The 4th Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium – 24 five-minute presentations and 30 posters! (Sat 01 Aug 2015)

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is pleased to announce the Fourth Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium (BoSS IV) to be held on Saturday, 1st of August 2015: 8.30 am – 4:30 pm. The symposium will be held at UTown Auditorium 2 (Stephen Riady Centre) at the National University of Singapore.

We are really pleased that our Guest of Honour will be non other than the Minister of State for National Development, Mr Desmond Lee, who has been very active in this arena and always encouraging of youth engaged in biodiversity research and education.

BoSS IV showcases a cohort of young and passionate folks who have stepped up to study and champion various aspects of Singapore’s biodiversity in four, one hour-long sessions. 24 speakers will excite you through snappy five-minute presentations with news and developments in the field. And we just had to include a special update about the Singapore Whale.

The symposium tradition is maintained with two hour-long teas featuring 30 posters, and of course sumptuous food to promote interaction and collaboration! Programme details can be viewed at https://biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com.

Registration
There is a registration fee is $10 for adults and $6 for students (includes grad students!) Please register at https://biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com/registration, which has cash, electronic and cheque payment options.

Do inform colleagues, friends and acquaintances who may enjoy this interesting approach to getting quickly acquainted with some aspects of biodiversity research and education in Singapore.

Make a difference – Toddycats eulogised by Joseph Koh during NUS Life Sciences commencement!

Mr Joseph Koh, aka Spiderman of Singapore, is a distinguished alumni of the Faculty of Science who has been very active in conservation since retirement from a distinguished career in government service. As such, he has observed local natural history scene including the activity of undergraduates in public education. and research.

Joseph Koh NUS Commencement 10 Jul 2015

During the commencement ceremony for Life Science graduates, he talked about “Making a difference” and highlighted their efforts in nature conservation, through Toddycats and NParks.

Indeed just this year alone, we have seen them actively contributing to Ubin Day, the Festival of Biodiversity, numerous Year-Round Coastal Cleanups, Love MacRitchie walks, OtterWatch Bishan, Operation No Release, Bukit Timah patrol, Kent Ridge Heritage Trail and the Himalayan Mutt fundraiser. They do this as pure volunteers, as this is not an incentivised volunteer group.

Joseph had this to say about “Making a Difference”:

“My third life lesson is that we will be warmed with joy if we try to make a difference in whatever we do.

Here, I am not trying to preach that we should change the world, level up inequalities, touch the life of others, or do something to reduce global warming. These lofty ideals are good. We should contribute where we can.

To me, “making a difference” is simply a state of mind: we just need to resist our natural tendency to keep things going, to carry on business as usual.

It means we constantly remind ourselves not to fall into the trap of mindlessly following the crowd, mindlessly copying precedents, and mindlessly doing “more of the same”.

Such a state of mind has simply made my job, and that of many of my public service colleagues, more satisfying.

We were happy that we had not ended up as just another robotic gate-keeper, another defender of the status quo.

With this consciousness to make a difference, it became natural for us to constantly find new ways to work smarter, encourage our junior colleagues to think more creatively, inspire them to be more curious and more passionate, and get everybody to grow and blossom.

And you don’t have to be in the government to make a difference for Singapore and Singaporeans.

Today, I can see that many passionate Singaporeans are already making a difference towards nature conservation through their voluntary work.

Some of them are here, sitting in front of me as part of the graduating class, or as young academic staff “arrowed” to attend this ceremony.

They organise and participate in river and coastal clean-ups. They blog about our jungle in jeopardy, the biodiversity of our seashores, and the plant life in our “city in a garden”. They volunteer as toddy-cats, or as NParks nature guides, helping out in biodiversity surveys and taking children, “uncles” and “aunties” out for nature walks.

Many of them brave the scorching sun, thunder storms, sinking mud, and for those doing marine surveys, wake up at two am in the morning just to catch the low spring tide before sunrise.

They may not realise it themselves, they are actually making a difference by igniting the passion of the next generation of Singaporeans to better appreciate and protect our precious natural heritage.

I salute all such people.”

The full text of Joseph’s speech can be viewed here: Joseph Koh NUS Commencement – speech, 10 Jul 2015.pdf.

Well done to all the undergraduates who have been contributing as volunteers in NUS Toddycats, NParks, BES Drongos, Naked Hermit Crabs and various other groups. Keep up the good work!

Toddycats are now preparing for the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV.

Photo by Dr. Jeffrey Low.

