Apr 22, 2007

Chek Jawa (22 Apr 07)

TeamSeagrass was back on the shore for an early tide.
We gathered at Changi Jetty as dawn broke, and headed sleepily out to Pulau Ubin.

Shortly, we are all ready to monitor. This after Shufen explains the New and Improved Field boxes for keeping track of equipment.

While the busy Seagrassers head off to the seagrass lagoon to monitor, I decide to check out the coral rubble area to see how things are since the mass deaths at Chek Jawa we encountered earlier in the year.

The seagrasses were certainly doing very well in the area. With lots of healthy Fern seagrasses (Halophila spinulosa) complete with all their little fronds. As well as thickets of other seagrasses like Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) and Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.).
(Siti's note: The seagrasses on the seaward side were HUGE and were growing thick and lush. Shufen and myself finally understood the reason behind Halophila ovalis's common name - the Spoon Seagrass- because the ones we found that day were literally like SPOONS, as big as our thumbs! There's certainly lots of food at Chek Jawa for hungry migrating dugongs passing through Singapore)

The carpet anemones were also doing much better. They were large and relaxed and many in the usual brilliant colours. Many crabs were out and about. Large swimming crabs in all colours and lots of hairy crabs too.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much else there. All sponges and encrusting animals have yet to recover. And with them the colourful flatworms and nudibranchs we usually encounter. There were few snails and only dead fanshells (Pinna sp.).

It got hot, I got slack and so I decided to check out the coastal forest that rings Chek Jawa.
The beautiful Delek air trees (Memecylon edule) were blooming! With clusters of bright bluish flowers. These trees are now rare because the coastal habitat where they grow have been lost.

Equally rare is the Nyatoh tree (Pouteria linggensis). It was blooming and fruiting! The only other specimens of these trees are found on Lazarus island.

I made a quick foray into the mangroves as well.
The amazing Nyireh bunga (Xylocarpus granatum) has large cannon-ball shaped fruits. The flowers are tiny!

Chek Jawa is amazing because it has so many different ecosystems in one location. The boardwalk construction seems almost complete. And soon, everyone can enjoy these beautiful ecosystems.

I met up with the Seagrassers at the end of the tide. They saw filefishes, a large flatfish, and Budak and Helen had a strange encounter with a transparent sea cucumber. Dickson shares more about the Team's encounters on his blue heaven blog. And Jenn Chye, who has just joined the Team, shares on his solonavi blog.

Thank you to team members who came for the monitoring! Chay Hoon, Ley Kun, Lyn, May Yee, Jenn Chye, Faizah, Dickson, Sijie, Andy, Marcus, Nor Aishah and Gaytri. And Wilson for being such a gentleman as always.

TeamSeagrass had a very busy weekend with FOUR monitoring sessions. Besides the one at Sentosa, Cyrene and Chek Jawa, the RGS girls also did Labrador on Sunday. The Sentosa and Labrador monitoring was to make up for the non-compliant tides at the earlier scheduled dates. Cyrene has just been added to the monitoring schedule.

There's lots to do, and lots to see!
Come join us for the upcoming monitoring sessions!

Cyrene Reef (21 Apr 07)

Another dawn arrival by the intrepid Team on this submerged reef near Singapore's container terminal. The city skyline is hazy in the distance as rain fell there from a angry pile of big clouds sparkling with lightning. We were SO glad it didn't head our way.

It was a lean team that landed for the first TeamSeagrass monitoring of this very grassy reef. We quickly headed out to nearby Transect 1 to set up the lines.
Andy was obviously very ready to whack something with the Team Mallet. Fortunately, the ladies quickly figured out where to place the markers so Andy could vent onto the stake. (The Mallet intriguingly had a label that said it was useful for 'removing ordinary nails'--we couldn't figure out how that would be possible).

Then it was time to set up Transect 2. "Follow me!" Siti says...and she promptly heads off, literally into the horizon.
The rest of us trudge on behind her, past vistas of amazing marine life on Cyrene: star-studded sand flats, pools thick with seagrasses. "Are we THERE yet?" we complain loudly...alas, it was a loooong walk before we did get there.

Due to the shortage of hands, I actually did monitoring for the first time! Well, actually, Annabelle did the Real Monitoring and I just moved the quadrant from point to point and took pictures. Cyrene is quite challenging to monitor because it has so many different seagrasses, which unfortunately, look similar.
To identify the species, it requires close examination and much squinting at leaf veins and such. As this dilligent team at Transect 1 was still doing long after the rest of us were done.

Soon, we were done monitoring and spent the rest of the tide checking out the reef. Besides the enormous expanse of seagrasses, there are also vast stretches of coral rubble and reef flats. All right next to major shipping lanes. See the giagantic ship in the background that transports cars!

The seagrasses are full of life! We spotted a baby Knobbly sea star. Like a cartoon version of the bigger adult star, it was so cute and small! At Transect 2, the seagrasses were crawling with white sea urchins, some gathered together in big piles. It was hard to walk without stepping on them. These urchins also 'carry' things such as shells, bits of debris.

There were several carpet anemones and most had a pair of anemone shrimps. On the sandy area, I startled a little soldier crab that waved its elongated pincers at me as it back pedaled into the wet sand and promptly disappeared from view.

In a pool among the seagrasses, there was this frisky colourful fish that swam happily about, ignoring me. I've no idea what it is.

And the team at Transect 1 spotted this Cowfish in their study area! Mr Budak shares more about this amazing fish, including its scientific name: Lactoria cornuta.

Cyrene reef is just amazing! More on the Budak blog with photos and stories about the sea hares and sea stars found there.

