Sunday, September 30, 2007

My first virgin guide!

Today is my first guiding experience at Pulau Semakau! The nerves were overwhelming and spent the previous night thinking of how to be a good guide and how to interact and updating my little "bible" scripts on what to say.

We were tasked to guide the NUS High Sch students and I had 8 participants with me, 7 students and one teacher.

@ Semakau, fully equipped hunter seeker, Helen and her red flags and containers. (As suggested by Ron, dun be misleaded to associate this picture with my title ok? Diaoz. Faintz)

My group, the seahorses exploring the intertidal critters.

The ocellatus sea cucumber, one of the many sea cucumbers we saw today.

One of the lucky days cos we saw not one but two noble volutes laying eggs!
A small upsidedown jellyfish at the top. It is upsidedown for a reason, becos there are symbiotic algae at its tentacles that can photosynthesize for it. And below, a heart cockle, the symbol of love.

The tide finally falls fully when the sun is setting and we were in a hurry to finish the walk before night falls, since alot of the participants din have torchlights.

And the semakau icon, the knobbly seastar and the traditional group photo with it.

Back to the jetty, July proudly showed me his love bites from female mosquitoes, that love him so much that they even bite through his clothing. haa...

Din take as many pictures as I will have normally, since I tried to be more focused on guiding. Sorry for not writing more on today, cos I still have a test to prepare for. And hey, its a pretty enjoyable and satisfying guiding session for me, largely becos of my enthusiastic bunch of participants. Thanx for making my day! Hope can see u all at other trips.

Group seahorse filling up the feedback form

And lastly I was graced by a group photo with the seahorses.

Can't wait to do more guiding now, heh.

More on group
Octopus on July's Discovery blog

Clownfish on Juan's ashira blog
Nudibranch on Ron's Tidechaser blog
Samson's MantaMola blog
JC's above and under sea

A different perspective from participants

KS team @ Chek Jawa

Went to help out Kok sheng in his urops project at Chek Jawa today. Been wanting to help out a long time but haven't been able to till today, although time is still tight but die die must keep my promise this time. A pity Denise and Kaiqin cant make it or it will make a good day a better one.

It seemed like a long time since I have been here and the amenities at Chek Jawa has changed so much since the launch of the boardwalk. P. Sekudu the frog island in the distance and beside it, the cottage house no.1.

The finished boardwalk

My first time seeing the hairy seahare.

We saw quite a few sandfish sea cucumbers. They are a delicacy especially during the new year.

Kok sheng in the distance

The transect went smoothly and quickly as intended compared to the very first transect KS tried. We had some free time to explore the coral rubble in the evening.

See a pair of eyes? They belong to a startled crab that burrow itself into the sand

A juvenile catfish spotted by Yujie.

A fine white sea urchin found by me. As for the ID, ks can re-enlighten me again pls?

More on ks Chek Jawa project

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Whats living inside corals?

What is living inside corals?

Tiny dinoflagellate algae (about 10 microns or 0.001mm) live inside most corals. They belong to the genus Symbiodinium, as the name indicates, they are symbiotic but not only in corals, but in anemones and giant clams too! Contrary to what I always believe in that corals exhibit different colors becos of the different species of zooxanthellae, but there seems to be a tremendous dispute on whether they are different species or just different varieties of one single species.

Corals especially reef builders are highly dependent on their zooxanthellae for their daily carbon needs and that makes them an invaluable asset to the corals. Thus, anything that goes wrong with their symbiont is likely to affect the coral's health themselves. And this basically forms the rational for my honours.

Surprisingly, in one of my samples, the ever helpful Mrs Ang found this. And its still alive and moving (but unfortunately stuck to an air bubble) even though the sample has been in the fridge for almost one week! Looks creepy.

Just spent an entire day in Mrs Ang's lab trying out this lab work. Although the procedure is clear cut (but spent another entire day compiling it) but its not as simple as written on paper. Have a long way to go. Pretty tramatised and stressed lately by the tight time and lack of progress. Sorry for ignoring anyone recently, thats what happens when I'm under depression~

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Surprises in diving

Diving is always fun, besides the early mornings and sometimes the physical labor involved, but.. it is still fun :)

Why? Because of all the surprises to be discovered in the sea. Just under the underwater table, Angie excitingly pointed to me this!

A big pufferfish taking shelter under the rack! It just stone there for a photo-taking session. I doubt they can swim fast anyway, from its body shape. Their conpicuious warning coloration probably is enough to warn predators that its not worth eating it! They contain tetrodotoxin, a lethal neurotoxin and there is no cure for it currently.

