Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Welcome to this blog

My name is Kok Sheng and I am from National University of Singapore. I am pursuing Life Science course and am now working on a UROPS (Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Science) project on the mass mortality and recruitment of macrofauna in Chek Jawa.

My supervisor in charge is Mr. N. Sivasothi and my co-supervisor is Dr. Peter Todd. Dr. Dan Rittschof from Duke University is also assisting this project. They have been helping me a great deal since I embarked on this project since it is my first try on research.

Will blog on anything with regards to this project and I've also transferred my previous trips' posts here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Blessings for the Chek Jawa Transect

Well, it is always good to count your blessings no matter what you do, and I do really feel blessed during the day of CJ transect on 22nd May 2007.

First blessing is with regards to the weather. The forecast given the night before says that there will be predawn and morning showers with thunder. This sent me with jitters and I quickly reminded my friends who are helping me to come regardless of bad weather or not. Thank God for answering my prayers, the weather was not stormy, only slight drizzles at the beginning and it turned hotter as time passed. Phew.... And what was surprisingly timely is that the thunderstorm and strong wind came straight after we finished the transect... wow.

Second blessing is to hire a cab in the morning at about 6:10am. This is not a good time to get a cab because it is the time for them to change shift as explained previously by a friendly cab uncle whom we chatted a lot! He even chatted about tides in Sarawak different from the diurnal ones in Singapore.. ok, before i get drifted away, straight after 6, when midnight surcharge was gone, I had a lot of difficulty waiting for a cab at Sims Ave. Normally before 6am for other predawn trips, I hardly have to wait for more than 2 mins I can get one. After waiting for quite long, I was about to call for a taxi through phone. Thank God He sent a taxi when I was about to do that. What was interesting was when I got into the taxi, the friendly uncle kept saying I'm very lucky. He wanted to pick up passengers at the right side whom was also waiting for one. But because of heavy traffic, he decided not to pick them and instead went straight ahead more and saw me at the left side. He said most passengers usually wait at the right side though. Anyway, sorrie for the long long paragraph here, but I'm really glad God helped me a great deal, even in small ways, I wanna thank Him!

Third blessing will be my friends which I'll commend them more later on in the post.

After a long long wait at the Changi point ferry terminal, even with a chat with Ria who was heading for Sekudu, we finally left the place after I decided not to wait anymore but to pay for the rest of the boatfare so it can leave. In the bumboat, I met a kind Nparks officer and he told me that the gates are opened already, so no worries. Thanks Ria for reminding me to check out on that. I'm just too blur to think of everything needed. We met Mr Chu, the van driver who drove us to CJ. He chatted with me about his mother in law family living in CJ back then and he does fishing for a living. He even shared that during a blasting of the quarry, a rock flew all the way and hit passed the roof which ended up injuring his mother in law's head. Gosh!! She was hospitalised for quite some time. So when Kekek quarry reopens, pls take heed of all warnings to avoid the place okie? It's not funny to be dangerous.

Upon reaching CJ, we quickly walked to the furthest two transects to start first after much briefing was given. Along the way while we were walking along the sandbar, I tried to talk and walk to show them some stuffs, because its the first time Khairul and Weilin came to an intertidal shore. What a waste if they totally didnt know what gems we have there.

Here's the transect set up with red poles for line of sight and 100m measuring tapes.

Also to thank Siva for helping me arrange for the logistics from Eco lab to get these tapes, GPS and the quadrats. Thanks also to Angie from Marine lab for another GPS.

Here's a good intro portion to my friends. Actually 7 are supposed to join me. But 3 of them couldn't come on the last min, so we ended up with 4. Here's Raymond and Weilin settting up the transect. Raymond is in team seagrass and he is pretty familiar with how to do it..yea. Weilin's first attempt over here but she is very helpful despite her legs come out often from her loose sport shoe that get stuck in mud. Her cheerful disposition definitely made the tiring day more enjoyable.

Here's Khairul and Siyang doing the transect. It's also Khairul's first time visiting an intertidal shore...

and look here, I was so pleasantly surprise he is very dedicated into making sure the transect is done well and accurate despite this is not his project. This photo i must definitely share over here.

Criminal photo no. 1 with Weilin...haha

Criminal photo no. 2 featuring Raymond

The middle two transects took us 1.5 hrs or more for each group. This is because it is as long as 500m and it stretches across the seagrass lagoon which is very muddy. Every step is difficult esp for Weilin. I'm so sorry she has to go through all these... falling down, mud splashed on her face, getting made fun by Raymond as a pig rolling in the mud... hahahaha. Really hilarious as she accounts all these to us.

