Dec 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Hello Team! Here's wishing you guys Happy Holidays and a Merry New Year. May 2009 be just as exciting as the year that has been! :)

Dec 23, 2008

Bumper Seagrass-Watch Newsletter rings in the New Grassy Year!

A bumper issue of the Seagrass Watch Newsletter marks the end of 2008 and the beginning of bigger things!
The cover of the Newsletter has this fabulous photo of seagrasses and reefs and fishies!

Of course I quickly flipped to the article about TeamSeagrass. And Siti has done a great round up of our Team efforts in her inimitable style...Since I got to provide the photos, Siti did not escape being 'sabo'. Marcus had a great photo of Siti in 'deep' trouble, literally, at Semakau. Haha.Read more about our past adventures and escapades. Including, "The Fastest Site to Monitor Award", "The Toughest Seagrasser Award", "Best Boatman Award" (hint: No Problem!), "The Wonky Tides Award", "The Funniest Gullible Moment Award" (won by Jerald), and more!

There are lots of other fascinating articles, including about rays. Not among our most favourite, but still awesome creatures.And also about dugongs! We all love dugongs!We wish we had dugongs like they do in Thailand!In the Philippines, they are asking questions we all should about our seagrasses.Seagrass-Watch plays a key role in helping to provide sound advice for the management of water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, and some of the key findings are presented in the Newsletter. With beautiful charts and all kinds of information.If we work really hard on our shores, we'll be able to do the same for our seagrasses and shores!Some monitoring sites have serious stuff like Light Loggers. Perhaps one day, we can have this too on our sites.

Here's an inspiring message from Len McKenzie, Principal Scientist, Seagrass-Watch Program Leader, Seagrass-Watch HQ

As 2008 comes to a close, it is an opportunity to look back and reflect on the achievements for the year.

The most significant achievement was Seagrass-Watch turning 10. Also was the completion of the fourth year of sampling for the Marine Monitoring Program. Seagrass-Watch plays a key role in helping to provide sound advice for the management of water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, and in this issue we present some of the key findings. Results of monitoring are presented firstly by the Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions identified in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Within each NRM, seagrass habitats are further delineated into estuarine, coastal and reef habitats.

Also in this issue you'll find articles on recent efforts in Indonesia and the Comoros to map seagrass and establish monitoring. Read about the Restore-A-Scar program rescuing seagrass in the Florida Keys and groups in the Philippines rescuing seagrass by measuring its economic value.

Catch up with the Dhimurru Sea Rangers as they establish the Northern Territory’s first Seagrass-Watch monitoring site. You'll also find our regular updates from groups in Queensland and an Oscar style windup for the year with TeamSeagrass in Singapore. Included are also articles on education activities with schools in Torres Strait and you can even learn about rays.

As this is our biggest issue ever (24 pages), we hope you enjoy it. We have also provided both low and high resolution versions for you to choose from.

Everyone at Seagrass-Watch HQ wishes you all a happy New Year and safe holiday season.

Download the Seagrass Watch Newsletter and read all the articles for yourself!

Looking forward to a fantastic 2009!

Trips start on 10 Jan 09 so sign up now if you haven't already done so. All monitoring dates for 2009 are uploaded on the FAQ on this blog.

Want to join TeamSeagrass? Simply email these details
(a) your full name
(b) your age
(c) your email address
(d) your contact number
(e) any previous experience
to Ria at, please put "TeamSeagrass" in your subject header.

Please read the FAQs on this blog for any questions you might have about the programme.

See you on the seagrass soon!

Dec 13, 2008

Pulau Semakau (13 Dec 08)

It's our last monitoring session for 2008! And a large team of 31 is off to do the job at Pulau Semakau.Because of the huge turnout, several regular volunteers kindly agreed to be team leaders for each of the three sites. Thank you to Kok Sheng and Michell for leading Team 1; Nor Aishah and Kevin for leading Team 2; and Leon and Hannah for leading Team 3.On the boat ride out to Semakau, the team leaders are busy briefing the team. And doing a really great job at it! This attracts the paparazzi. Eric, Dimas, Yvonne from the Semakau Book team are along for the trip. Marcus and Jac also take lots of team photos. Also with us today are some special people from NEC: Ms Hirano, Ian, Cheng Mo and Desiree.While the rest are quickly sorting out the equipment at the Semakau Jetty...
The newly weds Mr and Mrs Lam are setting up the GPS. While Eric takes more snazzy shots with his evil fish eye lens.

Then we're off to the shores, thanks to a ride from the friendly NEA staff. Semakau monitoring involves a lot of walking. Kilometres of it to match the kilometres of seagrass meadows and shores!
Here's the team doing the furthest site, Site 1 which is almost at the end of Pulau Semakau near Pulau Bukom.
Here's the team at Site 2 facing the broad seagrass meadows, with the huge oil rig in the background. The area off Pulau Semakau is the designated zone for parking oil rigs which are in Singapore for repairs or maintenance. There are currently two rigs and at least one humungous LNG tanker at this zone.
Each group quickly finds the start points and get to monitoring!
Desiree and Leon are doing the furthest transect! Some parts of their transect had no seagrass at all!Other parts had seagrasses but also a very thick growth of fat chunky green seaweeds.Elsewhere, this was interspersed with pink crunchy red seaweed. Closer to the reefs, the seagrasses mingled with hard and soft corals.Yvonne drops by to take wacky photos of the team at work.After the monitoring is done, the team spends the last hour before sunset exploring the vast shores of Pulau Semakau.