And awhile later, it was replaced by a flathead under the same table! These fishes are carnivores predators and they lie in ambush using their well camouflaged body to blend into the sandy bottom.

And I finally know what are damselfishes after seeing so many of them staring at me while I was swimming around, almost like they were looking for a fight. As one might guess, they are extremely territorial.

And pipefishes that look more like a piece of seagrass blade then a fish.

And returning back at the jetty, a leaf porter crab was swimming frantically. These crabs carry a piece of leaf on their back using their last pair of legs. Probably to conceal it self from predators beneath.

Yes, and all these are found and taken in Singapore.

All photos taken by Angie~~

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Kent Ridge Park

Supposed to have posted this days back but was rather busy with some stuff and late nights that had kept my spirits down lately.

This field trip is part of a Geography module I'm taking this sem, Ecological Systems, and the trip itself is at Kent Ridge Park, a place near NUS but I have yet to go there once.

I wouldnt introduce the flora of this place, since it was largely similar to that of Adinandra belukar forest; same as an earlier post @ Kent Ridge Road. The fauna however is more of interest to me particularly, since came across several animals I had not seen before

I was surprised how unafraid some birds are towards humans, apart from those myans and eurasian sparrows. Several White-crested laughing thrush were hopping at the road using in front of our group while our lecturer, Dr Wang, was describing the flora to us.

And just further ahead, I noticed a male pink-necked green pigeon. Me and Justin left the group to admire this beautiful bird. Din meant to not pay attention but all these astounding beauties never fail to catch my attention. These pigeons exhibit clear sexual dimorphism with the males having a more colorful plumage of purple, pink, orange and green while the females are just plain green.

There was a canopy walk near the end of the trail. Wow... this place is really not bad! keen-eyed Diana spotted two green-crested lizards (Bronchoecela cristatella) just in front of us. It was then I started cursing myself for not bringing a better camera today. All my pictures turned out to be blurred except for this...which isnt exactly a good one too.

The reason for my excitement is that this is my first time seeing this lizard. A common textbook example of describing local invasive species: the green crested lizard, a native forest dwelling species, was severely out-competed by the highly adaptable changable lizard (Calotes versicolor), an exotic species thought to have been introduced from Malaysia or Thailand.

I'm sure everyone reading this post have seen the changable lizard (above) somewhere at sometime but may not recognise it. This shows how successful this lizard established itself.

Towards the end of the walk, someone spotted an oriental whip snake. According to the SLOG blog, these snakes are mildy venomous but harmless to humans and rather docile. But that doesn't mean one can poach them!

And, the field trip ended and me Justin and Diana backtracked our way to the carpark where Justin left his car. I spotted another whip snake again, this time, without other students scrambling to take photos, I managed a closer shot and touched it gently. It then swiftly moves away up the canopy. I was mesmerized by its gracefully movements.

Definitely a place to revisit next time.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Seen a slow loris? Please contact Fam Shu Deng asap at 92215549 or

What is a Slow Loris?

The Greater Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang) is among Asia's least studied primates. They are small, arboreal, nocturnal and inconspicuous. They are known to inhabit primary rainforests, which is present is small patches around Singapore, or logged over secondary forests with canopy corridors, which is not present in Singapore. As such, its habitat areas are severely restricted.

At the 2007 Conference of the Parties of CITES in The Hague, CITES member nations unanimously decided to push Nycticebus to Appendix I, an action that the member nations were compelled to carry out, to protect the species from extinction. As they look very cute to most people, they are hugely popular as pets in many countries in Asia and Europe and are sold in markets in many Southeast Asian countries. Traders circumvent their toxic bite by pulling out their teeth with pliers, which result in many lorises dying from infection. Singapore is a known transit destination for slow loris trafficking, and is the most common seized mammal to enter Singapore illegally. There are also some who believe that slow loris seen in Singapore are escapees from the pet trade as well.

Besides their huge popularity as pets, slow lorises also face pressures from logging and slash-and-burn practices in our neighbouring countries, as they are normally asleep during the day, and have a tendency to stay still and cling on to the tree when they are frightened. Also, they are caught and killed for many other reasons, from the absurd (eating them gives one strength) to the even more absurd (eyeballs for love potions).

Not enough is known about their ecology. Slow lorises often die in captivity from intestinal problems, and diabetic problems. Not enough is known about them for zoos even to optimally take care of them.

