Wednesday, 30 April 2008

ReefAlert 2008 @ Dayang

To wrap up this month of April, I bring you photos from last weekend when moggi and I went with the SMUX divers to Dayang to help facilitate this year's ReefAlert. The theory sessions were conducted at the SMU campus last Monday to Thursday.
_DSC5357-Group Pics (photo courtesy of Moehadi)
Would love to do my usual long babbling long entries with details on all we saw but that's gonna take too long, and I'll be up early tomorrow to head over to Sedili Besar with a group of fellow volunteer guides..... So without further ado, here's a slideshow of the entire ReefAlert process from training to the actual surveys to the fun we had in between. New friends made, new knowledge gained, newly inspired budding volunteers..... Do feel free to click on the photos and head over to my Flickr set to comment and all.

What more can you ask for? The sun, the sand and the sea.... Marine critters galore, and dive enthusiasts being inspired to do their bit in monitoring the state of the reef at Dayang. Do hope that some of them end up joining RF in doing our local surveys too! Was also lucky enough to catch a solitary Goniastrea colony spawn (nope, no mass spawning when we did the night dive last Sat), and observe a Chromodoris coi doing the nudi version of the can-can with the constant "skirt flipping".... With a number of friends planning to go for dive courses, and me doing my rescue some time this year, guess will be back at Dayang soon enough. Until then~~
IMG_0190 sunrise@Dayang

More photos here:
taken by Moehadi
taken by Zach
Click for the rambling...

Thursday, 24 April 2008

ReefAlert 2008 training (part02)

So with 2 days of training under their belts, the SMUX divers still weren't scared off by us, and continued to come back for more punishment the evening classes we had last night and today. Last night sessions saw us completing ID training, with the fish survey. The "module" that took away all my marks when we had our RF training and test last year. moggi can be kinda a nag at times but he does go through the fish survey methodology in detail and shares all his little stories with us too! First on the importance of fish in the coral reef ecosystem, that fish and coral are inter-dependent on each other.
IMG_0127 fish survey
Then some tricky things about fish surveys. You need to be able to estimate 3D distances, then those little buggers keep moving (not to mention hide in cracks and crevices)... and to top it all off, you need to be able to estimate a numbers in one huge school as it swims across the survey "corridor"! (yesh, I know I'm supposed to be juan-fish, do like fish both in the sea and on my platter, but I don't really appreciate the finer points of actually doing a fish survey... *bleah*
IMG_0128 fish survey
And to further complicate matters, only certain fish are supposed to be counted. So in that short period of time that you detect a fish, you need to (1) ID it, (2) count the numbers, (3) judge if it falls within the survey area, (4) look into hidey-holes for more fishies, and (5) still follow the methodology of waiting for 3-5min every 5m, swimming/trudge the 5m taking at least 30 seconds... All underwater where your reactions tend to be a bit slower already... Talk about multi-tasking and challenging!
IMG_0129 fish survey
So of course, you would need to do more detailed readings. These are all great fish reference books to help. The Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide is more of a general introduction to all sorts of marine life. The Reef Fish Identification - Tropical Pacific is spendidly detailed, with the fish categorised according to where they are normally found (bottom dwelling, pelagic, etc.) and their overall typical bodyshape. My favorite of the lot! Reef Fish in a pocket is basically a super condensed version of the Fish ID book, and is actually waterproof so you can keep it in your pocket for quick reference when you go diving/snorkelling! Don't like the Marine Fishes book at the far end of the table as it only contains drawings of the fish (no photos), plus "groupers" are spelled as "gropers" (can't imagine those grumpy looking little fishies turning ecchi and molesting divers/snorkellers....). Just goes to show how common names can be troublesome when there's no standardization...
IMG_0124 fish books
Armed with the books, our insipid students were assigned groups to find out differences between snappers-emperors, groupers-sweetlips, rabbitfish-goatfish, butterflyfish-angelfish, and parrotfish-filefish...
IMG_0130 hard at work differentiating fish IMG_0133 hard at work
Of course, with a little help from moggi, our resident fish expert ^^
IMG_0131 Marco joins in to elaborate
Realising that the obvious traits (except for the usual exceptions) are easy to remember, though not always easy to spot, everybody's all smiles. ^_^
IMG_0141 reat books to look at IMG_0137 sweetlips
We're almost there, guys! So today, after a re-cap of the different surveys we need to carry out for RC, it's exam time! And we're glad to say that everybody passed and we're all set for the actual thing at Dayang!
IMG_0144 revision

Click for the rambling...

