the fear and the war. All was brought before the eyes of the participants.

But you'd have to be there to feel what I've feebly tried to describe. But I do have to say that it was a very fun trail, for all of the participants and the guides too. But for this exciting event, we only held it for 2 days, on the 3rd and 4th of September 2005, and only for 2 sessions per day, once at 9am and the other at 11am.

The reason for the short duration and lowered number of session was that the guides were already low on energy after the July Heritage Fest and the small pool of guides further limits this activity. So, in hope of improving the situation, we appeal to anyone who is interested in this event to sign up as a guide! Yes! Come join us and help to extend this exciting event to others!

If you are interested, please send an email to Kiah Shen at tikigu@yahoo.com.sg ! Our next event will be around the 12th of Feb 2006, but if we have enough new guides, we may consider making this Trail a quarterly event! Do join!

11 September 2005

ICCS 2005 - SBWR

I came down today with a reassuring sense that things will turn out fine, from all the recce trips and correspondence we have had thus far, . The site buddies and the man and woman of the hour, Yueat Tin and Wei Siong, were really efficient in dispatching the various schools (SAS, United World College, Beatty Sec, Anderson Sec, Victoria JC, NUS). The site buddies (Marcus, Boon Ann, Kai Scene and Grace) were really good in briefing the participants and organizing the cleanup at respective sites.

The advance party set up the HQ at the center of the Kranji extension, a simple setup of only ground sheets, extra gloves and trashbags. By the time I did a quick check of all the sites, and proceeded back to the carpark, a steady stream of participants, dressed in the blue sleeved ICCS T shirt (nice design!), had already begun moving along the path towards our HQ. This is where NUS will branch off to try and link up with SAS further down. The site buddies quickly sprung into action and set the participants going. Soon the beach is covered with people trying to move around the mud properly, picking up litter, collecting data. No major crisis occurred, except that since this time round we did not do wet ops, we had to lug all the trash out using wheel barrows and big hand pushed carts. This was the most tiring part, fortunately Marcus had a team of strong men who rose to the occasion and did lots of trips carting the rubbish out. Hey Marcus, we need these men next year!

We wrapped up everything around 1pm. Which was much earlier than last year. On the whole things went smoothly. Thank you all for your unreserved help!

Some points which occurred to me during the exercise.

Siting of ‘Field HQ’ is good. We could move logistics faster this way. And we can monitor things better from there as well.

Logistics - More is better than ‘just enough’. The only situation which occurred was that we ran out of trashbags towards the end of the cleanup.

Oi Yee is fantastic as safety officer, though you were not involved in action, we could proceed with things assured with the knowledge that you are there in case anything happens. Luckily your services were not needed. Thank you so much and have a nice trip in Silk Road.

Ria was great as a photographer. Thanks Ria! Looking forward to see your fantastic photos.

Airani was really professional, she did not come out of her office throughout the entire operation and went back straight to key in data without lunch!

Water - Hmm... I’m probably going to get skinned alive by Siva for asking this, but we had water last year and I did not check if there is this year. Providing water is a double edged sword for we will generate more wastes using disposable cups!

Reforestation sites - SBWR has done extensive planting along KR 3 and 4. Since the beach is really clean there, the participants had to search really hard to find trash and in their movement, they may accidentally damage the seedlings planted. We could push most participants to help support NUS and SAS next year. This will ease the impact on the reforested areas.

Trash movement - thanks to Chen Kee, Angeline and the rest of the team coming from various sites, the tired wheel barrow team got a much needed reinforcement towards the end of the cleanup, which was the hardest as we are getting trash from SAS. For next year, we may need more manpower to move trash out.

Overall, I had a good time! Hope to join in the fun again next year.