NUS Toddycats at the Festival of Biodiversity, 27-28 Jun 2015!

27 & 28 Jun 2015 – NUS Toddycats were out in full force at the Festival of Biodiversity – a team of 69 volunteers, doing eight shifts over two days engaged the public at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) and International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) booths at Vivocity from 10am to 10pm!

DAY 1 (27th June 2015)
At 7.30AM, the first shift of Toddycats arrived at Vivocity and in an hour, set up booths, put up posters and tables and arranged the carefully transported specimens from the museum.

The Festival was graced by MOS Desmond Lee, who launched the Marine Conservation Action Plan, to better protect Singapore’s marine ecosystems. After the Festival had been officially opened, Mr Lee walked around the Central Court to visit the booths!

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The Specimen Transport Team at the LKCNHM Loading Bay

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Toddycats engaging the crowd at the LKCNHM booth

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Teaching children about Singapore’s amazing marine biodiversity!

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One of the Toddycats sharing storis with MOS Desmond Lee about plant specimens.

After the official opening, the crowd continued to visit the booths. Toddycats regaled the public with stories about the specimens and answered questions.

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The Common Palm Civet Intern, Claudia Ang, with the juvenile Civet specimen.

The Toddycats also had two Bug Boxes on display, to highlight bugs of Singapore and fascinating visitors with stories!

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Bugs are cool!

At the end of Day 1, as we packed up, some Toddycats were still going strong after 12 hours!

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Sofina Ng talks about the baby dugong to a visitor even as the specimens are being packed away!

DAY 2
Day 2 began with fresh faces arriving to help set-up! Re-energized, the volunteers continued to engage the public. The crowd was large and relentless. Many families and groups approached us with pertinent questions about Singapore’s biodiversity.

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The crowd was relentless, but the Toddycats were up to the challenge!

Once again, volunteers were excited to share stories about wildlife in Singapore. Toddycats were also selling tickets for the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV.

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Lynn Ng, the Toddycats-SG50 Intern manning the BoSS IV Booth!

Many people who were interested to find out more about recent happenings in Singapore’s Green Scene came by to buy tickets, and we look forward to seeing them at the event in a month’s time!

Toddycat volunteers themselves loved the specimens and displays.

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Alvin Wong posing with the Bug Box!

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Erin Tan, holding the massive fruit cluster of the Nipah Palm!

The Festival of Biodiversity was also an opportunity for Toddycats to meet up which one another again.

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A Toddycats reunion!

At the end of the Day 2, the remaining volunteers packed up the specimens and took stock. But not before arming ourselves with a favourite specimen for a group photo.

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NUS Toddycats have been active participants of the annual Festival of Biodiversity. Although always exhausting, it is one of the most meaningful outreach efforts we are part of. We certainly look forward to the Festival of Biodiversity 2016!

Packing for the Festival of Biodiversity @ Vivocity this weekend!

It’s finally here! NUS Toddycats head down to Vivocity tomorrow morning, bright and early with our haul of specimens from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

The interns have been busy pulling out additional specimens and ensuring all are in order for action this weekend and it’s all ready now!

Join us and many other nature groups on our massive annual public outreach with NParks in celebration of Singapore’s biodiversity, to (hopefully) more than 10,000 people over Saturday and Sunday, 27-28 Jun 2015. 

  

  

Meeting the interns!

I’m just back from the Horseshoe Crab workshop in Japan and the SG50 Toddycats (Sankar A & Lynn Ng) & IKEA-ICCS (Becky Lee) Interns have shanghai-ed me for debriefes and discussions with Joelle Lai.

We’re not done after three hours because NUS Toddycats have been active! The projects we talked about include Kent Ridge Heritage Walks (monthly this year), Bukit Timah summit patrol (Apr-May), Op No Release (May), Ubin Day (June), Festival of Biodiversity  (this weekend) and the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV (1st August 2015). 

Phew! 

Festival of Biodiversity Training!

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Many volunteers, raring to go!

20 June 2015 – In preparation for the massive outreach operation which is the Festival of Biodiversity @ Vivocity NUS Toddycats conducted a training session for exhibition guides at the Learning Lab @ Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Specimens for the training were brought out and distributed to the various stations of Freshwater, Marine and Mangrove ecosystem, Herptiles, Mammals and Insects.

Once the more than 70 volunteers were present, Joelle Lai introduced volunteers to the Festival, our operational procedure and introduced the trainers.