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

New 7 Wonders of Nature

Hi folks!
Just found out about this from my friend in Philippines. Not sure if it has been in the news. Seems like after voting for the new 7 wonders of the world, there's some ongoing voting for the new 7 wonders of nature. Singapore's Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is one of the top 77 nominees at the moment, and we're currently ranked 45. Quite decent isn't it? Maybe we could publicise this a bit more since online voting is opened until 31 Dec 2008, when the final 21 nominees would be put up for voting. Let's see if we can get BTNR into the top 21 ^^ With the number of really strong contenders in the running, getting into the top 21 would already be quite a feat in itself!

Also, at least a couple of us have also put up Chek Jawa as an other nominee, so please vote for our beloved CJ as well when it appears on the voting list!
Click here to vote!
Click for the rambling...

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

ReefAlert 2008 training (part01)

This is certainly a busy busy period~~ First with ADEX, EARTH DAY(!!!), coral spawning, various intertidal activities, and I find myself involved in training up and bringing a group SMUX divers for their annual ReefAlert at Dayang. Think this is their 3rd year heading to Malaysia to do ReefCheck surveys, and Gill Divers has been organising these annual ReefAlerts and getting BWV ReefFriends involved as well. They had their pool session on sunday, and the RC theory started last night and would continue on until Thursday before we leave for Dayang on Friday night.

papajeff kicked off the series of theory sessions with a quick introduction to our local waters and reefs, as well as an overview to the different tasks buddy pairs would be assigned.
IMG_0110 troubleshooting
Followed by a quick demo on tape laying, or as much as can be demonstrated on land, with the usual 'do's and 'don't's like keeping the tape straight, don't let it twist about etc.
IMG_0104 overview on tapes and lines
Then it was time for the students to try it out for themselves, with the classroom furnishings acting as pseudo-corals and various reef structures. Seems rather easy on land, doesn't it? Wiat til you try it out while diving, and at an actual reef where it's more complex environment than what chairs and tables can provide!
IMG_0107 hands-on with the tapes IMG_0108 hands-on with the tapes
And for some reason, moggi's amused but all that's happening, even while holding on to the clothes pegs that we use to secure the transect tapes to the reef...
IMG_0112 Marco
Simple straightforward introduction for the first session. Tonight's session was a little more mugger-ish with the list of mobile invertebrates (aka backbone-less critters) and benthic codes to remember and identify. While waiting for the latecomers to make their way in, moggi starts with a quick re-cap with more tips on tape laying. It really is quite simple once you get the hang of it but (to use moggi's words) sometimes divers leave their common sense behind on the boat....
IMG_0114 Marco starts by pre-empting possible tricky spots
Things happen, such as shallow and deep transects crossing despite the fact that they are supposed to be approximately parallel and laid at a constant depth. And also how we need to deal with the not-so-classroom-perfect real world where the reef is non-linear and/or the reef profile is extremely bumpy with many crevices and boulder corals. Good for the fish and other critters but can be a pain for us humans trying to make sense of the larger scheme in life. And since tape laying is basically the backbone for any kind of reef survey, you need to get it right. (or end up delaying everything since the tape needs to be relaid....)
IMG_0115 more well intended nagging
E1 continues by introducing the 7 mobile invertebrate groups that the folks at RC HQ are interested in, namely, sea urchins (Diadema, collector, pencil), crown of thorns (Acanthaster planci), giant clams (Tridacna sp.), tritons, sea cucumbers (prickly red, greenfish, sandfish, cowfish), banded coral shrimps, and lobsters.
Then I had a go at going through the biotic (hard coral, soft coral, nutrient indicator algae, sponges, others) and abiotic (rock, rubble, sand, silt/clay) codes for the benthic portion of the survey.
IMG_0117 21 SMUX students at our mercy ^^
Quick sum up by moggi and we're done for the day night. Hope we didn't scare off too many of them since we still have to go through the fish groups tomorrow, and have they take the "final exam" on Thursday!
IMG_0121 more tips from the pro

And on a totally irrelevant note, I get to collect my regulator set tomorrow. Can't wait!!! ^_^
Click for the rambling...

ADEX goodies ^_^

Decided to separate this from the main ADEX post since it's just to feature my haul of goodies that I now have to find space for in my already full room..... Too many to take a proper shot of, so here's *most* of my stash, well, missing new regulator and octopus set that basically ate up quite a bit of my wallet. Would be collecting it tomorrow~~
IMG_0097 focusing on the important stuff
And of course, the lucky draw goodies ^^ Anybody wanna buy a new mask from me? It's an Oceanic one!
IMG_0103 lucky draw prizes


Click for the rambling...

