Friday, March 9, 2012

First Marine Biodiversity Expedition (8 Mar 2012)

I'm back for the last days of the Expedition and it's a hive of activity at the work stations when I arrive in the afternoon of the second last day.
There's frenzied work on taking DNA vouchers, with phototaking, sorting and preserving going on all at the same time. And more field trips too!

Here's Lim Swee Cheng and Dr Tan Koh Siang at the NUS research vessel Galaxea, ready to take the team out to survey Pulau Ketam which lies just off Pulau Ubin. I skipped the field trip and spent time in workroom activities.
When I arrived, everyone was busy delicately removing tiny tiny porcelain crabs and other creatures living on sea pens. There's an amazing variety of marine life on our sea floor!
Another station is busy sucking up tiny tiny creatures found in sponges.
I had a hand helping with the sea pens. After which, Louis and I started on a huge pile of seaweed that was also obtained through a dredge. What can we find here? How exciting!
Wah, I found a strange little crab in a folded leaf!
The seaweed is full of all kinds of tiny animals, as well as strings and patches of eggs.
But the most abundant creature we found were brittle stars! There were also tiny sea urchins.
And Louis found this baby Window pane shell with the animal clearly visible between the thin and transparent shells.
Then we moved on to sorting another batch of dredge which was full of countless tiny clams, many were shaped like a teapot with a little spout. There were also lots of animals with a tusk-like shell. Belonging to Class Scaphopoda and are not gastropods or bivalves, we rarely see these except in a dredge.
Dredge surveys for the day had turned up all kinds of fishes!
Also a wide variety of echinoderms including some very large sea stars (not in this photo).
There are also all kinds of prawns and shrimps!
Joelle shows me a shrimp with a huge bulge in its cheek. This is a parasite! Eeks!!
Another delightful find from the dredge is a tiny slipper lobster!
From the afternoon survey at Pulau Ketam, Ivan found these interesting shrimps.
Rene and Yen-Ling are hard at work processing all the finds that have been sorted out.
Rene also takes photos of animals seen through the microscope! Here's her marvellous photos of what was found.
Meanwhile, scientific photo-taking goes on frenziedly. For specimens too big to fit on the science set up, JC shows me how flashes are set up on 'gorilla' tubing for the perfect shot!
Preserving the animals correctly is important so that scientists can properly study them later. Here's a batch of nicely relaxed brittle stars.
Sea anemones are also coaxed into relaxing and showing their tentacles before they are preserved.
Not everything that we catch is preserved and killed. These horseshoe crabs were carefully removed from the dredge.
And we released them on to the shore.
After a hard day of eye-straining sorting and back-breaking hauling and surveying, the team that stayed overnight enjoyed a well deserved dinner at the Celestial Resort where the Expedition is based.
We managed to finish up all the work in the late evening, so the enormous piles of gear, specimens and equipment could be packed up for return to the mainland the following day.
The next morning, as we waited for departure, we had a brief tutorial on 'pods': amphipods, isopods, copepods, from Kristine White, the expert on these critters. They are found everywhere, but she is particularly interested in those that live in other animals. Wow. There is still so much more to learn about our marine life!
And all too soon, it was the end of the first of a “mini” expedition (5-9 Mar 2012). This first expedition was meant for us to test out techniques, nail down certain issues and basically prepare ourselves for the next expedition.

The Real Expedition will be in October and also focus on Singapore's Northern shores. The third Expedition will focus on habitats found in the Singapore straits and will be conducted in 2013.

Ordinary people can make a difference in these Expeditions! Come join the Mega Marine Survey to help us learn more about our shores!

To join us, register your interest in this form and you'll be invited to join the mailing list to receive updates on the Survey and sign up for Survey activities.

Also check out our FAQs for more about the Survey.

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