Friday, 19 December 2008

FREE - SciAmEarth 3.0 issue

It really seems to be the season for giving. Other than the Project Seahorse free ID e-book, Scientific American is offering their Earth 3.0 special issue for free download ^_^ Catch is that you are only allowed one download per email address. But then again, how many times would YOU need to DL it? Brilliant idea to guard against hotlinking! The file size is 25.7 MB (97 pages), which might be a bit taxing on those who have a slower connection.... From the content page, it sure looks like a promising read!

Listing of contents/main articles:
(1) COVER STORY: ENERGY Can Nuclear Energy Compete? by Matthew L. Wald
New reactor designs could reduce global warming and fossil-fuel dependence, but utilities are grappling with whether better nukes make more market sense.

(2) ENVIRONMENT China's Energy Paradox by David Biello
A firsthand look at how China's relentlessly expanding use of dirty coal may offset its equally forceful push for cleaner cities and renewable power.

(3) NATIONAL AFFAIRS The Need to Lead in Clean Tech - A conversation with Thomas L. Friedman by Steve Mirsky
The best selling journalist discusses why national security and economics, not just environmentalism, should drive the U.S. to get green aggressively.

(4) URBAN PLANNING Chicago Goes Green by Josh Boak
Can the legendary gritty Windy City really remake itself into a model of sustainable urban living?

(5) CLIMATE STRATEGIES Carbon Cowboys by Ashley Ahearn
Ranchers in Montana get paid by polluters to let the grass grow.

(6) BIODIVERSITY Sharking Guadalupe by Jim Cornfield
Ecotourism has become the unlikely protector of an unexpected endangered species: the great white shark.

(7) HABITAT Regrowing Borneo, Tree by Tree by Jane Braxton Little
To save orangutans, biologist Willie Smits is restoring a rain forest - and creating new livelihoods for the Indonesian families who help him.
Click for the rambling...

"Do one thing for nature this Christmas..."

It's Christmas season and we spread the festive joy to our family and friends, how about sharing a little of the cheer with the critters around us? This is basically a UK/BBC initiative called "Breathing Places", in a bid "to help you get friendlier with wildlife and give you lots of ideas on how you can do just that." With the current economic downturn and all, guess a number of us would be cutting down on overseas travels, so why try out some of the ideas with connecting to nature instead? Would certainly give us a more cost effective alternative to try something different. The suggested ideas are also categorised to "quick", "simple", and "adventurous" so no worries about biting more than you can chew. ^_^ How I wish more of these suggestions are applicable here in sunny SG.....

More details here:
Click for the rambling...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Sentosa with the SWA folks ^_^

While the usual bunch were having their overnight at St John's Island last weekend, divejunkie was kidnapped asked to help guide a bunch of Scouts at Sentosa's intertidal.

Not sure about the details of why they were here in Singapore for a few days (naturescouter was the one who got me into this spot of unplanned guiding ;P), but it's a nice cozy of group made up of 3 Thais, 1 Malaysian, and 3 Singaporeans. EDIT: Did a quick search, and this small group of Scouts were exploring Sentosa's intertidal as part of their 3 day Scouts of the World Discovery Workshop, with them focusing on the environment. Seems like it's a rather large international award for Scouts, though I seem to be only starting to know about stuff like this via diffusion from SJ.....

Sentosa's rocky shore is quite a but of an adventure to explore. And we certainly had fun exploring all the naturally eroded caves and holes, even posing for some "refugee" shots! ^_^

Even trying out some creative poses with the scenery ^_^ Real glad that the weather held up despite the overcast sky that evening.

With the algae in full bloom, some of the parts were tricky, and slippery, so it took a bit of teamwork and hand-holding (with a few minor slips) to get us through the entire route.

Here's some of the critters we saw....Didn't snap all, most of these were taken after we met up with SJ at the hunter-seeking area where he and Jerald were looking for critters for the Scouts to see.

First off, 2 differently coloured egg crabs, as well as a swimming crab.

The last time I was at Sentosa, it was octopus frenzy, with a number of small octopus(es) all venturing out as the sun set, and on Sat, we were also fortunate enough to come across at least 2!