3 full days of ADEX

*phew* survived the weekend spent at ADEX. Other than the usual madness that follows setting up and dismantling of the coral nursery display, it was great fun seeing familiar faces at both the Eco-Village and the main booths all over, as well as getting to know some of the prominent but-not-so-familiar (as in not introduced) faces in the dive industry.
IMG_0093 banner
Had to be there early on Friday since there was an opening ceremony, and we did up the little coral nursery corner of the Keppel booth at the ADEX Eco-Village.
IMG_0059 coral nursery booth
All with time to spare as the exhibitors of the cozy little Eco-Village area settled in while the opening speeches were made.
IMG_0068 opening
Well, compared with the IT show that took place earlier in the year, the turnout at ADEX was a little dismal, even more so at the Eco-Village since we were almost tucked away from most of the action. ADEX is known in the dive community more for its deals on gear, trips, books, magazine subscriptions, etc. so the bulk of the visitors hardly spent any time at our Eco-Village. Our busiest periods were usual before and after the lucky draws/dollar auctions (Singaporeans being Singaporeans only appear when there's any announcement of free/cheap stuff), as well as when school groups were brought round on Friday and Saturday. Definitely had our hands full at times, and am thankful for the Keppel volunteers who signed up to man the booth, especially those who came for more than one shift, and the gungho few who have yet to have any first hand experience with deploying the tables or maintaining them. Everybody was all smiles to share with visitors about what the nursery is all about!
IMG_0071 talking to school group IMG_0069 talking to school group IMG_0073 sharing w a visitor
Other than sharing with visitors, these Keppel volunteers were also charged with the task of helping roll up a set of 5 posters on Singapore's biodiversity, so that we could give them out to visitors. A couple of the dive shops actually took stacks to give out at their shops too! Here's two of them posing very happily with the 2 marine posters.
IMG_0077 lovely Keppel volunteers
Our nearest "neighbor" were the folks from Kon-Tiki dive centre in Thailand, and we spent time chatting with each other over the 3 days. They seem to be involved in a number of projects, from Project AWARE to CoralWatch to ReefCheck and some stuff on monitoring butterflyfish as a gauge to reef health, as well as some beach cleanups. Rather heartening so see that there are dive centres that are trying to do their bit for our seas. (To the hardcore pessimists, yes, it IS good commercial sense considering that there's a "Let's go green" bandwagon at the moment but if it helps the cause, why not? Everybody's happy) Would like to be able to head up to Thailand to visit them as well~~
IMG_0087 Kon-Tiki folks
They were even having an art contest every few hours of so. You just need to draw your favorite marine life, and you stand a fish ID DVD from Kon-Tiki. There's even a category for adults so we also took a break from the poster rolling and the booth manning to join in the fun~
IMG_0080 Kon-Tiki dive centre IMG_0081 Kon-Tiki dive centre IMG_0083 happy smiles IMG_0082 Kon-Tiki dive centre
And our masterpieces. Even includes a really special looking "lion-fish" (nope, it's NOT a merlion...LOL) as well as our local critters (courtesy of CH). Do excuse the smudge marks, had to get rid of personal particulars.
IMG_0088 Keppel volunteers' doodles IMG_0089 tada! IMG_0090 juan n CH join in the fun IMG_0085 lionfish IMG_0091 CH's masterpiece
One of the Keppel volunteers even won! Hope you put that ID guide to good use, girl!
IMG_0092 Kon-Tiki's Andy with our Keppel winner
As with all things, the 3 days came to an end all too soon. In the midst of all the packing, managed to grab hold of some of the TMX folks for a quick shot. Some of the (not-quite) behind the scenes people, making things smooth for all of us, including the man behind the voice we've been hearing over the 3 days! Hope the Boat Expo this weekend goes as smoothly for you!
IMG_0094 MC Bernard and some of the TMX folks


Other posts about ADEX 2008:
(1) 10 year plan to make Singapore coral paradise
(2) Roving reef exhibition debuts at ADEX
(3) Shore volunteers reach out at ADEX
(4) Hantu Blog reaches out at ADEX
Click for the rambling...

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Reef critters in action!

Flickr has just gone the way of Photobucket and launched video hosting, so I decided to give it a try with some of my better underwater videos of our local critters in action. Quality's not too shabby, so may consider this as an alternative for my shorter videos. Stuff more than 90 seconds short long would still need to find their way to Youtube.

First up is this video of a banded sea krait hunting in the shallow of Hantu waters. How did I end up there? Got distracted while in the middle of searching for my buddy's lost mask during RF training early last year.

