Friday, November 14, 2008

Project Semakau - Launched!

Finally! Project Semakau was launched!

Project Semakau is a joint community initiative by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research of the National University of Singapore, and HSBC Singapore, supported by the National Environment Agency of Singapore and volunteers from various schools and the public. This project seeks to collect data on the biodiversity of Pulau Semakau so as to realise and enhance the island's value as a nature education and conservation site.

The event was graced by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Water Resources, as Guest-of-Honour.

Dr Khor even went with us to the intertidal area to take a quick look at the marine life there! Unfortunately, she had to leave earlier due to other appointments.

And on this special day that we launched Project Semakau, we also somehow managed to find a new sea star! While it has knobs on the top side like the usual knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus), the arms were proportionally much shorter and fatter, and the patterns on it were never seen on any knobbly sea star. In fact, the patterns look like the ones on cushion stars (Culcita novaeguineae).

The underside was also different. There were several bivalved pedicellariae, and I have not seen this on the knobbly sea stars before too! Somehow, seeing a new sea star today seemed like a rather auspicious start :P

Starfish, Knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus)
This is the usual juvenile knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus). See how slim and longer the arms are.

Starfish, Knobbly sea star, Protoreaster nodosus
Here's a slightly bigger juvenile of a different colour.

Anyway, was busy helping with the coordination work, so did not managed to take many photos. Here are just some of the interesting things we saw.

Spider conch (Lambis lambis)
Found this spider conch (Lambis lambis) among the seagrass in the seagrass meadow.

Sandfish sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra)
Some how there were lots of sandfish sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) today. This sea cucumber can burrow into the sand. It feeds on organic particles in the sand. This happens to be the sea cucumber we normally find in restaurants too. Note that they need to be processed to remove the toxins in them before they can be consumed though.

Stonefish sea cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora)
The stonefish sea cucumber (Actinopyga lecanora) was another sea cucumber commonly seen in the intertidal areas of Pulau Semakau.

Can you tell what this is? This is no piece of dirt or algae, but a very well-camouflaged crab! I have no idea of the species though.

Plenty of flatworms were spotted today, and this is one of the prettiest. Flatworms are very flat and fragile, so if you happen to see one on our sea shore, please avoid handling it.

Black phyllid (Phyllidiella nigra)
Today was also a great day for nudibranchs! The above is a black phyllid (Phyllidiella nigra). nudibranchs from this family are said to be very poisonous. They can also release toxic chemicals when they are stressed, which can killed the nearby marine life.

Funeral nudibranch (Jorunna funebris)
This is another one of the various nudibranchs we saw - a funeral nudibranch (Jorunna funebris), so called due to its black-and-white coloration. It's also called the polka dot nudibranch sometimes due to the spots on its body.

Fanworms are yet another common sight on Pulau Semakau. The feather-like structures you can see above grows on the head of the worm, which it uses to collect plankton or tiny organic particles which it feeds on.

Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
We also found 3 little ocellaris clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) trapped in shallow waters, getting a little dirty from the silty bottom. We have seen these clownfishes a few times, but they usually swim to nearby deeper tidal pools during low tide. Seemed like today they could not get out in time as the tide went down.

Anyway, despite the earlier heavy rain (which stopped just before we started the walk), and the algal bloom at the reef edge (which hid many organisms), we still managed to see so many interesting marine animals! Certainly a very good start for Project Semakau :)

On a side note, thanks to all the hunter-seekers for finding so many interesting stuff. As for the HSBC green volunteers, I must say: Good job with the guiding, even though this was the first time for many of you! :)


Kevin Zelnio said...

Congratulations on the new project! I look forward to hearing more about its upcoming successes.

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

Thanks Kevin :)

Apple said...

Congrats to your group. Hope it will be successful. GOD BLESS. thanks, it makes us identify the species weve found..