25 July 2005

Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail 2005

The Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail is one of the activities for the Singapore Heritage Festival. This trail was jointly organised by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS (RMBR) and Reflections of Bukit Chandu, National Archives of Singapore (RBC). This year, it was held on Sat 16th Jul, Sun 17th Jul and Sun 24th Jul 2005. There were 3 sessions per day at 9am, 11.30am and 2pm. The longer time between sessions allowed the guides to return to the start points for the next session more comfortably.

Overall, each session of the trail took about 2 hours, the starting point being Carpark A of Kent Ridge Park, and the end point being at Reflections at Bukit Chandu, the interactive visitor centre featuring information about the Battle of Pasir Panjang. The information conveyed to the participants during the Trail included aspects of natural history as well as culture and history, reflecting the area's rich heritage.

For the first one and a half hours, the Pasir Panjang guides led the participants around the Ridge, exploring the flora and fauna as well as explaining to them the historical background of the Ridge. This included a geographical orientation to the major sites of the battle which ensured that participants would have a better understanding of the historical significance of Bukit Chandu when they visited the museum there.

Guide training/refresher course
These sessions were invaluable and were reduced to just two sessions in the classroom and one field session. There is a lot of resources on the Pasir Panjang Heritage Webpage which guides can read up themselves. Reading up before the session and doing more quizzes or analysing text to sort out the battle complexities as we did this year was probably more interesting than the usual lecture format.

Manpower limitations
Work commitments, illnesses and injuries had left us with very few active guides, so we had to reduce the number of participants we could allow this year, to some 300+ instead of the 800+ last year.

Still, over 9 sessions, and many affected by rain, Oi Yee, Marcus, Kenneth, Kiah Shen, Wendy and Airani guided some 307 participants.

Some sessions had registered 50-60 participants instead of 40 and this exceeded the maximum participants: guides ratio, which was tough. It was also a strain to handle more than two sessions solo and the resultant sore throats and low energy levels made it clear the Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail programme is vulnerable with such small pool of guides (currently about 10 of us). So we are planning to recruit more guides soon - just a few more would be helpful. Just two new guides this year, Marcus and Kenneth, who were let loose with incomplete training, proved invaluable.

This was done rather late but with much fewer places available this year, the last minute publicity to NUS was enough. Otterman sent out an email notice to NUS Staff through Campus Green Committee and Kiah Shen posted a notice at IVLE. That was enough to fill up all places in days.

Meeting points
This year, RBC arranged for participants to be picked up by a ferry bus from Harbour Front Centre, unlike Bouna Vista MRT station last year. This change was made in hope of attracting more participants from the East and North of the island.

Stella Wee (RBC) was on the ground to welcome and coordinate matters. It helps that RBC staff actually compile the registrations into an excel list with names and telephone numbers! It allows us to call the no shows and check if they are on their way, and reassure them if its no too late. Last year Otterman did this and also recruited some Toddycats to become volunteer ushers for the specific sessions they were attending. We must do the same next year as manpower is now more sorely needed at Harbour Pavillion, which is a much bigger place!

Harbour Pavillion was also tough because many were unfamiliar with it still - reminding them that it is the former World Trade Centre proved necessary! Stella eventually directed participants to the bus at Lobby C Coach Bay of the Singapore Cruise Centre. Since RBC staff had personally called up participants earlier so all were informed. Also their redirected their office lines to their handphones, and thus remained accessible to participants who were lost. So everyone found their way.

At Kent Ridge Park, a hiccup in communications led to a significant number of participants waiting at Carpark B instead of the new meeting point at Carpark A. The start point had been changed this year as more routes through the park could be employed this way and it minimized the distance of the route that was repeated, and provided a dramatic surprise for participants later with the view of the Southern Islands.

During the first session, there was heavy rain and the ferry from Harbour Pavillion picked up the waiting participants who drove at Kent Ridge Park, and headed over to RBC. So the trail was conducted in reverse and that worked out well.