All too soon, we had to leave as the tide rushed back in. We had a little bit of an adventure clambering back up the boat as it moved up and down in the surge. Then the boat got stuck and manly team members had to push it off the reef. Fortunately, we all got back more or less in one piece.

What a great trip! And it would not have been possible without team members Andy, Annabelle, Chay Hoon, Dionne, Kevin, Marcus and Vyna. Thank you!

Dr Chua Ee Kiam also joined us for this trip. The observant regular reader will notice we are missing the usual happy team group photo. Well, Dr Chua took the group photo and this will be posted as soon as we get it from him. There's no escaping the group photo!

Apr 15, 2007

Young Seagrassers blog

The feisty Young Seagrassers from RGS have started blogging. Read all about their adventures with seagrasses on their Labrador blog! Fantastic!

Apr 13, 2007

TeamSeagrass On Zao Bao: 01 April 07

Hi seagrassers,

Here is the long awaited post,

After a Wonderful and Hot Seagrass weekend, we made it to the NEWS!!! Yes, our very own TeamSeagrass. Zao Bao covered our Semakau monitoring trip with Len, Rudi and Choo.

Read all about it...

Thanks once again to those that have made this trip such a good one. Hope you all had fun too :)!

Apr 9, 2007

TeamSeagrass on the International SeagrassWatch website

Here's more photos of us during Len and Rudi's visit!

The exciting classroom session of the Seagrass Workshop at NParks...
The field session of the Seagrass Workshop at Pulau Semakau...
The trip to Cyrene Reef with Len, Rudi and Choo ...See the full gallery at the International Seagrass-Watch website!

Apr 8, 2007

Sentosa 8 Apr 07 (Sun)

TeamSeagrass was all ready for monitoring early this morning...
After the traditional 'TeamSeagrass Pose', Shufen and Wei Ling explained the special 'random' method that we would employ on Sentosa. The team got ready to do their thing....but the tide was still high!

And it stayed high! Yesterday, Shufen and Wei Ling also experienced an unusually higher tide at Labrador. Ron said the guides at Semakau yesterday also felt the tide was unusually high.

We are perplexed. What could have caused this? Glaciers melting? Effect of the recent tsunamis? Bad algorithms for predictions in the tide tables? We haven't a clue. (It certainly wasn't us reading the tide tables wrongly :-) We triple checked that as soon as we got back).

The area we were supposed to monitor is next to the seawall on the left of the photo. This area never poked out of the water in the entire three hours that we were there. Usually, at the tides stated in the tide tables, this area would have been well exposed for at least two hours.
But TeamSeagrass is never put off even by nature-defying situations.We simply went straight to the next item on the agenda: exploring the shore.

Among the highlights spotted were Giant reefworms aplenty. With an endearing scientific name (Eunice aphroditois, the worm of love?), growing up to a metre in length, and the grossest tentacles surrounding its mouth, this worm inspires morbid fascination. Half of Shufen's breakfast breadroll was sacrificed into trying to lure these beasts out of their lairs in the coral rubble. (But we ate the raisins in the bread because we thought worms shouldn't eat too much sugar).

There was also a bloom of Bryopsis, a feathery green seaweed that would be enchanting if it didn't muck up the water for metres and pile up in rotting mats on the shore. Since Siti wasn't around, we could express some admiration for the seaweeds. We spotted many clumps of the strange shiny bubble-like green seaweed (Boergensenia sp.) and club-shaped furry seaweed (Neomeris sp.) which often also has a white 'stem'.

When the tide is high (or refuses to fall), it is also a good opportunity to explore the high shore!
And we were fortunate that Ron and friends were also on the shore to explore the amazing natural rocky cliffs of Sentosa.

Sentosa has the stunning Raffles pitcher plants (Nepenthes rafflesiana) which are considered rare in Singapore. They clambered all over the tops of cliff-side trees, their pitchers hanging like jugs, and flower spikes waving in the air.
Vilma points out that the pitchers that hang freely look like urinals, while pitchers lying on the ground are squat and look like toilet bowls.
These pitcher plants are large and quite majestic! There were lots of flowering spikes, and even developing fruits! For more about the Raffles pitcher plants see Joseph Lai's eart-h.com website.

On the cliffside, Vilma also pointed out the beautiful wild Ixora that is considered rare in Singapore. The bright orange flowers turn into red berries that ripen black. She also spotted wild orchids growing on the cliff side! I tried to climb up to get a closer shot and caused a mini-landslide on the very crumbly cliffside rocks. November explained the geography of these cliffs and how the bizarre shapes and caves formed through natural processes (as opposed to unnatural processes of me poking at the flaky rocks).

There were lots of other sightings, insights and stories. Ron shared his view of the Onch Kingdom on his tidechaser blog; while Dickson reveals insights into weeds and worms on the blue heaven blog.

Thank you to the Team who turned up: Dickson, Michell, Suizlyn, Jingkai, James, Jo, Sijie, Grace, Gaytri and Nor Aishah.

Apr 4, 2007

For the love of seagrass

If you think that a monitoring session on the mudflats of Chek Jawa qualifies as "getting your hands dirty", think again! Seagrass & dugong researchers are going through dugong POO (yes, you read right!) to determine if seagrass seeds can pass through the digestive tract of a dugong intact, making these animals vehicles for seed dispersal!

Article taken from Seagrass-Watch Newsletter (Issue 15, Oct 2002).

So next time you spot what you think is a sea cucumber at Chek Jawa, have a second look, it might be dugong POO ;)

Happy Long weekend everybody!