And of course, me favouritest of all.... the sluggies!! The one on the left is the Jorunna funebris aka chocolate chip nudibranch/Oreo cookie nudibranch. They seem to be in season at the moment and are regularly seen on our local intertidals, and in recent months, the young 'uns seem to be venturing out and about! The one on the right is a first intertidal spotting for me, well, actually my first in Singapore. Usually see this Phyllodesmium briareum while diving. It's been spotted by some of the other local divers before at Hantu, whilst I have been seeing them at the Tioman and Dayang dive sites in Malaysia.

Of course, since the Scouts were there as part of a workshop, they had to do a report of sorts, so many of them were armed with cameras (of course, for taking fun people shots too!), and at least one of them had a notebook to take down the names of the critters we came across. Notice that there's also a plastic bag full of stuff. No, we weren't collecting anything for a dinner BBQ. One of them actually had spare plastic bags for collecting trash, so we also did a little bit of a shore clean-up as we trooped along. Good thinking, dude!

More photos on Facebook:
Jun's shots
Scouts' photos
Click for the rambling...

Saturday, 13 December 2008

New Seahorse ID book available!!

Project Seahorse and TRAFFIC North America have come up with an e-book on seahorse identification. Kudos to I-NSC for the heads up ^_^

"The new guide is being distributed to Customs agents around the world to help them implement the new listing of seahorses on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is also available here as a single PDF file."
It's a free e-book so do head over to DiveBooks.Net download your own copy too ^_^ Our local species Hippocampus comes and H.kuda are also inside, so this is definitely yet another valuable resource for guides and would-be-guides to have! dj here is all tuckered out after a relatively packed week of intertidal and underwater activities, so the book review would hafta wait until next week. Do stay tuned and get your own copy now!

EDIT: Seems like there's a bit of unwarranted direct linking to the download (without directing net traffic to the I-NSC website, so the "product page" has been taken off for now. Netizens can't seem to read in detail.... In the meantime, while waiting for the I-NSC mirror to be up again, here's the original distributor, Project Seahorse.

EDIT2: The I-NSC link on is up again ^_^ Thanks once again to Ivan!!
Click for the rambling...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

《城市生命线》City Footprints - the Marine Champions episode!

It's been a while but it's time for another installation of dj's quick-n-rambly local nature documentary synopsis/review ^_^ This time tackling a Mandarin programme produced by threesixzero productions!
IMG_4167 interview in progress at RMBR

It starts off by introducing the three "stars" (and intertidal veterans) Chee Kong, Sijie, and Siti, as the protectors of our sea. First portion of this episode is spent tracking the Star Trackers on a monitoring trip to Cyrene reefs. SJ mentions a bit about the insanity of intertidal enthusiasts going out in the wee hours of the morning (like 2am at times!) since we can't choose the timing(s) of the tides.

IMG_4197 the filmcrew sure doesn't let up!

Note that this trip out to Cyrene coincided with showers of blessings, and as the show indicates out 1h-or-so wait on the boat, SJ explains the hazards of going out to the intertidals whilst it is pouring. Other than getting a thorough soaking, one would also be risking lightning strikes....

IMG_4205 filming at Cyrene
IMG_4203 orange flatworm IMG_4208 pencil urchin IMG_4202 our star startrackers ^_^ IMG_4209 tagged knobbly! IMG_4256 elbow crab

A quick introduction to Cyrene's locality (middle of all those petrochemical industries and shipping lanes), and how it is still full of biodiversity (e.g. the new seastar record, Pentaceraster mammilatus we had earlier this year), and it's off the boat for a quick hour's worth of star tracking! The challenges faced are certainly highlighted. First, the temperament of the weather... Then the missing transect marking poles (likely washed away with the tides/currents)..... Taking GPS points, measurements and photographs in a race against time as dusk falls and the tide rises..... (Though the episode *did* leave out the sometimes tricky amphibious landing and boarding...)