Path maintenance
A difficulty experienced during guiding was the fact that the NParks has been pruning the plants along the paths very frequently! The luxury of pointing out a plant from the path was lost to us and participants were coaxed onto ant-filled grass to view the plant closely. Thus the more urbanised participants who would not leave the concrete path did not examine the plants closely.

More significantly, the natural shapes of the plants were altered by the pruning. For example, many Simpoh Air plants have been pruned to look like trees instead of bushes, preventing the visitor from recognising the natural shape of the plant.

Perhaps we can persuade NParks tto leave certain signature trees alone, and even add a label to it so that it would be possible to learn a range of plants by walking around the park.

The guidesheets (which were prepared in 2000) could be revised as some of the plants are not included. There was insufficient time for a proper lunch break and rest before the 2pm session but bringing our own packed lunches would solve the problem. Or more guides would solve that as we could each do two sessions.

Guide response
Overall, the ability of the guides to react quickly to the wet weather and the performance of the new and veteran guides were commendable. Thanks for the good job everyone! For the guides that were unable to turn up, don't despair! There is still the 60th Anniversary Commemorative walk on the 3rd and 4th of September.

Heritage Trail
Posted by Picasa

Appended by N. Sivasothi

20 July 2005

Pulau Semakau is opened to the public!

16th July 2005: Official launch of the Pulau Semakau Recreational Area

Early morning of the event, we were stricken by bad weather. There was light rain which got gradually heavier, but thankfully the rain stopped soon enough and we didn't have to cancel! The day was really quite pleasant - cloudy, slightly windy and very cool.

We started off on the wrong foot actually - Toddycats Victoria, Grace and myself held up the 7.45am ferry for about 10 minutes, which we regretted and were apologetic for! We were thankful they waited as it meant we reached the booth at 8.30am and allowed us an hour to set up before the guests arrived. Chin Ling joined us later together with the arrival of the VIP party, as planned.

It was a little difficult setting things up because the strong winds blew everything around! Eventually we managed, with the help of a lifesaver float, and a rock!


There was ample time for set up, so we looked around the exhibits put up by the various groups. Blue Water Volunteers was right next to us, and there were also exhibits put up by the NSS bird group and the Sport Fishing Association.


Toddycats and the Blue Water Volunteers

NSS Birdwatching Group

Sport Fishing Association

The VIP party with Minister of Environment Dr Yacoob Ibrahim, and including A/P Peter Ng, Wang Luan Keng and Ria Tan, together with the ex-residents of Pulau Semakau and Pulau Sakeng, arrived at the booth at about 10.15am, after they attended the ceremony held at the jetty.

Ex-residents of Semakau and Sakeng arriving at site.

The guests looked around the exhibits until about 11.15am. Our booth was visited by the VIP party shortly after their arrival as we were the nearest to the arrival point of the guests. Dr Yacoob Ibrahim, accompanied by A/P Peter Ng and others, actually ate one of the mangrove fruits that one of the ex-residents indicated was edible. It was a fruit of Ximenia americana


Minister Yakob also touched the starfish (Archaster typicus)

Some of the ex-residents and other guests also exhibited some interest in the touch pool:


It was quite a crowd and the guests were mingling and looking at the exhibits. One of the groups brought kites to fly and there were bicycles too. There was also a fishing competition for the folks from NEA by the Sport Fishing Association that continued until much later.

The event organisers provided box lunch in a goodie basket and many of the ex-residents and other guests were sitting at the tables provided or at the rocks around the site having a picnic. Some of the guests actually brought tents and camped at the edges of the site and around the lagoon area.

More photos in the Semakau album and more reports in Habitatnews.

The event ended at about 11.45am when the VIP party was ferried back to the jetty by bus. We packed up and caught the 12.30pm ferry back to the mainland.

After thoughts:
I felt we felt we managed to pull through a decent job, although we had just two days and planning was done the same week. We were worried as we had no guide for the collection trip, as Siva was down with the flu, and there was no one else! However, we were immensely relieved that our touch pool held more than just mangrove mud and water!

