A Congregation of the Next Generation

A Congregation of the Next Generation

The third of the series, the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III was held on 24 September 2011, and attended by more than 300 members of the community. Organised by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS and the National Parks Board, the symposium featured 21 speakers sharing on updates in the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments, and almost 40 posters across a variety of topics including research, education, conservation and management.

The start of the long-awaited symposium!

The theme of this year’s symposium was The Next Generation, as majority of the speakers and poster presenters were below 40 and represents a new generation of biodiversity researchers. Almost half of the participants were students, and this young crowd will be the ones forging ahead and bringing about the changes in Singapore’s Biodiversity landscape in the next decade and beyond. Our Guest of Honour for the occasion was Minister of State for National Development and Manpower, Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin. Hailed as part of the next generation of leaders of our nation, it was apt that he was our GOH.

With early bird coffee and cookies from Spinelli’s, we were off to a good start, and participants started streaming in nice and early. Immediately, one of the symposium objectives was met as people started chatting and engaging each other in discussions.

Hustle and bustle as the early birds stream in

Photo credit: Wenqing

Morning chat over Spinelli’s coffee and cookie 🙂

The Raffles Museum Toddycats also set up a booth with some specimens as part of a renewed outreach effort called Toddycats Engage! Apart from chatting with the participants on our local biodiversity, the Toddycats were also selling 3D paper craft on local fauna!

Raffles Museum Toddycats Engage! booth

Photo credit: Kevin Lam

The infectious high-spiritedness of the crowd following Siti Yaacob’s introduction and N. Sivasothi’s welcome must have influenced the MOS’ subsequent opening address as he went into an off-the-cuff speech. There were many issues brought up in his speech, but some of the highlights include our responsibility as a community in doing what we can as individuals and groups to do what we can and making use of social media for active citizenry, as well as the launch of the Community in Nature programme.

MOS Tan Chuan-Jin energetically giving his opening speech

Photo credit: Kevin Lam

Following the speech was the Symposium Award presentation. In view of the 20th anniversary of International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS), long-time participants of the programme were honoured for their dedication and commitment to cleaning up the coasts of Singapore. Those honoured were,

for 7-9 years of service: Earthlink NTU, Hai Sing Catholic School, Oscar & Friends, NUS Environmental Science and Engineering Students Club

for 11 years of service: Waterways Watch Society, Nanyang Polytechnic Geocouncil and Woodlands Ring Secondary School and

for a solid 20 years of service: Raffles Girls School (Secondary), Singapore American School (HighSchool) and Singapore American School (MiddleSchool)!

We were also pleased to spring a surprise award on Ria Tan of Wild Singapore for her dedication to discovering more about the coasts of Singapore and her public education efforts.

From left: Waterways Watch, NTU Earthlink, NUS Environmental and Engineering Club, Hai Sing Catholic School, Nanyang Polytechnic Geocouncil, Woodlands Ring Secondary School, MOS Tan Chuan-Jin, Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary), Singapore American School (High School), Singapore American School (Middle School), Ria Tan, Oscar & Friends

Photo credit: Kevin Lam

During the tea session, MOS Tan Chuan-Jin was brought around to the poster exhibit and spoke to a number of our poster presenters on their project. He was very engaged and interested in what we had to say and I was glad to have been able to tell him more about our seagrasses, especially at Cyrene Reef! He will be visiting Cyrene Reef sometime in October with Ria Tan.

Jocelyne from Team Seagrass telling MOS about marine life on Cyrene Reef!

MOS taking an active interest in the City in a Garden plans

The Community Impressions component, chaired by Zeehan Jaafar, was presented by N. Sivasothi, Darren Yeo and Ria Tan, who provided an overview on the happenings of the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments respectively. The freshwater ecosystem was highlighted in this symposium as being a fledgling area of research in Singapore, while with the more mature areas of terrestrial and marine, there were problems and challenges ahead that we will have deal with together as a community.

