Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Forestle - the greener version of Google?

Forestle - Save the rainforests by searching the web
I know that I mention more marine/intertidal related stuff on this blog but Forestle is a nifty way to do your Google searches (they use the same algorithms apparently) while generating donations to the Nature Conservancy's adopt an acre programme. And if you use Firefox and its built in search tool-bar like I do, there's even a plug-in that you can install so you would use it automatically for searches!

Unfortunately I can't take full credit for stumbling across this search engine since I would it on the bioephemera blog while waiting for the DSN folks to finally enlighten us on their BIG NEWS. I must say that the green themed interface is quite a change from the usual Google one that I am used to.
Here's a more detailed write-up on how this entire thing works:
Click for the rambling...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

IYOR coverage on Zaobao - 20080812

I-NSC mentioned that the Zaobao coverage of IYOR is on today's Zaobao, and here it is! Just one day after the Star Tracking article in My Paper, and divejunkie here is once again translating an article from Chinese to English once again. This coming after years of under utilising my Mandarin.....
IMG_3352 some of the freebies

Creating a Coral Paradise in Singapore Within 10 Years

Members of the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) Singapore Organising Committee have a dream, and that is to create a coral paradise in Singapore within the coming years.

Professor Chou Loke Ming (Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore believes that even though it would be difficult to achieve the aim of "Singapore, Coral Paradise 2018", it is not impossible. If this dream can be achieved, Singapore's marine life would be revived, with all kinds of fish returning, allowing us to become a diving hotspot.

He expressed these thoughts during the launch of the International Year of the Reef (IYOR).

IYOR is celebrated once every 10 years, and the first IYOR was launched in 1997, with the aim of raising awareness about the destruction of coral reefs. At that time, various groups from over 50 countries were involved and more than 100 research publications arose from the event.

The various groups and organizations taking part in this year's IYOR are equally enthusiastic and passionate, and comprise of many NGOs, water activity interest groups, individuals, as well as the National Parks Board.

When interviewed, the chairman of the IYOR Singapore Organizing Committee, Mr Francis Lee, mentioned that, "The protection and conservation of Singapore's green spaces has been done very well, and air quality has been managed adequately. However, when it comes our marine heritage, too little has been done."

Development of the Blue Plan
With this aim in mind, the committee drafted a Blue Plan 5-6 years earlier, with the hopes of being able to work together with the government in conserving Singapore's marine life.

This year, the committee will once again draft out a new Blue Plan, including discussions/suggestions on how to allow ordinary people to treasure the ocean, as well as to share the knowledge of marine ecology with fishermen and divers alike. For example, if a caught fish is deemed too small, the fishermen could release them back to the sea.

The Chairman of the Blue Plan cluster, Mr Farid Hamid, states that the committee aims to submit the Blue Plan to the government by the end of this year, and have various discussions with the government, including a proposal for marine protected area(s), similar to Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, situated on mainland Singapore.

Situated in the south of Singapore, Sisters' Islands and Pulau Hantu are both within the consideration of the Blue Plan. These two islands are established offshore leisure grounds.

The committee members also aim to organize the existing database of our coral reefs, as well as to update the information, with the eventual aim of setting up a national database of Singapore's coral reefs.

60% of our local coral deaths due to reclamation works
Professor Chou also notes that the Tuas-Jurong area of Western Singapore originally possessed a large area of coral reefs but is now reduced to 40% of its original area.

Sedimentation reduce photosynthesis
Around 60% of Singapore's coral reefs have been destroyed between the 1970s and 1990s, with the main culprit of this destruction being sediments resulting from reclamation works.

Some of these sediments assumulate on the coral reefs, smothering the hard corals, and reducing light penetration which in turn decreases photosynthesis within the corals, leading to the eventual death of these coral colonies.

In addition, when the sediments settle on the seabed, they would also cover any coral larvae (and gametes) present, preventing the growth of new coral colonies.

Mr Ivan Choong, an avid diver who dives frequently in Singapore, said that the silt accumulating in on the seabeds of local waters can be as deep as a human's arm length, and the visibility of local waters are generally low. He notes that when diving locally, visibility is usually around 3-5m, and that he can only see the vague shadow (lacking a distinct outline) of his dive buddy.

