Friday, May 17, 2013

Preparing for the Southern Expedition

It's still days before the Southern Expedition starts and we are already finding cool marine critters!
Prof Peter Ng (in blue) tells us about this special crab that so far has only been found in Singapore. Dr Bertrand Richer de Forges conducted trial dredges with all kinds of interesting finds. And there's lots more that is being done to prepare for the Expedition! 

Yesterday, when I stopped by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Prof Peter Ng showed us the very special spider crab.
Dr Bertrand gives us a closer look at the crab.
Dr Tan Heok Hui is working out dive dates with Koh Kwan Siong. Dr Tan will be the co-leader at the Southern Expedition and leading all dive trips. Kwan Siong is taking care of all kinds of key arrangements on behalf of NParks National Biodiversity Centre. And Toh Chay Hoon, among our most experienced divers, stops by to share ideas.
There's also a lot of packing to do! Here's Dr Tan with a humungous case for all kinds of sensitive and precious equipment that needs to be carefully brought over to base camp at St John's Island.
Rene and her team are working hard on making wonderful buttons for participants. There was a little problem earlier, until Greasi reminded everyone that there was another machine. Here's Rene trying out this other machine, which worked out well. Hurray!
It takes a lot of work to make those buttons!
All this happened before the briefing and discussion held by Dr Tan Koh Siang, leader of the Southern Expedition. Assembled at the briefing was a small proportion of the large team of local scientists, staff and volunteers that make the Expedition possible. More details about the Southern Expedition in this earlier blog post.
Button-making goes on relentlessly, even during the briefing!
All kinds of other preparations have been happening months and weeks earlier. Locked away on a desert island does not make for happy campers. So one of the key issues is logistical supplies! This was well taken care of by the Tropical Marine Science Institute folks led by Helen Wong. Tan Kai-xin shared with me photos on her phone of the vast array of items stocked in mind-boggling numbers neatly at base camp! It is being dubbed the St John's mini mart!
Weeks earlier, a small team did a series of recce trips to work out the safest way to conduct the upcoming predawn field trips during the Southern Expedition.  By doubling up destinations, we managed to recce these shores (links to my blog posts about these trips): South Cyrene and Cyrene, Beting Bemban Besar and Terumbu Bemban, Pulau Tekukor, Terumbu Pempang Laut and Terumbu Pempang Tengah, Terumbu Semakau and Pulau Jong.
Where are our Southern shores? What habitats? What biodiversity? can be found on each of these? I set up these simple pages on wildsingapore so Southern Expedition participants (and others) can get a brief idea.
To better prepare local staff, students and volunteers in identifying some of the more mysterious marine creatures, there was a fascinating workshop on bryozoans and hydroids. We had great field trips like the one with Dr Dennis Gordon where Kwan Siong found the marvelous amphibious bryozoan at Lim Chu Kang mangroves. More about what we learnt and did during the workshops.

To prepare for dredging some of Singapore's deepest waters, Dr Bertrand led a trial seabed survey this week. Thanks to Rene Ong we get a glimpse of some of the amazing creatures found at the bottom of Singapore's seas such as this basket star.
Photo by Rene Ong.
It takes patience and care to properly preserve such delicate and complicated animals! We can expect to do lots of this during the upcoming Southern Expedition!
Photo by Rene Ong.

I can't wait for the Southern Expedition to start!  I will be blogging every day and posting on the Mega Marine Survey facebook page. Also check out tweets by participants using the hashtag for the Survey  #MegaMarine. These are consolidated on the Mega Marine Survey blog.

Volunteer sign up for the Southern Expedition are already closed due to limited places and early logistical arrangements needed for participation.

But no worries, you CAN still join the Survey! Lots of surveys will continue after the Expedition, just at a less frenzied rate. There will be lots of other opportunities for volunteers to participate in dredging, field surveys as well as laboratory sessions. To join the Mega Marine Survey, 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 the FAQs for more about the Survey.

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