In fact the exhibit was able to excite the interest some of the ex-residents and guests into peering into our tanks. Some even hazarded to touch the sea stars, but Dr Yacoob Ibrahim took tthe proze for bravery by trying the fruit!

All of us agreed Pulau Semakau was a nice nature spot, and it would be nice to visit it again! We certainly had a bit of fun during the two days!

Setting up the Toddycats touch pool for the Pulau Semakau launch

15th July 2005: Specimen collection trip to Pulau Semakau for the touch pool

On 15th July 2005, a survey trip was conducted by a few of us Toddycats (Victoria, Grace, Marcus and me), to collect specimens for a touch pool for the official launch of the Semakau Landfill Recreational Area the next day.

The collection site was the mudflats at the edge of the young mangrove area, that we got to through a short forest trail. On the way there was a fallen tree blocking a section in the forest trail (must be the recent rainy weather), but nothing we couldn't climb. We reached the site at about 9.30am and got busy collecting specimens for the live display.

We managed to collect a few small crabs (the big ones were too fast!) There were also gold-spotted mudskippers everywhere, but catching them was a futile exercise. We caught a soldier crab (Dotilla myctiroides), a baby horseshoe crab, some hermit crabs, and several snails and bivalves. We also were lucky to chance upon not one but two starfish. They were the most effortless catch, next to the common seagrasses and seaweed on the mudflats. We also collected fruits from the mangrove trees at the shoreline.

Some of our catch:

A baby horseshoe crab.

Hermit crabs, snails and bivalves. Spot the horseshoe crab!

We tanked our lucky stars ;) amongst the seaweeds and soft coral.

Nerita sp.

Some interesting finds
At about 11.30am, although the incoming tide was still low, we had to end our collection due to heavy rain. The collection was not substantial but there were enough interesting animals and plants for display, so we were happy enough! And we did find some interesting specimens. The soldier crab was unusual enough for museum staff to want to take a closer look at it after the launch.

We managed to collect a conus shell! But we didn't bring it back because it is venomous. We made the painful decision to leave it behind, to avoid greater pain of being stung! We were a little sad about this, especially Marcus who was the proud collector! It looked pretty, a menacing red with black spots. But I suppose it was not really touch-pool material!

We also saw a water spout! It came along suddenly and stayed for about ten minutes, before disappearing just as suddenly. Only Marcus didn't see it! :D

But we have a shot of him with water spout.

Collection was not the end.
We had to carefully sift through and sort the murky tanks of animals we collected. We ended with two crab and snail tanks, a seastar tank, and a seagrass tank. We left these overnight at Semakau in the main building, equipped with an aerator. We found te sorting to be a fairly slow process as we were afraid to kill or lose anything! It took us up to 2.00pm by the time we left Semakau Landfill, tired and very hungry!

06 July 2005

Public Briskwalks in June

Two briskwalks were conducted on the first and third Sunday of June.

This is the first time I help to co-ordinate a public walk. It was actually a very easy job on my part. Siva takes care of the web page (which is a one-stop information centre) and gets all the registration emails. Anand takes note of which regulars are coming to help out. I think about the route, take note of dates, number of people coming, send reminders, and either take pictures or get help taking pics. Miscellaneous stuff mainly. But I enjoyed what I did.

The route decision took a bit of thinking. Some of us preferred the scenic way by the reservior, some prefer the other way. It was the same distance more or less. But my personal preference (being not as fit) was the scenic way, because a sunrise over water (yes it may be artificial but still its a nice scene) makes one feel more exhilarated. And there are more changes in scenery, not just trees on both sides. The path also feels less "pebbled". At first the summit route was closed. But I am quite glad it opened in time for public walk. Because as someone (forgot who??!!) told me, ending at the summit gives everyone a great sense of satisfaction. And its a good photo point as well.

