Talk Climate change and marine biodiversity: Lessons from a little red dot

September 29th, 2009

Talk synopsis:

The biodiversity implications of climate change events are very grave and a whole suite of catastrophes have been predicted; from massive changes in ecosystems, die-offs of whole communities and mass extinctions of many plants and animals. This comes at a time when mankind is only beginning to realise that Earth’s biodiversity is not just more substantial than we have presumed, but far greater than anything we could have imagined. As scientists rush to discover and document new species and ecosystems, they find the ‘rug being pulled from under them’ due to man’s relentless changes to the environment! Nevertheless, the stark reality of the matter is that biodiversity and natural history will survive regardless of how humans mess up the planet. As the systems we know collapse and species die, new ones will replace them eventually – nature has a resilience that mankind always underestimates. The unpleasant question we need to ask instead is this: ‘Can humankind, as know it, survive climate change and how?’

Profile of speaker:

Peter Ng did his PhD in the National University of Singapore as a part-timer when he was still an education officer in the Ministry of Education in the 1980s. He joined NUS in 1990, and has been involved in systematics research, primarily with crabs and fish over the last 19 years. He also works on a wide variety of different biodiversity issues, including environmental and conservation biology. He is on the editorial board of many international journals, as well as a member of various international biological organizations, notably the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature.

Time and place:
29 Sep 2009 at National University of Singapore, LT 31 Blk S16, 6.30pm – 8pm

Admission is free but registration is required. Light refreshments will be served after the talk. More details can be found here.

Tampines Library Talk 26 Sep 09

September 24th, 2009

There’s a talk at Tampines Library Walk, organised by NParks, on marine conservation this weekend that you might be interested to attend.

Singapore is well known as a “Garden City”, but there is another “garden” that most people do not see that exists just off shore. Singapore’s coastal and marine habitats still holds many surprises for the intrepid explorer. From spineless, spiny creatures to back-boned, shelled air breathers, there is a bounty of the weird and wonderful awaiting the urbanite that dares venture the confines of the concrete jungle.

In recent years, a small but growing number of conservationists have been using digital age tools to further the cause of conservation in Singapore. Armed with multi-tasking cameras and the ability to wake at pre-dawn hours, they recount their mini-expeditions to unknown shores through the use of blogs and other internet media, providing a rich tapestry of stories about their encounters.

As nature-starved Singaporeans begin to appreciate their own natural
heritage, the opportunities for discovery and positive action abound,
from the shores of the mainland to the islands south of Singapore.

Walk on the Wild Side: Marine Conservation in Singapore by
Mr Jeffrey Low

Saturday 26th September 2009, 3pm – 4pm
Tampines Regional Library, Auditorium

Admission if free.

How to get to Tampines Regional Library?
Address: 31, Tampines Ave 7, Singapore 529620.

Nearest MRT Station: Tampines
Nearest Bus Interchange: Tampines
Buses: SBS Transit 8, 15, 18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 37, 38, 81, 168, 291, 293
Profile of the speaker:

Jeffrey has worked on many coral reef and marine-related projects as a Research Assistant with NUS. He joined NParks in 2003, and is tasked with overseeing development and marine conservation issues in the islands south of Singapore. An experienced scuba diver with over 2000 dives, he has dived not only Singapore, but also in many parts of Asia. He is an active guide and trainer with the Blue Water Volunteers, a local marine conservation NGO, in their Reef Walk, Reef Friends and Reef Xplore! programmes. He has also co-authored a Singapore Science Centre guidebook Common Marine Fishes of Singapore, was a research writer for the ASEANAREAN Expedition series: The Marine Parks of Thailand (1997), as well as the principal underwater photographer for the Marine Parks of Indonesia expedition (1999). He holds a Masters of Science degree, and is currently pursuing avenues to be “Permanently head-Damaged” (PhD).


September 20th, 2009

It was a fairly miserable day out today, surveying Raffles Lighthouse – the sky was overcast, turning to rain, and then even heavier rain, to the point where we felt we were in the Bermuda Triangle, with fog all all round us, and no sight of any of the familiar land- or sea-marks. Only our boatman Mr Lee seemed unfazed by the horror movie setting. To top it off, just as the fog encased us in its eerie embrace, we saw this – a waterspout. A fairly big one too. Chay Hoon almost immediately Twittered it (I’m not sure how that form of magic works, even though I signed up on Twitter! :P).

The conditions at Raffles remain overcast (thankfully not drowning-type rain), and the water water was welcome after the slightly shivering cold up top. Things went well until after lunch – Kee Seng and Gina went in and were struggling against a strong current that had built up around us without our realising. We had to abort the dive, leaving much of the deep transect undone. Ah well … such are the challenges of doing field work. We’ll be back to Raffles another day to finish off what we started.

