Saturday, March 24, 2012

Second Mega Marine Survey Volunteers' Dialogue

What have we found? What exciting activities are ahead? And how can ordinary people participate?
This morning, volunteers of the Mega Marine Survey gathered to find out from Dr Tan Koh Siang. Rene, as usual, is busy taking photos of everything.

Dr Tan of the Tropical Marine Science Institute gave us a brief update of what the Survey has achieved in the last year. We have conducted 51 surveys! 23 laboratory sessions! And just completed a mini-Expedition at Pulau Ubin. Together, we have collected more than 6,000 specimens and there's still a lot more work ahead of us to identify them!
He shared the many places we have sampled with volunteers of the Mega Marine Survey. Wow, we sure covered quite a lot of ground (or mud) in a  year!
Dr Tan also updated on some of the interesting animals recently found. Some of which had already been featured in the local media.
Among them, a worm that is a new record for Singapore! Dr Tan explained this is why it is important to collect specimens. Photos are not enough as we usually have to look at small features to identify the animals. We also need to collect undamaged specimens.
Another special find is this pretty shrimp that was found by Dr Ng Heok Hee inside a PVC pipe abandoned on the mudflats.
Dr Tan was delighted to see these strange animals as he had not seen them for a long time in Singapore. This is Lamp shell, which is not a mollusc but belongs to a different group of animals!
This interesting fish was found living among oyster shells! It's important to look at the various nooks and crannies to find the animals that may be hidden there.
Dr Tan also shared some of the interesting finds made during the recent mini-Expedition. From 'nut clams' to tiny porcelain crabs that infest sea pens, the hundreds of 'teapot' clams we sorted out of dredge and there was even one crab that stumped Prof Peter Ng, the world authority on crabs!

Ahead of us are MORE exciting activities! More mud flat surveys are planned, as well as seabed surveys. He shared a glimpse at some of the upcoming mudflat survey sites!
He reminded us to check various possible microhabitats when we are on the mudflats. Oysters, rotten logs, litter and even inside and among tube worms.
Here, we might see all kinds of amazing creatures.
We should also look in tubes, and for animals stuck to hard surfaces. He also said we should take note of any interesting behaviour of the animals that we find as so little is known about the marinelife on our mudflats.
Among the additional methods we might be trying out in the upcoming field surveys is a beach seine.
In the next phase of the Survey, we hope to find out more about what lives on the seabed in Singapore!
Here's some of the tools used to sample the sea bed. Some like the dredge gathers a small quantity of sand and mud. Others like the trawls gathers animals and fishes that swim above the ground.
We tried out the Otter Trawl during the mini-Expedition and there sure is a lot of stuff living on the sea bottom. From giant sea stars to teeny tiny creatures.
Another cool instrument to sample the sea bed in this fancy looking thing with a light to attract tiny creatures which will be trapped in the fine net.
We may also use this Grab to quantify how many different creatures can be found in a typical spot on the sea bed.
Another exciting upcoming phase are plans to dive our shores to find out more about the subtidal areas. While we know our corals well, we don't really know much about the tiny creatures that live in our reefs. So we will try to collect more of these with some interesting techniques.
Among the techniques is to leave a kind of 'condo trap' called the Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure (ARMS) on the reef for up to a year. Hopefully, animals typically found in the reefs will settle into the trap and can be easily harvested when we remove the trap. More about ARMS in the Census of Coral Reefs project.
There will also be two major Expeditions, one in the Johor Strait in Oct 2012 and another at the Singapore Strait in May 2013. The Expeditions are particularly exciting as we will be inviting overseas scientists to work on our marine biodiversity for 3 weeks non-stop.
Dr Tan gave us a brief glimpse of what will happen during the Expeditions.
And how ordinary people can help in this scientific work!
Here's more ways volunteers can help! In taking photos, sorting and preserving specimens, helping scientists find targetted specimens and general sampling.
To gear  up for the Expeditions, there will be more training planned, especially for those who are committed and ready to form the core group of volunteers.
Another exciting event is an upcoming workshop by Dr Tan on clams (aka bivalves). More details on the Tropical Marine Science Institute.
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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