I was worried about the turn-out being very poor on the actual days, about not enough regulars being around and about what if some accident happened along the way. Yes, I think too much. Anyway, for the turn out, spreading the word on habitatnews and wildsingapore, ivle and to friends and family seemed to work. As for the regulars, I realised that when there are reliable people, there is no need to worry. And since Anand is taking charge there, I should worry even less! As for the accidents happening, the path is really well marked and there are so many other people walking it. Really quite safe. And if anything happens, we all have hp handy!

Most of all, I enjoyed the actual days. Due to the early mornings, a lot of people who sign up will not show up. But sometimes, people who have not signed up come as well. So no matter how many or how few people come, we will just adjust and walk. The regulars are all so at ease with the walking and all, everything ran quite smoothly. All there is to do for me was to greet and chat with the people who come. I found that words of encouragement, smiles and some small talk to distract people from fatigue is useful.

One thing to note, you definitely need more than one cameraman and they all need to be fit! I for one found it hard to take pictures and walk at the same time. Spoils the momentum.

Raffles Museum Public Gallery Guiding: A Recent Experience!

On 25th June 2005, 21 young children, age ranging from kindergarten to primary four, and 2 teachers from a childcare centre, visited the museum gallery. Gwynne and I were roped in the last minute to guide them.

The initial strategy was to have an introduction to the whole group. However we split into 2 groups immediately, as I realized I would not be able to give a good introduction that would capture their attention.

Fortunately their teachers were in my group and I was able to have a better control of the children. I also had better attention from them. Because of this, I was able to deliver my stories completely most of the time without much interruption.

My guiding strategy was to give a brief introduction on the function of the museum, and then hold their attention with as many interesting stories as possible. This strategy worked and I was just able to complete one round of the gallery just as I ran out of stories to tell them. The lack of stories was due to the lack of biology background I have. I dare not talk about the scientific aspect of the specimens, as I do not want to give misinformation. This is one area I must work upon and I believe it will be a major problem for guides without biology background. One example was when they asked me about the flying fox and I was stumped since I knew nothing about it. Luckily Siva was around to helped me answer that question.

For presentation, I told my facts like stories and kept them as simple as possible to fit into their short attention span. I was speaking in kiddie and drama mode and using a lot of dramatic hand gesture. I basically became a storyteller. I also posted a lot of simple questions as I found the audience very eager to answer and it helped me in focusing their attention on the specimens I was talking about. It also gained me a better control of the children.

The biggest problem I had during the guiding was the handling of the comments thrown at me simultaneously from the children. Most of the comments were distantly relevant and at times disrupted the story. Yet I believe it is courtesy to reply to these comments yet not to lose the control and attention of the children.

For the comments that came at the end of the story, I would acknowledge the commenter who was still maintaining the eye contact with me, usually with a very short answer. I would then attempt to gain back the control and attention by gathering them to the next specimen I would like to talk about. For the comments that came in the middle of the story, I would only acknowledge if the comment was relevant or I could use the comment to link to my next point in the story.

On the whole, I enjoyed the experience. I would be able to do a better job if I was more mentally prepared so that I would not struggle in presenting my content. I was also nervous throughout the entire guiding. Both factors contributed a lot to my stuttering. Lastly, I would rate myself a 6.5 out of 10 for my performance.

What a relief when it finally ended!

30 June 2005

National Recycling Program

During the SGP2012 meeting, I brought up the issue of the NEA/Town Council recycling program not being carried out for months during upgrading at my estate. However, 2 days ago, they left a plastic bag for collection the next day at my flat and sparked off a series of calls and conversations with the recycling contractors. Here's my account as posted on my blog.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
National Recycling Program
Probably the most convoluted thing I have to deal with so far - apart from the cutting of trees in my neighborhood during upgrading - the National Recycling Program.

Most of you probably know of this program which involves a contractor from NEA and the town council that comes around every fortnightly to give a plastic bag where you can contain your recyclables and they will collect it from your door step.