Halfway through, towards the direction of Changi airport, we saw this.. Dunno what actually.

The tide was indeed coming in like crazy after 11am and we rushed like mad to try to complete the last two short transects. I wanted Weilin to take a rest from the last 2 transect thus told her to take our belongings and go back to the entrance to wait for us. Actually it was not so easy but instead adventurous! Do read her vivid account at her blog here.

After we slogged to fight against the tide, we finally could call it a day with blisters on our feet, mud on Weilin and Khairul's feets as they dont have booties. Thunder and rain started to tell us to get out while Siyang and I tried to retrieve all our belongings back and gathered at the info kiosk outside house no. 1 where the heavy rain immediately poured.

Wonder how all these entanglement can be solved.. it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience.

Ok, time for some photos to remember this vivid day.

Siyang smiling despite thirst, exhaustion etc.

After a good fulfilling lunch at Ubin, all is not over, it's time to clean up. Well, I'm guilty that they have to help me on that. They are really rare friends indeed that help me a lot.

I wanted to get a good rare shot of Weilin looking like an auntie. She's a city girl ok? So this is rare.

Ok lah.. here's a nice shot to cover up the aunty shot. You deserve a big award for being such a brave girl in a foreign place.

Inspired by Ria's photo at the end of Sentosa transect 06, I wanted to also share how to clean and dry so many 100m tapes in a 3 room flat. It was everywhere including kitchen, living room, bedroom etc. Was a big mess!

To end up, I want to thank God again for everything. Also thank my friends for their selfless help. We were really very tired, exhausted, irritated, thirsty, frustrated etc that day because we were shorthanded and couldnt afford to take a rest at any time throughout 3-4 hours.

Thanks for making a difference in big or small ways. Without you all, I surely cannot do all these myself. Thanks again for being true blue friends who are willing to go the extra mile. Esp to Siyang who accompanied me for 2 recce to Chek Jawa through bikes in the early mornings.

Thanks also to Siva my supervisor, Ria, Dr Dan, Joseph Lai, Zeehan and everyone who has helped me.

That day was really memorable to me.

And that marks the end of this series of low spring tide trips. Till next time...

Friday, May 25, 2007

More Chek Jawa Recces

2nd Recce at May 20th 2007

After a wonderful trip to Sentosa on Sat, I was back to Chek Jawa for more recce on Sun. I could be there all alone, but Siyang volunteered to accompany me along there. Thanks buddy!

We also saw Ron and his gang of ubin volunteers there, they were there since 5.30am! And we reached only like close to 8am. Gosh, this is so because we were waiting for close to an hour for enough people to leave Changi point by bumboat.

Without delay, Ron promptly shares their find, a noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis). The colourful part or its foot can wrap bivalves to wait for the latter to finally open to breathe, which is also the moment the noble volute feed..haha.

WOW find from Ron. Several of these copperbanded butterflyfishes (Chelmon rostratus) were trapped in a bubu or a fish trap. They released these poor fishes and 2 are found here. My first time encountering them, so super excited lah.

They have a 'false eye" near the tail, and its real eye is much subtlely hidden by their orange band. If a predator really attack them, they can even swim backward!

An allied cowrie or ovulid snail (id courtesy of Chay Hoon) in a red sea fan (Manella sp.). Sea fans are not plants but colony of tiny animals just like corals. Of course, the cowrie is so small, only sharp-eyed Chay Hoon can spot it! (updated: Actually it was Ron who spotted it, but thks to CH again for pointing to us that day)

This time, we were at the west side of the CJ beacon, where abundant life were found, much to my pleasant surprise. In the background is SY also.

It is between the beacon and the jetty outside House no. 1 that LOTS and PLENTY of carpet anemones are actually found. They are like mines on the ground, and we had to thread cautiously to avoid stepping on these animals. Wow, they are really not all wiped out. Great! Thank God.

Across, we can see Pulau Sekudu, frog island. I will go there soon, hopefully!

Ok, here is it. These carpet anemones are really thriving well here instead of the sandbar areas of CJ. Take note, the ruler is 50cm long. Can you imagine their sizes?

If you think carpet anemones are not enough, here is a stunning array of peacock anemones. Pls ignore the compass, they are just there for scale.

Fiddler crab about to disappear when we approached it.