The team saw all kinds of stuff including a sea cucumber as long as Robin's forearm. Yvonne has a photo of it! We believe it is Stichopus herrmanni.
Here's the photo of this enormous sea cucumber, kindly shared by Eric. Thanks Eric!
There's so much to see and discover that everyone is still at the reef edge even as the sun sets!

Nevertheless we got back safely before dark, and didn't donate too much blood to the ferocious mosquitos in the forest trail. Some of us even managed to get a lift back to the jetty from the friendly Starfish people who were on the island for an event. Just before that, a bunch of us saw fireflies!

We almost forgot to take the final group photo of the year. Thanks to Shufen for reminding us, we gathered for the traditional happy group photo at the Pier on the mainland.
Here's the much better photo Eric has taken with his fantastic fish eye!

Thanks to everyone for coming for this trip: Alex, Edwin, Hannah, Jerome, Joe, Kok Sheng, Leon, Lilyana, Michelle, Nor Aishah, Steve, Suryati, Kah Ming, Wei Wei, Zhichun, Kevin, Ms Hirano, Ian, Cheng Mo, Desiree, Robin, Jac, Jion Chun, Wei Ling, Shufen. The Semakau Book Team also made for a fun and exciting trip: Eric, Dimas, Yvonne and Marcus. We sure did miss Siti on this trip :-(

Well, that's it for 2008. Looking forward to another successful and meaningful year of monitoring in 2009. Happy Grassy New Year everyone!

More about Pulau Semakau on the wildsingapore website.

More blog posts about this trip

Cyrene Reef (12 Dec 08)

It's a very special monitoring trip as we also celebrate the newly wed Mr and Mrs Lam our first wedding in TeamSeagrass of two Team members!After a quick celebratory toast and cake, thanks to Andy and Nor Aishah for making the arrangements ...
We're off with Melvin in the wonderfully named boat, for a monitoring session on Cyrene Reef.

As if to celebrate this special moment, Cyrene Reef in decked out in white blossoms of the sea!
The freshly blooming female flowers of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) float on the water on long stalks in large numbers. While the entire shore is dusted in a sprinkling of tiny white male flowers like wedding confetti! The three long white petals of the female flowers generally drop off after a day, so they seem to be blooming just for the newly weds!Shufen, with her still be-glittered nails, shows how the three petals of the unpollinated female flowers 'zip up' together when submerged, and spread apart on the water surface.The petals are water repellent and only the centre of the flower is not water repellent.
The little white male flowers emerge from bracts that lie close to the ground. These male flowers have one end that is water repellent and another end that is not. That's why they appear to 'stand up' on the water surface (or even wet fingers) and also tend to cluster together in rafts.
The combined features of the male and female flowers allow the male flowers to zoom into the correct spot on the female flower! Here's a whole bunch of male flowers almost forming a queue to pollinate the female. Shufen and I also discovered that once the female flower is pollinated, the petals no long 'zip up' underwater.

It's busy work monitoring on Cyrene as we have lots of species on this reef.Although the reef is next to our busy world-class port and ringed by petrochemical plants, the meadows are very rich.Nor Aishah and Michelle are taking a very close look at everything in their transect.A beige Knobbly sea star is crossing the line, literally, as the Team checks out the meadows here. Another Knobbly was found inside Kok Sheng's transect square!

Special seagrasses seen on Cyrene include the tubular Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium).As well as the pretty Serrated ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea serrulata).There's a bunch of these seagrasses expanding on the edges of the meadow over sand.

Here you can see the smooth rhizomes of the seagrass and flattened leaf sheath.
The tips of the seagrass blade has tiny serrations which are hard to see and photograph.

Here's a thicker growth of Serrated ribbon seagrass.There's also lots of Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.) which can be rather broad and long on Cyrene Reef.As well as the usual short skinny Needle seagrasses too!Cyrene also has Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii), Smooth ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) and Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), not in photos. So it's tough monitoring the meadows here as we have to look very carefully.

We had a great day out with Melvin taking care of the weather as usual!

Thanks to everyone who came to help monitoring: Nor Aishah, Jerald, Hannah, Chay Hoon, Michelle, Marcus, Kok Sheng, Chee Kong and Chee Kong's colleague, Robin, Wei Ling and of course the new Mr and Mrs Lam: Kevin and Shufen! Congratulations once again. And thanks to Andy for preparing the cake even though he couldn't make it for the trip.

After the monitoring, we had a quick look around at this beautiful living reef. More on these blog posts.

Dec 8, 2008

Singapore-Delft Water Alliance: help for our reefs, seagrasses and mangroves?