IMG_0821 seagrass fruit

And as we are treated to the dusky Cyrene, we are introduced to the second section featuring Siti and TSG.... This time with a fieldtrip to Tanjung Rimau at Sentosa. They have a slightly longer working window than the Star Tracking trip but are still pressed for time. TSG is one of the few groups that collects "scientifically sound data" through transect and quadrat studies.... Some useful insights that came up where the concerns of family members on pursuing marine biology in Singapore. Also, TSG work *doesn't* stop at the data gathering (well, for the bulk of the volunteers it probably does) but the data needs to be analysed, and samples of seagrass also need to be identified and/or deposited at the Singapore Herbarium at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Unlike the Star Trackers who focus mainly on Cyrene, TSG actually covers a number of shores, so for the third, and final portion of the show, we are whisked away to Chek Jawa (situated on the eastern side of Pulau Ubin), where all three of them are out for TSG monitoring session. It's no surprise to see Chee Kong and Sijie there since they are one of the first few that joined TeamSeagrass as volunteers! (Yet again demonstrating the multi-hatted facet of many of the shore enthusiasts. How else do you think we get to know each other? ^_^)

On this particular trip, around half the volunteers were TSG and/or CJ virgins, making it easy to link to the need for sharing and training. Capacity building is absolutely necessary for out local NGOs to continue doing their job of sharing and caring for our marine environment. Saving the environment is certainly not a individual's job. General support from the public is needed to make things happen. Just look at how the planned 2001 reclamation of Chek Jawa was postponed for 10 years (and hopefully indefinitely) from the efforts of a group of nature enthusiasts who created a ripple effect, causing everyday Singaporeans to start speaking up for our shores.

And the episode ends on this note. On how the limitless zeal and love these three young people have resulted in them walking the path of shore volunteers, and that their stories have only just begun!
Click for the rambling...

Friday, 7 November 2008

Liveblogging from the "Star-Studded" Echinoderm Workshop ^_^

dj is making an attempt at live blogging from the first of a series of intertidal guide training workshops organised by Leafmonkey. Ria's certainly not making this easy since she *does* tend to go on rather fast but will try my best-est to update this blog.... All the basic (and at times boring) technical bits being squished into 30 minutes, no wonder!! (Did I just hear Ria say that the seastar tube feet kinda do a ballerina-like thing when moving?)

Adelle is being my photographer since dj is busy keeping track of things here.... *heh* Thanks girl! Anyway, the turnout is a little less than the sign up number of 25. Good that we have a good mix of guides from different groups like BWV, NHC, RMBR, NParks, TSG, etc.... Nice to see unfamiliar faces from RJC in addition to the regulars who also happen to be the multi-hatted folks ^_^

Okies... Need to try and pay attention here. Part 02 of the live-blogging would have more information for those who are unable to join us ^_^ Thanks once again to monkey and Ria for getting this series of much needed training up and running!
Click for the rambling...

Friday, 17 October 2008

all bags go to heaven?

Have just retired my bright yellow field backpack that I have been using since year 1, and has since then, dutifully gone with me for my terrestrial, intertidal and diving fieldwork the last 3 years. My faithful yellow United Colors of Benetton Hi-Ke backpack has officially been retired as of 16 Oct 2008, with it's last trip out being Star Tracking at Cyrene.
Photobucket Photobucket

Which brings to mind the question: "What do you do with retired bags?" Or rather... What do you do with old bags? Of course, the best thing to do is to think of some way to give them a second lease of life instead of just throwing them out with the rubbish without a second thought. Since my yellow bag is still largely intact and in good condition with just a few tears in the inner lining and a tear at the top of the right strap, I actually have a few options that are in-line with the timeless 3Rs (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle). So here's the result of a quick brainstorming... One option is to donate it to some 3rd world country charity so that kids there can have a chance of getting nice bag to bring their school. Personally I feel a bit bad about doing this since the bag IS starting to fall apart.... So on to the next few options.

Mum likes to do patchwork and various handicrafts, so she has kinda volunteered to try and convert it into a smaller (and possibly) sling bag, meaning a new(ish) bag for me ^_^ Extra materials needed for this endeavour? None. Since Mum actually has a stash of scrap cloth and other random odds and ends.... Only catch is that Mum (like me) has a number of projects in progress, so this may actually take a while..... Failing which, I can always cannibalize my bag and keep the straps and odds and ends for quick repairs to my other bags since I tend to use my stuff until they run aground.... Anybody have any bright ideas on how to fully utilise a scrapped/to-be-scrapped bag?

p/s. dj still needs a field backpack, so got an Osprey atmos 25 that had it's first day out at with me at Kusu during this month's ReefWalk ^_^

Though I'm now wondering if I should have gotten the 35 instead... Then can double up for backpacking but then again, it might actually dwarf dj... *lol*
Click for the rambling...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Happy Cephalopod Day!!