Ball sea cucumbers (Phyllophorus sp.) are found by quite a few in a specific area. They are not all dead! When siyang handled it, water was squirked out. Haha. If you encounter one, please dont touch it, because if you mistreat it, it will have repulsive vomiting such that their innards will be expelled out...

Great find! The biscuit sea star (Goniodiscaster scaber) were not just one that was found, but two. They were wrapped out without water, so we quickly put them into a pool so they can relax, for a great shot. They are pretty models arent they?

Siyang loves to play with these thunder crabs (Myomenippe hardwickii) by his chopsticks. Please dont try to touch them, their pincers are VERY strong. Hahaaaha. I can't imagine if your finger goes near them.

Tide was coming in, and the poor visibility does not allow me to identify this fish, perhaps a toadfish? (updated: Yea! its a toadfish, thks Chay Hoon for confirming)

Could this bivalve be a venus shell with siphon sticking out? Usually they will dig down.

That is what happens when a hermit crab does not have a shell! Naked hermit crab! It's dead. Found by Siyang interestingly. So pls do not collect shells okie?

A heron which the species i dont know. Perhaps a bird expert can help me with this? These birds love to come to the intertidal to feed and rest.

(updated: Ivan kindly shared that its a Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana), cool! thks )

Another interesting find, a brittlestar!

Ok! This final sea cucumber is really cute, the shape and segments are interesting, first time saw this.


3rd Recce at May 21st 2007

Monday is my 3rd recce and also the second time Siyang kindly accompanied me for 2nd time. Where to find such a great friend and a wonderful nature lover who dont mind to wake up so early consecutively for some many days. Though we had difficulty trying to get CJ on time due to jetty delays and tiresome cycles, it was still an experience because at least there was company. Or else I would have dragged myself and rot there myself. Thanks once again man!

We were back to the beacon area to catch the low tide, before it gets covered up first

Just around the beacon, there are quite a number of carpet anemones, but not as many as those found nearer to house no. 1 and before the house's jetty.

Beautiful and graceful carpet anemone looking healthy.

We also have 3-5cm sized carpet anemones waiting to recover from the mass death. Greaty.

I started zooming elsewhere. Gosh, now Pulau Sajahat is also reclaimed, bet most of the shore wildthings are gone. sigh.

Here's the "Tekong Chalet". I always remember when I had my BMT, there seems to be stuffs down there during low tide. Of course we dont have the luxury to explore. We could only vividly remember the stinky mangrove while running 2.4km. The stinky smell is due to anoxic condition.

More reclamation to the north, facing Malaysia. It's so much reclamation that I think its not a strange thing they are complaining about it perhaps. Just a guess...

Siyang managed to cajole this hermit crab out. It seems to be enjoying and pretty relaxed.

Nice stuff found. A hole in the shell of a dead bivalve. It can be due to drills or moon snails.

I love this in chilli..opps! These mussels are living ok, quite localised in CJ, except below the boardwalk where there are plenty.

Siyang is game enough to pick up the fiddler crab. I asked him how he managed to do it, he says, its too fat to get into the hole to escape... funny right.

Lesser fun this time round cos was doing more prep work for the actual transect on 22/5 tues. Will blog on it tmr, I have to churn out a report now... haha.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Chek Jawa Recce

Today Siva and I went to Chek Jawa recce for a project to study on the mass mortality and recruitment in that place. This was mainly because the heavy rain in Jan created freshwater influx which causes osmotic pressure on these animals which eventually, many died. CJ is closed for recovery, we are able to go because we have a permit.

What a wonderful great sunrise! Thank God for the great weather... In the early morning when I woke up, it was thunderous, with a sms from Siyang that they were caught in the rain. So glad it did not persist to CJ.

Beautiful and classy sand star (Astropecten sp.)

A peacock anenome in full grace in water.

Doing measurements on these baby carpet anemones.

Striped hermit crab (Clibanarius sp.) with slipper snails (Crepidula spp.)

Great! Ivan has kindly provided the id of this fish found trapped in the pool. It's Silver Sand Whiting (Sillago silhama). Thanks!

Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta), they are alive. Surrounding are button shells, gems of Chek Jawa.

Jellyfish stranded on the sandbar.

Horseshoe crab! And also alive.

Anybody know what shorebirds are these? For a closer look, pls click on the photo :)

(updated: Thanks Alvin for suggesting its a Marsh Sandpiper, but I agree with Ivan thay its more like a Grey Plover in non-breeding plumage instead, based on the short bills of the birds in the photo, thanks anyway to both!!)

Flying away...whheee

Siva's territory..mangrove!