The Otterman touching on delicate terrestrial issues, such as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve being a Patient Under Intensive Care

Darren Yeo passionately sharing the exciting freshwater scene, and the threats they’re facing

Ria Tan managed to squeeze all of Singapore’s marine environment happening into a succint 10 minutes presentation!

The subsequent Forests, Freshwater and Marine sessions were equally captivating, covering many topics, from education amongst the young and recent research findings to community involvement in large-scale projects and protection of our limited natural habitats. The Question and Answer sessions also engaged the community in discussions and suggestions for improvements. Many a can of worms were also opened and questioned during the symposium, including access and sharing of data between government agencies, research institutions and the public.

A snapshot of the speakers:

Solo chairperson for Forest session, Yong Ding Li

Delfinn Tan updating us on the EcoLink project, with exciting photos taken from camera traps located on both sides of the EcoLink

Karen Teo introducing the spectrum of Nature education NParks offers

Chong Kwek Yan sharing updates from the Plant Systematics Lab, NUS and why now is a great time to be botanist in Singapore!

Marcus Chua sharing on furry animal research, past to present, and their exciting findings

Adrian Loo who “kena rotan” while marvelling at the diversity of palms in Singapore — rivalling that of the entire continent of Africa!

Chairpersons for the Freshwater session, Maxine Mowe and Adam Quek

Benjamin Loh on recent plans by PUB to improve our waterways

Wong Yueat Tin ardently advocating for freshwater phytoplankton and their importance

Chong Jun Hien explaining the concept of using bugs as bioindicators on freshwater quality — while stressing the importance of relationships

Tan Heok Hui touching on the presence of non-native species in our waterways and their possible impact

Nanthini Elamgovan and Alison Wee, chairpersons for the Marine session

Giving us updates on the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, Jonathan Ngiam also showed us how some innovative volunteers have found ways to cross mudflats – by rolling!

Soo Wai Kit also provided us with an update on Project Semakau and how volunteers have helped record the diversity of marine organisms found on Pulau Semakau

“Singapore got corals, meh?” – Karenne Tun showed us that not only do we have corals on our shores, but our diversity can even rival popular diving spots elsewhere!

Ang Hui Ping provided us with more information on the Sungei Buloh Master Plan, and what NParks is doing to cater to the needs of different groups of people
Photo credit: Kevin Lam

J. Vanitha, a volunteer with the Nature Society (Singapore), shared with us how she got involved with horseshoe crabs survey and the studies they’re undertaking to find out more about these living fossils

Dan Friess gave us an insight into his team’s project on the threats to the Mandai mangrove and how to better protect this important research hotspot

Special updates by Tan Swee Hee from NUS on the upcoming Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and our future Permanent Residents Apollo, Prince and Twinky were warmly welcomed by the community, who were all to eager to find out more about the dinosaurs and the new home. Linda Goh from NParks also introduced us to the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), where we learnt about the 5 steps NParks will be taking for the future of our biodiversity.

Tan Swee Hee excitedly sharing with us updates on the fate of the dinosaurs and plans for our first Natural History Museum

Linda Goh providing us an insight into the new National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and how we can help conserve our biodiversity as well!

As the symposium drew to a close, we all expressed appreciation for this excellent platform for members of the community to congregate and chat about biodiversity, for the new to meet the veterans and for all of us to have a good time! We sure hope the next opportunity for such a congregation will not be in 4 years’ time.

This symposium was tweeted live by Ivan Kwan and David Tan and can be found on twitter using #biodsg3.

The symposium was also captured on camera by the Centre for Instructional Technology, NUS and videos can be found here.

Photos of the symposium were taken by Kenneth Pinto, Kevin Lam and Wenqing and can be found on HabitatnewsFlickr.

All photo credits in this blogpost to Kenneth Pinto, unless stated otherwise.
Post written by Jocelyne Sze.

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