There has been much grievances between these contractors and my parents. The accusations from my parents are as follows:

1) They haven't come ever since upgrading started a few months ago.
2) The last time they put their newspapers (3 or 4 bags of it) out for them to collect, they put it in the lift and forgot to take it away. This resulted in my family being scolded for littering in the lift.
3) There's only one plastic bag per household! How do we contain all our recyclables? Furthermore I scolded my mom for leaving the "trash" outside without using their bags. How would they identify? She also forgot to empty the recycling bin I set up in my house for other recyclables and I quickly emptied it in the bag provided and tied it to my mom's.

My personal complaint was:
3) The bag was only given yesterday for today's collection. It was a bit of a hurry since I only got it at 9pm last night.
4) On the bag it says 29 June and 1 July. So which exactly is it?
5) It says leave your recyclables outside at 8.30am and since then I have been staring at the door with no sign of them.

I decided to be extremely proactive and called Altvater Jakob Pte Ltd which was listed as the contractor for my block. The first time I got the voice mail and was exceedingly upset. I left a message and realized that I forgot to leave my number (doh!) and called back again. This time, a lady named Janet answered the phone and was very helpful in answering my questions.

My only disappointment in retrospect is that she did not apologized for her men leaving the bags in the lift. However, I was satisfied by her not giving lame excuses but instead sounded appalled that they forgot. She also gave me the impression that she could not forsee what happens in the field. The workers told her they left the bags every fortnightly and she has to take their words for it. In retrospect again, she told me they will replace a bag immediately after collection but I did not see them give me any. Bah. I do not wish to have to call them every alternate week to come and collect.

I found out a lot of things from my phone conversation with her:

1) the program at my neighborhood is (just like Budak's whom I got a second opinion from) every alternate wednesdays. She claimed that there were collections on two other occassions this month but then my mother claimed there were no plastic bags given. I will monitor for the next collection.

2) the collection is not at 8.30am. It is from 8am to 8pm. Leaving it outside the whole day will ensure it to be collected.

3) They should not have abandoned it in the lift.

4) The date on the plastic bag is not always accurate. But now that we know it is every alternate wednesdays, it should not be as confusing. Better mark my calendar now.

5) you need not use their plastic bag only. Each household is only allowed one plastic bag. HOwever, if you use your own plastic bag, all you have to do is put a note there with big bold letters that says RECYCLING and they will collect it.

6) Sometimes they run out of plastic bags when they distribute and if the date is wrong, it is because they don't have any markers on hand to change the date. Shouldn't that be improved?

7) I can't know who was right or wrong about the last few months but it was good that I found this bag yesterday. at least now I know I don't have to go all the way to the MRT to dump my drink cans at the recycling bins there. It was also a relieve to see on the bag written that clothes, cans, plastic and glass bottles are also accepted on top of paper products.

Janet was nice enough to get my block and unit number and within 30 minutes of the call, my recyclables were collected. This makes me a little weary that otherwise it would not have been collected.

Lets just hope they don't fail me in 2 weeks. I would hate very much to call again. If it does happen that way, I will be sure to complain all the way to NEA and Town Council and I would not hesitate to demand for a change in contractors if they do not improve.

[update: I just heard a rustle, they came to collect!!! boy my complaint was superbly effective. now i just have to go make sure they don't leave it in the lift or in the void deck.]

[update 2: I just did a round downstairs, checked both lifts and found no sign of any bags of recyclables abandoned, but neither do i see any trucks with loads of recyclables. It's gone...!]

[update 3: I just met the contractor, an old chinese man, who collects things at my block. He came and did a round. Got to talk to him personally and found out that he really didn't do it during upgrading because he felt that because everything was blocked off so nobody would put the recyclables out. I asked him if he had any extra plastic bags and he told me to go downstairs with him to his truck and I got a whole stack from him. The truck is not that big even and is unmarked and he only has one indian worker to help him. I saw that he managed to collect from some others as well which means that there are people who are recycling. That's good to know.]