Murky, sediment-laden waters and other stresses on our marine ecosystems. Learning more about these and how to build harbours that can also sustain marine life are the aim of the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, a team of Singapore and Dutch researchers.
The team is also looking at Pulau Semakau to house an aquatic centre.

More details and links on the wild shores of singapore blog.

Dec 3, 2008

Dead dugong in Phuket: entangled in fishing net?

A young female dugong was found dead, likely drowned because of entanglement in fishing gear.
As the population of dugong in Phuket waters is estimated at only about 10 individuals, the death represents a significant loss in the total population. An autopsy found the dugong had been feeding well, before its untimely death.

Full article on the wild shores of singapore blog.

Nov 26, 2008

Review of "City Footprints" by Jun

Jun has done a super instant review of the episode broadcast last night on Channel U!
Read all about it on her blog. Thank you Jun!

And I've already received two emails signing up for TeamSeagrass following the broadcast. Thanks to Siti and Team members and Star Trackers Chee Kong and Sijie for the hard work and of course Jo Sim of threesixzero.

Nov 19, 2008

TeamSeagrass will be on Channel U on 25 Nov (Tue)

Recently TeamSeagrass was filmed by threesixzero for the City Footprints series on Channel U.

Siti shared about the Team during our TeamSeagrass monitoring at Sentosa, and the entire Team was filmed again at Chek Jawa during the seagrass monitoring.

The programme also features Sijie and Chee Kong of the Star Trackers, who are also TeamSeagrass members.

The programme will air next week! What a fantastic way for the Team to reach out for our shores!

Here's the programme details

Date: 25 Nov (Tue)
9.30pm repeats 11.30pm on Channel U

Synopsis of City Footprints Episode 11
City Footprints is a social documentary series that tells the heartwarming stories of individuals or communities in our city- stories that mirror and reflect how individuals and community responds and reacts to paradigm shifts as a result of rapid social urbanization.

A green tide is swelling as a new generation of young Singaporeans leads the next wave of environmentalism.
Meet the Star Trackers: 26-year-old Chen Sijie and his partner, Chim Chee Kong, 31, as they brave irregular tide timings and errant weather to track and monitor sea stars on Cyrene Reefs – a mysterious coral colony that only surfaces for a few hours during the low tide period each month. The two are not alone in their roles as guardians of the seas.
As early as 2005 Siti Maryam, 27, has spearheaded a campaign to conserve an overlooked slice of nature through the volunteer group TeamSeagrass. On a little-known side of Sentosa, look at how volunteers survey local sea grass habitats before pollution and pressure overwhelm them.

As the three join hands to nurture the next wave of conservationists, find out how their efforts converge on the shorelines of Chek Jawa.

Nov 8, 2008

Seahorses in Johor under threat

Sungai Pulai is just across the Johor Straits from our seagrass monitoring site at Tuas. Choo Chee Kuang, who is among those leading the Save our Seahorses effort, visited TeamSeagrass last year, and keeps in touch with us and our work.
Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.)
This seahorse was seen at Tuas in Apr 08 during TeamSeagrass monitoring there.

Seahorses in Johor under threat
Ahmad Fairuz, The New Straits Times 8 Nov 08;

JOHOR BARU: Seahorses here are swimming in troubled waters. The latest survey carried out at the Sungai Pulai estuary near Gelang Patah indicates a bleak future for the seahorse colony already on the brink of destruction.

The Johor Malaysia Nature Society said researchers spotted less than five seahorses in a seagrass area near an island at the mouth of the estuary, during their survey.

The estuary of Sungai Pulai is a 9,000ha area of mangroves and riverines, with 24 different species of trees.

But the area is slowly being destroyed, largely due to the development taking place on the banks of the Tebrau Straits, thus endangering the seahorses' marine habitat.

Society vice-chairman Dr Lum Wei Wah said the data provided by the Save Our Seahorses (SOS), a non-governmental organisation showed that the number of seahorses were on the decline.

"While there were between eight and 10 seahorses spotted off Pulau Merambong, near the estuary, in March and April, only five were spotted last month."

Pulau Merambong is a 0.3ha island situated 3km from Tanjung Kupang in Gelang Patah.

The Johor branch of the Malaysia Nature Society will present an environmental research report on the Sungai Pulai estuary and its colony of seahorses.

The report is an accumulation of a year-long study on the estuary and its environment.

Dr Lum said it would be presented to the state government and the Port of Tanjung Pelepas authority.

"It will detail suggestions on dealing with the pollutants that are evident in the waters and mangrove.

"So far, we have identified nitrogenous effluent as one of the pollutants and this may affect the population of seahorses downstream. The nitrogen is believed to be from the waste of oil palm estates which border the estuary."

The RM60,000 study was commissioned by the port authority, which has allocated funds to have the area gazetted as protected.

SOS head and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu marine biology lecturer Choo Chee Kuang said that development around the estuary had destroyed large tracts of seagrass beds, which were home to the seahorses.

More about Save our Seahorses on their website:

More about Pulau Merambong on the wildfilms blog