Greetings from the cephlopods!
IMG_4155 cuttlefish

What better day than to "launch" my new blog/website ^_^ Why have I started *yet* another blog? (The proper Cephlopod Day post is over there...) First reason being that ASHIRA started off as a personal blog, and as my life turned towards being more nature foray orientated, this blog naturally evolved into a sort of nature blog ^_^ But it's because of this that it feels that there's lack of organisation or structure here. 《海楽園の旅人》 (Umi Rakuen no Tabibito aka Traveller of the Ocean Paradise) would be my attempt to organise and present my marine outreach efforts in a more informative manner. ASHIRA would still remain my primary blog about the things I am up to, as well as anecdotal accounts of trips and all.

Secondly, it also gives me the chance to play about with Wordpress. At this point in time, I don't yet see a need to actually migrate wholesale to Wordpress. The stuff there is just gonna be less diary styled *I hope*.
Click for the rambling...

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Motofuji Hiroshi & Co. perform @ the Promenade

Happened to be down at the Central yesterday with Nam and reached in the middle of a taiko performance by Motofuji Hiroshi (茂戸藤 浩司) and crew.
IMG_4088 taiko@the promenade

First time I actually got to watch a more "modernised" way of taiko, and I must say that it just fits in perfectly for me. Especially since I dig hiphop music with a strong rhythm ^_^ It's a small performance crew of three, but I just love the energy that they exuded, and their expressions whilst performing are just so interesting!
IMG_4087 taiko@the promenade IMG_4073 taiko@the promenade IMG_4081 taiko@the promenade IMG_4083 taiko@the promenade

Just found out that there's a full concert Raffles Hotel tomorrow evening, and it's free admission. Too bad it's already full T_T Why is it I find out about these things late? Below's the quick bio for Motofuji-san that's on the Embassy of Japan, advertising the concert:
motofuji hirosi_taiko

"Hiroshi Motofuji is one of Japan’s premier taiko drummers, who has charmed audiences with his captivating and energetic performances. He has also a great reputation for his fusion of Japanese drums and Western music. Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of both traditional and new style of TAIKO.

He performed in “PRIDE”, a fighting sports event and participated in the making of the soundtrack of Japanese animation “Naruto – the Movie”, a gaming software “GENJI” and Japanese TV Drama “Oh-Oku, War of the Belles” and other events and collaborations. Catch him live!"

Click for the rambling...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

For some reason.......

....this is constantly one of my top viewed photos on Flickr.
IMG_1665 our pro-looking seeker ^^

The other persistently most viewed are below, and all of them are interestingly from the same Kusu ReefWalk.... Does this mean that the rest of my photos ain't as interesting? T_T Weird.
guide appreciation
stonefish (2)
Click for the rambling...

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Registration for 18 Oct ReefWalk @ Kusu is now open!

It's the last day of September and unfortunately, our lovely Blue Water Volunteers website is currently down due to some IP issues. However that does mean that we're not having our usual activities! Intertidal ReefWalks @ Kusu island and Reef Check surveys with ReefFriends are still ongoing!
IMG_1624 IMG_0308 almost done...
Sign up details are under the cut ^_^

1. Kusu ReefWalks on 18 Oct


The evening Kusu Island ReefWALKs are back. The next walk will be on 18 Oct 08 (Sat) 5.30pm - 9pm and it cost $15 per participant. To register, please email and provide the following details:

Contact Number:
Number of participants:
Ages of children (if any):
Emergency contact details:

Should you have any queries (or would like to join us as volunteers), please email

ReefWALK Team

The last two walks for 2008 would be on 15 Nov 08 (Sat), and 14 Dec 08 (Sun). Registration details would be posted up nearer the dates.

EDIT: if you have problems contacting us with the above email, try

2. ReefFriends surveys

IMG_1157 Jas n Cas

For those of you who dive, and would like to lend a hand in collecting scientific data for the monitoring of our local reefs, please email for more details on joining. We would be glad to have you onboard the team!

EDIT: if you have problems contacting us with the above email, try

p/s. Three cheers for blogs and RSS feeds that can act as our backup(s) when things go wrong with the main site ^_^
Click for the rambling...