Dolphins and Whales 3D – season ended

August 26th, 2009

The Dolphins and Whales 3D show at the Singapore Discovery Centre ended its run on 7 Aug 2009. We had advertised the show on our “Upcoming Events” page; description below is posted just for record purposes.

Not a BWV event as such, but an interesting screening of a 3D documentary on dolphins and whales at the Singapore Discovery Centre.

Dive into a new immersive and highly-emotional adventure with DOLPHINS AND WHALES 3D presented by Jean-Michel Cousteau. This awe-inspiring documentary film will take you from the dazzling coral reefs of the Bahamas to the warm depths of the waters of the exotic Kingdom of Tonga for a close encounter with the surviving tribes of the ocean. Through the giant screen of the iWERKS Theatre at S’pore Discovery Centre, experience stunning images captured for the very first time in 3D, view these creatures’ lives and habitats never-before-seen by anyone. You will come so close to wild dolphins and belugas, you will virtually touch them. You will witness the profound love of a Humpback mother for her newborn calf, and come eye-to-eye with singing Humpback males. You will meet an orca, the mighty King of the ocean, and enjoy a wonderful moment with the gentle manatee. Explore many little-known aspects of these fascinating and fragile creatures capable of sophisticated communication and social interaction. Join the expert team of ocean explorers that brought you SHARKS 3D and OCEAN WONDERLAND 3D in an unforgettable diving experience that documents the life of these graceful, majestic yet endangered sea creatures.

Presented by: Jean-Michel Cousteau;
Directed by: Jean-Jacques Mantello;
Produced by: Francois Mantello;
The director of photography: Gavin McKinney with additional cinematography by Rob Torelli.
Herve Prigent served as production manager;
The score was composed and arranged by Christophe Jacquelin;
The script is being written by a team of international scientists led by Dr. Elisabeth Mantello.

Duration: approx. 40 mins
Audio: English
Subtitles: Chinese

For more information, visit the Singapore Discovery Centre website.

Public Lecture on “The Blue Future”

August 5th, 2009

I had the opportunity to attend the public lecture by Professor Tony Haymet, Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, University of California, San Diego on “The Blue Future: Exploration of the Oceans”.

SIO is, quoting their website “… one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for ocean and earth science research, education, and public service in the world. Research … encompasses physical, chemical, biological, geological, and geophysical studies of the oceans and earth.”

Prof Haymet, who is “Oz-tra-lian”, spoke eloquently about the research carried out at SIO, which has 1400 staff (wow!), 1 research platform and 4 ocean-going research vessels (double wow!), making the institute with the largest research fleet in the world.

He also spoke about their Argo Floats system, in which “robot” sensing devices are used to measure temperature and salinity of the oceans. “So what?” you might ask – well, research institutions from 26 nations and over 3000 fully autonomous floats deployed throughout the world’s oceans is what Prof Haymet called their “proof of concept”. It is fully collaborative project, as all the data (“… which happens to sit at SIO …”) is made fully available to researchers.

He showed videos of their modified unmanned (unpersoned?) aerial vehicles, initially designed for urban warfare, to collect atmospheric data. The weapons of destruction were replaced with micro-computers and micro-sensing devices. With this technology, they have tracked the flow of “brown clouds” across the globe.

He also showed the audience the need for long-term monitoring, and how it might produce unexpected results. A 60-year record of fish larvae and water quality data sampled from the Monterey Bay area, initiated to study the disappearance of sardines (important for Monterey’s sardine industry) has now become what is thought to be the most complete record of the effect of climate change on fish populations. The data is now being written up in what Prof Haymet calls “… the most important climate change effects paper” from SIO.

He briefly mentioned the SEAPLEX expedition to study the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch – a patch so big, you would take days to sail through it! Modelling of the ocean currents shows a potential patch in the southern hemisphere off the coast of Ecuador and Chile that is even larger.

He also touched on SIO ocean acidification research, which had recently recorded an unheard of value of pH 7.5, which no one thought they would see in their lifetime. This acidic waters (a result of our CO2 emissions) spell disaster to all marine plants and animals that secrete a calcium carbonate skeleton acidification. For me personally, such levels of pH would spell the end of coral reefs that I love so much.

It was surfeit of information, crammed skillfully into an hour-plus talk which barely scraped the surface of the research done to understand our “inner space”. It was the best use of four hours (travel there and back, makan, the talk) of a Monday evening.