Having just returned from Christmas Island, Ivan observed that in comparison, the waters there are still crystal clear even at depths of 30-40m.

Decrease in population but diversity still maintained
Even though Singapore's coral reefs have decreased in numbers, the types of corals that have persisted are largely intact. Professor Chou said that despite having experienced so many years of harsh conditions, only one out of the 251 species of hard corals found locally has gone extinct. This is a pleasant surprise, giving hope and confidence in the dream of a local coral paradise.

Little facts about hard corals
Corals are animals, not plants
Many individual coral polyps form a single coral colony
The intestinal cavity of individual coral polyps contain unicellular sumbiotic algae (zooxanthellae). These algae make use of sunlight that penetrates the water for photosynthesis, and their waster products act as nutrients for the coral
Corals absorb calcium that is present in seawater, secreting this calcium in the form of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) skeletons
Coral mass spawning occurs annually in Singapore on the nights of full moon during the months of March-April
Coral reefs are natural habitats that support one of the greatest number of plant and animal species on earth, and are thus, of utmost importance to biodiversity

The original article can be found online here:
More information on IYOR in Singapore (as well as the organizing committee) can be found here at their blog:
Ivan Choong (other than being a IYOR Singapore Organizing Committee and NSS member) is also a field editor with Scuba Diver Australasia magazine, as well as a supplier of marine books at his I-NSC website. He is also involved in the Flying Manta Project started in Aug 2006. (disclaimer: I am NOT trying to be biased here... It's just that I can't seem to find a bio for Ivan on a single page like I could for the rest of the folks mentioned.)

Was initially waiting for the pdf softcopy of the article to be sent to me before posting this entry but it's a little late in coming. Will just place it on Flickr when it comes.

Click for the rambling...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Star Tracking on My Paper (Part 02)

Here comes the main translation. chimck beat me to doing the translation, so this is just a more-or-less cut-n-paste job (with his permission of course!) from the Star Tracker blog, with minor modifications ^_^
20080811 - My Paper article on Star Trackers (2)

We all have a name and IC!
Two days ago, 24 local seastars were each given a name, becoming unique stars in the ocean.

These seastars, belong to a species commonly as the "Knobbly Seastar" as well as the "Chocolate Chip Seastar", were adopted by the public for a minimum sum of $50 donation at the International Year of the Reef event.

These seastars are not only unique in name but are also unique in the number and arrangement of knobs on the body surface.

Twenty-four knobbly seastars and at least 162 other individuals currently inhabit a local southern reef known as Cyrene Reefs. They can have their own "IC" (Identification Card) due to the hard work of two young men.

Since May this year, Chim Chee Kong (31 years old, research assistant) and Tan Sijie (26 years old, education and outreach officer) have visited the Cyrene Reefs six times, took photographs and measurements for each seastar.

They have taken 220 photographs, of which 186 were recognised as individuals, including 55 juveniles.

Most of the seastars have five arms, although a few have only four arms, some of which were due to injury. In addition, the body may be of different colours, which consist of different shades of red, brown, beige etc.

The Knobbly Seastar is a locally endangered animal and the juveniles of this species are rare. This research project is extremely important to Chim Chee Kong and Tan Sijie, as it helps Singaporeans to better understand that we have these "lucky stars".

Two people started "Star Chasing" in May this year
Chim Chee Kong is a research assistant with the Tropical Marine Science Institute and Tan Sijie is a education and outreach officer with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. Both have strong interests in marine life.

Chim Chee Kong said "Seastars are charismatic animals, as demonstrated by their presence in many advertisements that promote the tropical island feel. Nonetheless, many do not know that Singapore has seastars, and related research are also few."

Chim Chee Kong and Tan Sijie started "star chasing" in May this year at Terembu Pandan, which makes up one of the Cyrene Patch Reefs.

The Cyrene Pathc Reefs also consists of two other smaller reefs.

They said that even though the Knobbly Seastar is also found at local sites such as Pulau Semakau, Chek Jawa and Changi Beach, the number of individuals are not as many as in Cyrene Reefs, and that is the reason why the ecology of the Knobbly Seastar population at the Cyrene Patch Reefs is worth investigating. "Although the Knobbly Seastar was classified as endangered in 1994, the Cyrene Reefs is inhabitated by a large number of adults as well as juveniles, and is possibly the only sustainable population that remains locally.