16 June 2005

Response to the Green Plan 2012 Review

ENV wants feedback on:
- Enhancing Singapore's air quality
- Conserving, valuing and enjoying our waters
- Increasing recycling rate and reducing waste
- Fighting against dengue, keeping our public areas and hawker centres clean
- Conserving our natural heritage

To facilitate this, Otterman is chairing a discussion with Toddycats on: Saturday 25 June: 1pm at DBS Conference Room
to discuss issues and connections to get our minds working.

Then we will take the ENV survey, and submit additional feedback to the ministry directly.

Read the Singapore Green Plan 2012 before coming and compare what you read with your current experiences. Bring your laptop and a thumb drive along if you have one.

Please email Gwynne Lim at rmbrguides@gmail.com if you are coming.

20 February 2005

Battle Anniversary Walk

The Battle Anniversary Walk was held on 13 Feb 2005 to commemorate the Battle of Pasir Panjang. We have 16 partipants and 15 guides, of which 6 guides are the Toddycats and 9 guides are from SAJC. The walk started at the University Cultural Centre (UCC) at 0740hrs and end at Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) at 1040hrs. We walked at a relatively fast pace from UCC to RBC, via Kent Ridge Road and Science Park Drive. We stopped at the millitary observation post, commemorative plaque, pond in Kent Ridge Park, Kent Ridge Park look-out point, Kent Ridge Park broadwalk and our last stop at RBC. We spent about an hour for a guided tour in RBC and the event ended with a debrief session at the dinning area in RBC.

The publicity for the walk could have been done earlier. The advertisement should have been sent to the NUSSU for dissemination 3 weeks in advance. IVLE took 3 days to put up our advertisement. The advertisement could have been disseminated to the staffs via Campus Green Committee. A script should be drafted up before the walk to prepare us to speak to the participants with confidence at the various stop points. Though the event could have been better organised, the entire walk had been very enjoyable for both the participants and the guides on that Sunday morning.

Posted by Hello

04 February 2005

Chek Jawa Workshop on Mollusks!

Originally uploaded by spathiphyllum.

The first Chek Jawa workshop for the year was started off on Friday 28th January evening to introduce the diversity and basic biology of Molluscs to participants. The participants mainly include chek jawa guides, trainees, and Nparks staff, ranging from age 22 to 55 years old. In a short span of 3hours, participants were taught to identify the different classes within the phylum Mollusca and the basic body parts of the mollusks through a series of activities including videos, lecture and pictorial presentations, hands-on dissection practicals and games.

Preparation could be done earlier; materials and programme schedule should have been finalized at least 2 days before the workshop (ie. The materials should have been prepared by Wednesday if the workshop was conducted on Friday.)

More communication between instructors and organizers is required so everyone is sure about the roles they play, especially for the video and practical session. There could have been a run-through of the entire programme with the instructors at least 1hour before the workshop begins to notify of any last minute changes, and to make sure the equipment and tools for the workshop are prepared.

More help for preparation and during the workshop would have been appreciated. (Glad to have Ria and Swee Cheng helping out).

The number of slides was just right and the presentation was good at the start but became quite draggy at the ending part; perhaps because we were ahead of schedule?

The hands-on dissection practical was engaging for the audience, however I could not really appreciate the game whereby the audience was asked to match the shells/specimens to their scientific names. It would have helped if common names were provided, so they could learn to associate the respective common names to the respective scientific names. From what I see, the activity merely tested the ability of the participants to use the seashell guidebook?

From the two feedback forms that I saw, both participants gave positive feedback and they learnt much from the workshop; On a scale of 10, both awarded 10 for the amount of information they gained from the workshop. Have to look at the rest of the feedback forms to know what the participants thought. But on the whole, I would say the workshop was a success.