Monday, October 29, 2007

Heartening recovery of Chek Jawa

On a bright sunny Saturday, a team of 11 enthusiastic friends who volunteered to help out with the project arrived at Chek Jawa in the afternoon. This time, we were monitoring the recovery of different groups of charismatic macrofauna or marine animals. The last time we came, it was a predawn operation, so this time was easier to conduct in terms of coordination. However, doing monitoring during a hot afternoon made us realize something important... which will be talked about in a while below.

The first team featured in this post will be the peacock anemone team- Bingquan and Liana. They were setting huge quadrats to monitor the peacock anemones within it.

And viola! The quadrat has been set up. After which, it was the time the team did some searching and measuring of the colourful peacock anemones.

We were also monitoring button shells, or snails that are named as the "jewels of Chek Jawa". These animals are doing abundantly well in the northern sandbar and we have Robyn and Alex working conscientiously with these snails. It's no mean feat because there are hundreds of them in a 15 by 15cm quadrat. And surprisingly, they arranged it in the grid of the tray very neatly though I didn't told them to. Big thank you :-)

And here's Yilin and Demin with the sand dollar work. Work became harder for the couple when they approached the northern sandbar with really a lot of sand dollars. Basically, we were trying to measure the density of sand dollars within a quadrat to tell the story that these animals are back and recovery is going good.

Why is Justin and Siyang so unhappy in the photo?? This is because almost all the sand stars that they were assigned to search and measure went hiding in the scorching afternoon. They were like searching for a pin in the haystack for most of the time. It was only after about 6.30pm those sand stars started showing up like nobody's business. And then, they had to hurriedly start the real work. Will take this into consideration for the next afternoon-evening tide monitoring session.

Nevertheless, I "forced" them to smile in front of the sun. Haha.

This photo was taken when the sky started darkening and sand stars showing up. Interestingly, a flower crab decided to join into the photo by crawling in. Also found within is a peacock anemone.

Sunset glow in Chek Jawa is fabulous. And poor Nicholas has to work all alone with the mussel beds. Nevertheless he did a great conscientious job on these invasive species. Apparently, the mussel beds are still going strong. Will they stay for good? Only time will tell.

Last but definitely not the least, we have the most experienced team-the carpet anemone team. Most experienced because Ria and Yuchen decided to help again, despite their busy schedules. This time, with the number of tenacle squares to monitor increased from 2 to 8 and also other bits of new work to do, that explains the frowning or hysterical faces. Haha. Apparently, some anemones went missing! Either they died or they migrated elsewhere. Nevertheless, the carpet team is the most efficient. Hooray!

Now to the second part of the post which shows the rich diversity of fauna that Chek Jawa now has, which reflects also the recovery of Chek Jawa from the mass death early this year.

National Parks Board had a public walk that day also and I chanced upon some of their finds for the visitors to see. That includes a small baby horseshoe crab, sponge crab, brittlestar, sea cucumber etc.

More of the hunter seeker's find includes a small jellyfish, ball sea cucumber, moon snail, egg collars etc.

A close up of the sponge crab. It's the first time I see this in Chek Jawa.

And amazingly, they also found the copperbanded butterflyfish and also two juvenile kite butterflyfishes. They are beautiful fishes.

To the star part- the biscuit seastar is more common, and they not only reside in the coral rubble, but I saw them also in the seagrass lagoon.

And the find of the day-WELCOME BACK knobbly seastar. This one here is 15-20cm in diameter, an adult size. None of these charismatic seastar were seen in Chek Jawa after the mass death. This is the first one and indeed we celebrate its return.

And many more thriving in the recovering state of Chek Jawa.

Siyang, while searching for the hidden sandstars during the day, saw quite a few interesting animals. He found this close to 1cm length nudibranch (Cerberilla asamusiensis) in the sand and it is indeed exciting to see beautiful nudibranch near the sandbar and seagrass lagoon.

The second find of Siyang was this pair of crabs, apparently making love.

And the third find that intrigues me will be this seapen where the really tiny porcelain crab reside within. In fact it was also a first-time for me seeing this cute little crab.

Over at the coral rubble, while I was doing some photo-monitoring task, saw that lots of sponges returned! During the mass death, almost all were disintegrated in black.

What was even more exciting will be the return of flowery soft corals, found attached at the pillars of the boardwalk.

Stranded jellyfishes were spotted too and this one looks really like a miniskirt.

Not forgetting also this jellyfish that is so huge, yet yucky looking, that looks like the vomit of Yuchen.

Well, it was really a great trip and we look forward for Chek Jawa to return to its glorious state. Let's pray hard that this coming year end's northeast monsoon will be so as dramatic as the previous and no more mass mortality event that will further disrupt the ecosystem and ecology of Chek Jawa. Meanwhile, we have to also take efforts of protecting this precious, yet fragile shore. It can be as simple as not littering when you visit the boardwalk.

The team worked hard and as the sun sets, we wrapped up our work and here we have a lovely photo of everyone that helped out.

Thank you everyone for making the difference!


Liana said...

yuchen's "vomit" looks quite massive! and he was hanging a small dead fish over it... bizarre. lovely post and pictures, congrats for coordinating and planning it all!

Kok Sheng said...

You can ask him what were the "bizarre" things he did with that fish. Haha.