Thursday, October 18, 2012

Otters and special crabs and snail at the Northern Expedition Day 3

Loh Kok Sheng saw otters during the survey at Tuas on Day 3 of the Northern Expedition!
I caught up with the special finds made so far as I spent a day at the Expedition, before the field teams headed out for surveys at Tuas, Chek Jawa, Pulau Sekudu and Pulau Ubin in the evening.

Update: Kok Sheng has shared this video clip of the otters!

Family of 3 otters swimming off the shores of Tuas from Loh Kok Sheng on Vimeo.

Among the special finds was this little green creature which appears to have two valves. We've seen this strange thing before but thanks to Dr Kathe Jensen, we learn that this is NOT a bivalve but a gastropod. And it appears to be a new record for not just Singapore but the region!
Here's Dr Kathe working on her specimens.
Prof Peter shows one of the special finds. This little crab is only the second specimen ever to be obtained in Singapore. Marcus Ng shares more about this crab and how it was found.
Prof Peter shows me another special crab that he caught. Sadly, he injured his hand in the process.
As soon as we arrive, Ren Yong who is experienced with sorting from the Mini-Expedition earlier this year, briefed us on what to do at the sorting station.
The sorting team is soon hard at work, teasing out tiny animals from seaweeds, sponges, buckets of sand and anything else that the dredge and field teams bring back. They are very good and find many interesting animals.
The student volunteers take a short break from sorting to learn more about sea anemones from Dr Daphne Fautin, world authority on sea anemones. She is so great at explaining why we need to kill the specimens and how sea anemones are identified and the important role they play in the ecosystem.
Also in the sorting area is the preservation area. It is quite an art to properly preserve the specimens so that they can last many decades. Here's Tan Siong Kiat injecting preservation fluids into a crab.
Ong Joo Yong is also here, managing the data for all the specimens. A huge job as an enormous number of specimens turn up all day all around the clock.
Everyone is in good humour and you can see signs of this everywhere. Even on the packing cases and boxes. I noticed this as we hunted for the vice to deal with hermit crabs.
The vice is used to carefully crack the shell so that we can retrieve the hermit crab for photos and preservation. Dr Dwi Listyo Rahayu aka Jojo shows us how to do it. It's a tricky job!
In the late morning, the fisherman engaged to sample the area comes in with his catch! Lots of fishes, crabs and also sponges. More work for the sorting team.
Here's one of the fishes that Dr Ng finds special. It's so pretty with iridescent spots and stripe. It is quickly photographed to capture the live colour.
At the lab, a hive of activity as everyone is working on specimens, organising logistics and taking care of the thousands of things that needs to be done quickly.
Dr Arthur Anker is hard at work on photographing shrimps. Behind him the Cyropreservation team is working on tissue samples.
Jerome Pang is volunteering to help prepare the specimens before they are photographed. Oh dear, he has to clean this Velcro crab that is completely covered in sponges and other bits, firmly stuck on its hooked hairs - thus its common name.
A long time later, Jerome succeeds in revealing the crab beneath its camouflaging layer. Wow, I didn't realise that it was a pretty orange colour. Then time to get it photographed.
Here's Dr JC Mendoza taking lovely scientific photos of the properly cleaned specimens.
I take some of the volunteers on a tour of the lab. Rene Ong is hard at work taking photos and videos of super tiny creatures under the microscope.
We don't have to go very far to find specimens. Dr Zeehan Jaafar finds lots of gobies that swam up into the drain at OBS at high tide!
Then it was time for the evening field trips. I'm joining the team to Pulau Sekudu that lies just off Chek Jawa. We are ferried there by the bumboat operators that support the Expedition. He used to live at Chek Jawa, he tells Chay Hoon.
Marcus lead a team to yabby pump at Pulau Sekudu. This is not easy to handle but in the hands of an experienced person like Marcus, we can more easily get buried animals.
Shared by Ivan Kwan on facebook
The yabby pump team found this strange little shrimpy that might be special. We'll find out tomorrow after the experts have a look at it. Marcus Ng shares more about their yabby pumping work.
Shared by Marcus Ng on facebook.
Chay Hoon found this Doto nudibranch at Pulau Sekudu, her first time seeing it there. It could be something special.
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook
I noticed what looks like dugong feeding trails on the seagrass meadows of Pulau Sekudu.
Among the amazing things we came across were many large Knobbly sea stars. One of them was standing on its toes, a pose usually taken before they release eggs and sperm. Good to hear they are healthy and happy!
Dr Daphne and I also came across large numbers of these anemones which have yet to be identified with certainty.
And I managed to find this special transparent sea anemone that looks like bicycle spokes. Glad that Dr Daphne had a look at it. Alas, we failed to catch it. Sea anemones can retract deep in the sand and look just like a glob of mud. So it's hard to figure out what is anemone and what is just mud. Sigh.
Meanwhile, another team heads out to Chek Jawa in another boat. Zeehan and team seined for fishes there. Despite the slight downpour during the survey, we all managed to find lots of interesting things!
Meanwhile, Kok Sheng was with the team that visited Tuas. Here, they are hard at work seining for fishes.
Shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.
A brave soul is even snorkeling for specimens!
Shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.
Looks like Kok Sheng managed to go the outer part of Tuas at Merawang Beacon that I didn't visit yesterday. Here, there are lots of amazing sea fans.
Shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.
Also, lots of lovely sea stars! Not to mention the amazing encounter with otters there!
Shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.
How nice to get this lovely Expedition badge made by Rene Ong and given out to the volunteers!
Also check out Ivan's tweets on #MegaMarine

It's been a whirlwind of activities and I can barely keep up with blogging them! Thanks to others for keeping up with documenting the many many goings on.

Posts by others on Day 3 of the Northern Expedition

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