About Fam Shun Deng

Fam Shun Deng, currently a 4th year Life Sciences undergraduate in NUS is doing field research on Nycticebus coucang (the Greater Slow Loris). He is focussing on the taxonomy and ecology of the slow lorises here. If anyone has sightings no matter they be roadkills or wild or under any other circumstances, they should contact him at 92215549 or immediately. Any help would be much appreciated as they are probably present at very low densities.

extracted from ( with permission from Shun Deng, of cos ;p

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Household creepy crawlies

Interesting creatures lurked my room these few days...

First of all a tiny spider (1.5cm) scrambling about the floor.

But what was more amazing was this...

My softboard, for me to pin notices...and at the red circle, which is one of the holes created by a pin...

...became an entry point for a colony of ants. Amazing... I wonder if they dug an entire maze of tunnels inside the soft board. They are probably surviving well, since I often left my food on the table. opps.. Before this, still was wondering where all these ants came from when they crawl over my laptop and hand lolz.

Look at their razor sharp mandibles! Luckily they are too tiny (abt 2mm) to cause pain on me. I guess will just leave them alone there cos we are on a mutualistic relationship now, I giving them food while they helping me clear those unwanted pieces of food particles. heh....

Crabbing @ Polunin Stream

Today, me and denise went to help daniel with his honours project again. Was quite a relief there wasnt rain that day even though lightning flashed when we were leaving school.

The water level at the stream was much higher then the previous time I went, guessed it was probably raining here earlier. We quickly caught sight of a few big Parathelpusa maculata crabs but they were too fast and difficult to handle (only daniel dare to catch it) so we only got four of them. Got more Johora singaporeansis however, and no Geosersarma as they are supposely more terrestrial (very flooded today).

We noticed several burrows which Daniel thought belong to the crabs and he confirmed it after finding a freshly dug burrow with a Johora singaporeansis inside.

After finishing the catch for the day, our leader went about to take some measurements.

Male Parathelpusa maculata have an enlarged right pincer.

And lastly, he made some marking on the crabs before releasing them back.

Check out his blog, Johora singaporeansis for more insights.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Cockatoo @ NUS

This sulphur-crested cockatoo was performing some acrobatic stunt by swirling round and round the branch. Not the first time seeing it, in fact, saw and heard them many times at the bridge opposite NUH.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Are they really laughing?

Was out at Hougang Mall buying my long over due comics that I ordered a few mths back. Walked passed a make-shift store with a small crowd gathered around it. I stared at the aquarium tanks displays and was wondering what they are selling. I looked at the big banner beside it.

They are selling land hermit crabs! HaHa crabs are their name (dun think I find that very funny). The hermit crabs there were living in colorfully painted shells (mm, are they toxic to the crabs?).

Of cos, naturally I wasn't very happy seeing them in captivity. Their website have a page on conservation which states the steps they take to ensure their well-being. I was particularly interested as well as disturbed that they did not provide more information on how skilled-licensed harvestors ensure that they are not overly harvested...

For more information, visit:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Dog Show @ Expo

Wasnt intending to blog about this as the photos I got wasnt that nice. But surprisingly, the organiser send us some photos that the photographer that day took and they were so marvellous that I cant resist blogging!

Was helping out at the Singapore Kennel Club's companion dog show @ Expo. There were other shows and competitions going on on the same day too, like the grooming contest etc. but we were not involved in it. This show was meant for a fun and informal contest for the norm to join in and have fun with their pets, at least thats how I felt. A great idea as the rest of the contests going on around were all rather stringent and strict to me.

Domesticated dogs come in all sizes even though they are all of the same species or sub-species.

First in the programme is the doggy olympian run. They have to run to the end and grab a bottle of dog food and back. Denise was taking videos at the finishing line to make sure no errors were made in deciding the winner.

There were 3 celebrity judges invited for this event. Ms Collen Francisca, former Miss Singapore was the judge for the best dog costume. Beside her was Jaclyn the event organiser.

And here is Darren Tan, winner of Project Superstar, showing off his dog.

He was judging for 2 events, one of which is the best trick contest.

Andrea Fonseka, former Miss Malaysia, and more of you all might recognise from her hosting "Live a Dream". Do you know that she is also a professional German shepherd handler and judge? Wow...

And here were me, denise, kaiqin and the rest of the helpers. As well as the extremely docile golden retriever named girl. We were told from the owner that it picked up a stray kitten to her. They are now living under the same roof!

Here are a few of my favorite dog pictures. Heres Bow-Wow from 家有贱狗!

The blazing red hair auntie really lighten our day with her cheerfulness and enthusiasm

And a husky puppy. So Cute!

Thanx Denise for this eye-opener

All photos are taken by Nicholas @ (
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