Tuesday, October 23, 2012

VIP visit and otter again at the Northern Expedition Day 9

Today, Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin visits the Northern Expedition! So we had a very busy day. AND another otter sighting too!
Minister expressed his support for the Expedition and how impressed he is with the passion shown by all those involved in making it happen. See Minister's full personal post about the Expedition and efforts for marine conservation.

After the speeches, it was time for a nice group photo of the key Expedition members.
Minister then tours the Expedition, beginning with the Sorting Station where he is introduced to Yoyo and Swee who so ably leads the work there, as well as the many volunteers diligently working on a recent dredge.
The Minister also has a look at the Preservation Station where Joo Yong shares the important and tricky work being done here.
On the way to the labs, the Minister stops by as Dr Daisuke shows how he tries to find his parasitic copepods in the fishes he just caught. Minister takes photos of this rather gruesome activity.
In the lab, Minister chats with some of the scientists at work, and stops by at Rene's station to have a look at tiny creatures under a microscope.
The Minister takes a lot of photos of the work done at the Expedition.
Minister seems to be an avid photographer and was particularly interested in the Photography Station. Where Dr Tan Heok Hui explains the many specialised equipment used to take great photos of our finds.
Minister also has a look at the Cyropreservation Station.
Prof Peter also introduces key Expedition leaders such as Koh Kwan Siong who looks after all of us so well.
Swee gives Minister the special Expedition badges that Rene has drawn and made by hand.
Minister then went on a dredge survey led by Dr Bertrand.
Photo by NParks on facebook
Here Minister takes a closer look at some of what we can find at the bottom of Singapore's waters.
Photo by NParks on facebook
After the Minister headed back, it was time for press interviews with Prof Peter and some of the other Expedition members.
Since it's such a special day, it's time to give out the marine critter soft toys I've been making over the months to the hard working volunteers.
Also for the much appreciated sponsors who came for this event.
And the media as well.
The scientists and staff at the Expedition also had their pick over lunch.
Once the VIP and entourage left, the work went on as usual. A dredge survey has returned with lots of interesting fishes and other finds. Swee sorts them out quickly for photography, while Joo Yong deals with the database.
And sorting goes on all day. It's amazing what we can find in a bunch of seaweeds.
In the evening, it's time once again for the series of short talks by the visiting scientists. Dr Kathe Jensen shares lots of interesting stories about sap-sucking and other slugs. There are so many fascinating slugs that she has yet to identify. Part of the problem is finding enough specimens to study properly. She also shares how divers can help by spotting and sharing finds of these elusive creatures.
Mr Chen Cheng Ann shares intriguing insights into marine nematodes. Tiny worms that may appear ugly but are actually an important and poorly studied part of the marine ecosystem.
His studies help support efforts to manage and secure conservation sites in West Malaysia.
My favourite talk was by Dr Daisuke Uyeno who studies parasitic copepods. They may sound icky but are fascinating when we learn more about them.
There are all kinds of other parasites on fishes too, like leaches...eeeks.
Dr Daisuke shares gorgeous photos and drawings of these strange creatures. Many are found on fishes and he is constantly working throughout the Expedition to catch fishes and wash them to look for his tiny copepods.
Parasitic copepods are also found on nudibranch! He often spots them on photos taken by divers who may be oblivious to these tiny parasites.
Parasitic copepods are found on a wide variety of sea creatures! It's amazing what variety of life can be found in the sea.
Dr Daisuke explains the issues surrounding eating sashimi fishes. Some of them we just shouldn't eat too much of!
We then enjoy a great talk by Dr Helen Larson who shared how she got started studying gobies for the last 45 years! Among her early subjects of study was this cute little goby that would sit on your foot.
Dr Helen explains how the best places to find gobies are the muddy icky ones.
Studying gobies requires painstaking work, and close study of tiny features. She is known as the Goby Goddess or Gobiwan Kenobe as the foremost expert in the study of these fishes.
She shared some of the problematic gobies in our reagion. There is still so much work to be done. As if studying gobies were not daunting enough, Dr Helen is also involved in other efforts such as documenting vanishing native languages in Australia, and working on fossils. She is also an avid birder and is spending sometime birding in Singapore too!
As always, these talks remind me how fascinating our marine life can be. There is still so much more to learn and discover.

Before the talks, Dr Zeehan Jaafar went for a little survey in the back mangroves near OBS and she saw a small otter not two metres from where she was! WOW! That's the FOURTH time we have spotted otters during the Expedition, and we are not even half way through it.

Minister beats me to share about his visit to the Expedition with a lovely post about Singapore's awesome marine life on facebook!

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