Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Final fieldtrip for the 2008 Biophilia programme

Here's a little summary from the final fieldtrip to sentosa for the biophilia programme (24th May 2008). The students have been great to work with thanks to their initiative and level of enthusiasm. (hmmm but why haven't they contributed to this blog?!?). Fellow colleagues that came for the fieldtrips made the programme successful in its own way.

We've been lucky with the tides this year and all the saturdays low tides were around 9 am so we could schedule those saturday fieldtrips.

For me again, there were new things to see (as with every fieldtrip to this spot) and this school of catfish was one. It was a tight ball and they were swimming around each other and moving as a school.


I chanced upon another school of smaller catfish later and demonstrated to the students the fountain effect of how a school of fish move away from an incoming predator. See embedded video. Here, I wade towards the school of fish and through the school. Note how the school doesn't swim away but split into 2 and swim around me by first swimming away and doing a flanking turn to the outside and around me and regrouping behind me. That's apparently optimal evasion tactics from a predator... cool. I got the chance to gather the students to demonstrate this in situ, something I had learnt from Prof Munroe in Animal Behaviour class when I was in year 2 or 3 when I was an undergraduate. Those are just some of the biodiversity lessons that I never forgot. It was nice to demonstrate this to a bunch of students who may not take any Biodiversity modules as undergraduates. In fact its hard to imagine that with the ever changing syllabus to molecular biology that students will ever learn this.


Here's a mermaid's purse or more informatively, the egg that is laid by a shark, stingray and attached to seawead. The eggcase is usually washed to shore after the baby shark emerges. There are plenty of this around at the sentosa beach.


And finally, a picture of students working at the site. Its nice to see that they have learnt much from this experience. It has been a fulfilling programme and one that the teachers and I have found exciting, refreshing and something we looked forward to. Its definitely a different pedagogy, the open classroom. Some students have remarked that they enjoyed the freedom to explore and craft their own projects. Will post some reflections below as they are nice (I have omitted some parts)

~"The most memorable part of Biophilia will definitely be the day on the beach when for the first time in my life I watched 2 ‘blue-blooded’ horseshoe crabs mate. I was really surprised to be able to find such amazing creatures in Singapore, because all along I saw Singapore as a place with minimal biodiversity. This programme has thus taught me not to underestimate the biodiversity of creatures in Singapore."~

~I really enjoyed every single session of the Biophilia programme as I was working with what I enjoy and am interested in most. The fieldtrips really heightened my interest towards marine organisms and I really learnt a lot about Singapore’s shores during the trips. I have also started to fully appreciate Singapore’s biodiversity after seeing such a huge variety of organisms living on such a small stretch of beach. I used to think that Singapore does not have any sea anemones or coral reefs but I realized was very much mistaken after seeing the beautiful sea anemones on the Sentosa beach. I’m glad to know that there are such programmes to let me learn more about Singapore’s biodiversity as I feel that our biodiversity is just as important as the developments in our country. Our biodiversity is part of our environment as well as our heritage so we should treasure it as well and not cast it aside as something less important. If I have a chance I would want to go for this programme again and I hope that it will be for a longer period of time as I feel that the time period this time is too short.~

~From the fieldtrip I attended, the experience and new discoveries I made gave me a great sense of achievement. I think it is wonderful that I have had this opportunity to observe and even touch some of the organisms we found. Wading in the water and sometimes mud in search of fish, crab and whatever else we could find was truly a great experience. I am glad to have been selected to participate in this program. I never realized that the area behind underwater world had so many cool organisms despite all the times I have been to Sentosa. The thought that that little ecosystem will most likely be destroyed in the future with the ongoing construction around that area is rather depressing. As unlikely as it is, I hope that the short video that my group has produced throughout this program will achieve its purpose in increasing the awareness about the ecological value of that area, and perhaps more might learn to value this more than the monetary profits it could bring. ~

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