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Joelle Lai introducing the Festival

Volunteers joined their station of interest and examined individual specimens, were taught how to share information about it with the general public queries and asked questions. Each volunteer was trained to handle two stations.

After a sumptuous lunch, volunteers tried speaking about a specimen each to the audience of fellow guides and received feedback from trainers about accuracy and technique.

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Time to put what they learnt to the test.

Toddycats at Ubin Day, 13-14 Jun 2015

Toddycats at Ubin Day 2015 (13-14 Jun 2015)

DAY 1

Preparations for Ubin Day had begun weeks before the event and finally on 12 Jun 2015, Sankar A & Lynn Ng (Toddycats SG50 Interns), Becky Lee (ICCS Intern) and Toddycats Joys Tan and Joleen Chan got together to pack logistics for Ubin Day.

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The next day, Toddycats began arriving on Ubin as early as 7.00am! To beat the dawn awakening, some Toddycats like Law Ing Sind and Becky Lee had stayed over the previous night!

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Toddycats arrived early to set up our booth.

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All done!

The first day a huge crowd overran the booths! Many had come in celebration of Siglap Day as well.

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Toddycats excite the the crowd with stories about the specimens!

Iris Ng and Lee Juin Bin informed people about the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV – BoSS IV will be held on the 01 Aug 2015 and you can find out more here!

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Iris Ng and Lee Juin Bin hard-selling BoSS IV

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Ubin Day’s first BoSS registrant – see you at BoSS!

The Toddycats booth had a very special visitor: Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of State with the Ministry of National Development.

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Mr Desmond Lee enjoyed the ICCS interactive exhibit.

Becky Lee and Sankar A chatted with another special visitor, the Minister of National Development Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who was fascinated by the Hawksbill turtle and dugong specimens we had on display.

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Sharing with Mr Khaw about Singapore’s marine biodiversity and the threats they face.

Civet Intern Claudia Ang, was actively sharing stories about the Common Palm Civet and the cruelty behind Kopi Luwak. You can find out more here.

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Claudia Ang and the Common Palm Civet!

DAY 2

As the sun rose over Ubin, rainclouds appeared over the island – uh-oh!

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A view of the sky from the boat to Ubin; photo by Chay Hoon

And sure enough, it started to pour!

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The rain was very heavy.

Toddycats offered Pedal Ubin once again, which had been revived for the first Ubin Day last year. Pedal Ubin guides Alvin Wong, JoelleLai, Marcus Ng, Chloe Tan, Travis Ho, Sankar A, Ng Xinyao, Ng Chao Xiang and Yeo Wei were ready in time and greeted by a very high attendance rate which saw enthusiastic participants turn up early!

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Alvin Wong conducting the safety briefing for Pedal Ubin participants.

We visited nature and heritage sites on Pulau Ubin including the German Girl Shrine and the “Y U So Like That!” drink stall.

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Pedal Ubin at the German Girl Shrine.

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Joelle Lai’s group take a photo outside the Kampong House.

In response to the launch of the Ubin Way based on the positive highlights of kampong life, we had everyone engage in light-hearted conversations with one another. This relaxing element was injected specifically this year as guides can be quite focused on guiding and forget to have a conversation!

Alvin’s group was even joined by none other than MoS Desmond Lee who was active that day on the island in many events, despite struggling with jet lag.

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At the German Girl Shrine.

Some lucky participants were treated to a durian feast at Jelutong Bridge – shiok! It’s the start of bountiful durian harvest in the region.

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On the way back, we stopped at Pekan Quarry, where Andy Dinesh, David Tan and other enthusiastic birders had set up a birding tentage. Participants and guides were introduced to the very rare Oriental Darter.

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Birders braving bad weather.

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The oriental darter (aka snakebird) with the Grey Heron on the bottom right. Photo by Cherry Goh

Meanwhile, the Toddycats booth at Ubin Village was still going strong.

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Letchumi M is not staring down the booth guide. Just listening intently!

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Toddycats young and younger!

At last, Ubin Day came to and end and it was time to clear up. Becky Lee and several Toddycats saw to the safe transport of all the specimens back to LKCNHM.

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Precious LKCNHM specimens loaded up onto the bumboat!

NUS Toddycats thank the hardworking volunteers who made this event possible, as well as National Parks Board, Ria Tan & Min Lin Lim (WildSingapore), the Ministry of National Development and all the contributing groups of this year’s Ubin Day.

See you at the next Ubin Day!