Don't blink lest you miss it! More feeding in process. These are barnacle feet grasp tiny zooplankton from the waters. Yesh, those feathery things that keep popping in and out are barnacle feet, while the barnacle's head is firmly burrowed inside the calcium carbonate skeleton of this Galaxea sp. coral

Click for the rambling...

Thursday, 3 April 2008


今、シンガポールで毎日夕立が出てる... 気持ち悪い。 太陽さん、何で朝だけくる? 春雨がちょっと好きけど、夕立と大雨は... 窓でてるてる坊主ちゃんが書いた、太陽さん早く戻ってください~~
IMG_4445 teruteru boozu-chan
Click for the rambling...

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Review: Nudi books

Being the nudist (meaning 'seaslug lover' NOT 'exhibitionist'!!) I am, I am a *somewhat abashed* owner of THREE nudibranch books!! (amongst other nature books) And for those of you who know how much they cost and how I tend to build my own personal library of sorts, you probably can "value" my really messy room. ^^ The latest addition being the Nudibranch Encyclopedia by Neville Coleman. Having a spot of free-ish time now (before the April-June) madness busy-ness descends, so shall do a quick and rough comparison between (and a somewhat review of)Coleman's latest and his previous 1001 Nudibranchs book.
The covers look pretty much the same but the first difference is in the thickness and weight. 1001's a mere 144 pages and soft cover, whereas NE's nearly 4 times that at 416 pages and hard cover. A tad bit hefty for a field guide, especially when your dive gear already takes up so much space and weight (not to mention your cameras and other assorted barang-barangs). Plus, most divers are more of generalists than nudists per se, meaning if they wanna bring along their ID books, it would be for quite a few critters... So the new kid book on the block suffers the first blow of being less portable, but how does it do content-wise?

Firstly, the section describing the main features of the different seaslugs now has labeled photographs instead of diagrams to indicate the names of the different anatomical portions of the sluggers. Much less detail as compared to 1001 that even includes the type of cerata. Guess quite a few of the features are difficult to see in the field, and the general audience wouldn't be so concerned with knowing where the seminal groove is or how the abulmen gland is wrapped round the digestive gland.

Not much changes were made to the section on habitats, well, except that in NE, the portion on open ocean opisthobranchs is omitted, and even the part on zoogeography was taken out. And on the other hand, the portion(s) on nudibranch behavior has been expounded upon. More details and insights into the 5 senses of opistobranchs, respiration, locomotion, defence strategies, and the topic we all love to hear about, sex. I like the change in the section on feeding where more photos of slugs in action instead of static shots of their known food. Stuff like what we observed at Hantu recently.
IMG_4063 Gymnodoris rubropapulosa feeding on Chromodoris lineolata
Sections in 1001 that I miss having are stuff like the details on the slug look alikes like flatworms, lamellarins, onchs, allied cowries, etc.; as well as the section on associations from slug hitch-hikers to parasites. Also the not-so-relevant-but-fun/nice-to-know section on photographing nudis is also gone. Well, considering the number of good photos that plague Dr Rudman on the seaslug forum, guess most of the nudists already know the basics.

And now we get to the meat of the books. The slug parade!! The arrangement of the sluggie information is now alphabetically (family then genera then species) in NE instead of in decreasing complexity of the opistobranchs as it was in 1001. Furthermore, NE has around double the number of photos compared 1001!!! No wonder there was so much delay from the initial Christmas 2007 release date. Having the names arranged alphabetically does make things way easier to find, since we have had the alphabet ingrained into us from young. Figuring out and trying to remember the slug complexity hierarchy would easily give anybody a headache, and when you factor in the constant updating of species and all.... Also, in NE, the non-nudi opistobranchs are presented first, which is the opposite of 1001 where it was nudis first, other slugs later...

So aside from the new photos and new species recorded, what else is "new" in NE? Larger photos to oogle at and glomp. More details and descriptions on features of the species, and as far as possible, photos of juveniles and eggs are also included. Definitely moving away from being merely a field ID book to more of a proper reference book. Can't wait for the day when the encyclopedia would have expanded into a multi-volume set with all the down-and-dirty on seaslugs. That would be like putting the entire seaslug forum into print~~~~
patchy n delphy check out nudis Look! Even my plushies are intrigued by it! And nice and set to become nudists themselves!

Intrigued by nudibranchs but not so hot on getting the details on names and all? Here's another good read:

Both the Nudibranch Encyclopedia and the Nudibranch Behaviour books can be ordered from I-NSC. 1001 Nudibranchs is no longer available since it's supposed to be updated with NE. And no, I am not being commissioned for any of these books. They really are good reads!
Click for the rambling...