Because the Cyrene Reefs is submerged by 3m of water during high tides, they can only survey during low tides, with the help of boatmen.

They hope to have a long-term study on individuals regarding their growth rates, movements, ontogenetic change in morphology etc.

The bottom series of text is basically an explanation of how the tracking is done, as explained on the blog.
Click for the rambling...

Star Tracking on My Paper (Part 01)

Having been tipped off by SJ on Sat, divejunkie here made sure she was early enough to beat the crowds to get a copy of today's My Paper. Sure enough, the front cover of the Chinese portion had the Star Tracking efforts as the headlines. Well done!
20080811 - My Paper article on Star Trackers

Haven't had the chance to post the main article online, let alone do a rough translation of it but here's a rough translation of the headlines plus the little snippet. (DISCLAIMER: divejunkie is NOT known for her Cheena prowess, so these are very loose translations for those even more Mandarin-challenged than her.... Feel free to correct)

This one is of the portion above:
Issuing ICs to Seastars
180 odd seastars on our country's Southern shores now have an identification number, all thanks to the dedicated tracking work that 2 conservation volunteers have been contributing to their research.
Full article on page B3

20080811 - My Paper article on Star Trackers (1)

And here's the rough translation for this snippet found on page 2:
Tracking, Touching
Taking note of something is generally a touching action by people who care.

Because there is the need to not let things die out by themselves, because of the fear that things and feelings of value would be forgotten, thus the need for keeping records.

We record history, scenery, feelings and emotions, everything that's happening around us, they chose to track seastars.

Two young people with a passion for marine life, tiredlessly going to Singapore's southern reefs in search of a type of Knobbly Seastar, taking photos, taking body measurements, giving identification numbers, such that these seastars are no longer just a population of seastars but unique individual seastars.

Having given these seastars an identification code of their own, these seastars are now like the humans around us, needing long term concern and care.
page B3 We all have a name and IC!

Will try and tackle the main article when I get home after swimming, unless someone else has already done so by then! Meanwhile, the less Mandarin-challenged can checkout the article on My Paper's website.

For firsthand accounts from the StarTrackers themselves, check out their blog here:
Star Trackers
Click for the rambling...

Friday, 8 August 2008

Have yourself an auspiciously happy national day!!

National Day wishes from the shores!.
This year the shores of Singapore would like to celebrate National Day with everybody through celebrating the reefs!

A number of us were down at the Singapore Botanic Gardens' Botany Centre (at the Tanglin Core, near Gleneagles Hospital) this afternoon for the official launch of the International Year of the Reef here in Singapore, and the turn out was much better than expected ^^ Everything went smoothly and a few of the knobblies got adopted too! *yay* Much cause for celebration, yar? Realised that I took way too many photos to blog about it proper today... Well, today was just a preview of sorts, so do come and join us (again, if you came today!) for more fun and activities! Sorry to the few families that appeared today, not much for the kids to take part in but we have planned activities for tomorrow! As well as a series of talks throughout the day! Click here for more details on what to expect.
Click for the rambling...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Listing of Ocean Blogs

Was going through my Google reader feeds, and Rick MacPherson has nicely put together a list of (Great!) blogs that feature the ocean(s). Nice to see that a number of our local SG nature bloggers making his list ^^ How apt that he has done his done up this blog listing in the week leading up to our IYOR launch! He even has our IYOR-Singapore blog in his links too!

Our featured SG bloggers are as listed:
(1) The Annotated Budak
(2) The Hantu Blog
(3) TideChaser blog
(4) MantaMola blog
(5) TeamSeagrass
Encouraging isn't it? That some of our local nature blogs are being read internationally, and recognised as GREAT blogs! ^_^ Interestingly enough, Wildfilms nor BWV was included on the listing.... We definitely have quite a number of folks that provide the voices for Singapore's natural habitats! Some of them are linked directly from my blog, while others are listed in our little network of nature bloggers that Monkey set up.

On a side note, photos are crawling up on Flickr again. Still not quite up-to-date yet but getting there slowly ^^
Click for the rambling...