Category Archives: outreach

Biodiversity Roadshow @ The Forum

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16-oes-biodiversity-roadshow-forum-16feb2017jl16 Feb 2017 – NUS Toddycats joined forces with the BES Drongos and Campus Creatures for the first time to take part in the Biodiversity Roadshow organised by NUS’ Office of Environmental Sustainability at the Forum.

We showcased wildlife commonly found within the leafy Kent Ridge campus, and by extension, in wild spaces around Singapore.

We had at our booth preserved specimens of commonly encountered snakes in NUS, a plantain squirrel, a palm civet, a specially curated insect box from the Lee Kong Chian Museum accompanied with blown up posters of other campus creatures found in campus.

A popular display with curious students and staff, they were given advice about what to do during snake encounters (most of all, don’t hurt the snake!), how to best enjoy the natural history museum on campus (free for all NUS staff and students), and learn about the wildlife that still survives urban Singapore.

We thank NUS OES for hosting us at the roadshow – it was fun! For more pictures from the event, see our flickr album.

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Mon 31 Oct 2016: 6.30pm @ LT27 – Free Public Talk: Professor Jerry Coyne: “Evolution Is True, And Why People Still Don’t Believe It”

We are pleased to co-host with the Humanist Society of Singapore, Professor Jerry Coyne for a public talk on Evolution on 31 October. As spaces are limited, please register for your free ticket via eventbrite! lkcnhm-hss-coyne.eventbrite.sg.

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Toddycats @ Pesta Ubin 2016 (Part I): A Celebration of Singapore’s Marine Biodiversity and a plea to Reduce our Plastic Footprint

As in previous years, we’ve come together and contributed to a couple of events for the Pesta Ubin 2016 calendar!

This year Ubin Day has morphed from one weekend of short-lived fun into a month-long festival from 14 May to 12 June (Pesta means Festival in Malay). It was designed to celebrate Ubin’s kampong lifestyle, the Ubin Way, and its value as a nature refuge and to offer the public a glimpse of our past heritage.

Despite the rain, the booths from various local NGOs received a strong showing from the public. About 3000 visitors came to soak in the festive mood by participating in the myriad of events and informative booths. The celebratory atmosphere was buoyed by kampong games such as capteh and hopscotch. Activities such as cycling, kayaking and coastal clean-ups were made available too.

It was a delight to educate and raise awareness of the importance of conserving our local marine biodiversity in Singapore. Ten specimens on loan from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum were chosen to highlight some examples of marine life found on our shores and the disastrous after-effects of littering, boat crashes, illegal fishing and the importance of conserving our local biodiversity.

Our specimens from LKCNHM included a baby dugong, a dog-faced water snake, a giant mudskipper, an Asian small-clawed otter, shells from various local marine clams and snails, a black-tipped reef shark, a tree-climbing crab, a hawksbill turtle and seahorses. Pictures of our sperm whale, Jubilee, were also on display to highlight the imminent threat that plastics can have on sea creatures, even on large ones like whales. Our local marine biodiversity too is not immune to this global crisis of plastic waste.

There are four ways in which marine life is impacted by plastic littering:  strangulation of animals from entanglement, ingestion of plastics when animals mistake it for food, bioaccumulation when young fish or crustaceans eat micro-plastics (microbeads found in face-wash products) and the leakage of toxic pollutants into the ocean as plastics slowly degrade.

Minister for National Development, Mr Lawrence Wong, and Senior Minister of State, Mr Desmond Lee, graced the event as our guests of honour. Mr Wong announced that by mid 2017, the National Parks Board (NParks) would take on the role of central management agency and be in sole charge of managing Ubin.

In his speech, Mr Wong also highlighted several books launched in celebration of Ubin such as “Footprints on an Island: Rediscovering Pulau Ubin” by Chua Ee Kiam, Choo Mui Eng and Wong Tuan Wah and “Hunt for the Green Boomerang” by Neil Humphreys.

Apart from the humans, other living creatures such as the oriental-pied hornbills and green imperial pigeons were also in attendance during the event. Their presence further illustrates that Ubin continues to be a birdwatcher’s paradise and an important refuge for threatened species. Even Ubin’s friendly resident stray dogs came to pay a visit and provided great company.

The children had their fair share of activities to take part in and be excited about as well! We organised a badge-making session which kept the children thoroughly entertained in creating their very own badges, giving them a colourful experience and a sense of pride in putting their creativity to good use.

To conclude, Pesta Ubin was a celebration of all things nature and our kampong roots. If our heritage in Pulau Ubin is lost, we would not only lose our window into the past, but something more significant – our identity with nature. Our local biodiversity may be resilient but if we are not mindful to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our environment, we may stand to lose much of our precious Earth.

For more pictures, view our Flickr album!

 

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.

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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!

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Toddycats at Ubin Day! 

 Good morning everyone! This weekend is Ubin Day and the Toddycats are out at Pulau Ubin conducting outreach on marine and terrestrial biodiversity of Singapore.  Besides our booths, there are many activities available to every visitor, to experience the Ubin … Continue reading

Kent Ridge Heritage Trail Walks – PART 2!

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Despite the rain forecast for Monday evening, 27 participants (and 7 guide trainees) joined us for our monthly walk along the Kent Ridge Heritage Trail!

Oi Yee set off with the first group, flanked by three trainees, Sankar, Ingsind and Becky. Right off the bat, Oi Yee wows the crowd by talking about a commonly seen but rarely noticed plant – Simpoh air

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As we walked along, we saw some red seeds scattered on the road. “Does anyone know what these are?” Oi Yee asked. One of the participants piped up, “Saga seeds!” Excitedly, Oi Yee explained how she used to play with the seeds as a girl.

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The participants walked around, picking up the seeds to get a closer look at them! DSC06952

Soon, we encountered Nepenthes gracilis, or slender pitcher plants, growing on the side of the road. These carnivorous plants trap insects in their pitcher-shaped modified leaf tips.

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Oi Yee also reminisced about how she used to walk the ridge in her younger days. She recounts how she used to sit on the stone wall and stare out to the sea. The wall itself was built by the British and still stands by the side of the road today!

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Oi Yee playfully talked about the Hibiscus, another beautiful plant that can be found on the Ridge.

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The walk ended at the Gap where we took a photo in the fading light, where the commemorative marble plaque marking the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Kent was laid.

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The third group led by N. Sivasothi aka Ottoman consisted of guide trainees Lynn, Cherry, Hui Zhen, and Zong Xian – eagerly started along the trail as Otterman describes to us the techniques of guiding on the ridge.

We started off revising self-introductions and giving a brief history of the ridge before learning more about the ecology and significance of some plants along the ridge! From the bright yellow flowers of Simpoh Air, to the sweet scent of crushed Smilax, the group of us strolled along Kent Ridge Road feverishly scribbling notes while pondering how best to describe the plant to future walk participants.

Otterman recounted his experiences with guiding the Kent Ridge Road and shared tips on how to engage the audience, with eight pairs of ears listening intently to his stories. It wasn’t long before the enjoyable walk ended at S2, and the group of us lingered by the stairs listening to his stories and getting poked to answer questions by his handy umbrella.

At the end of this impromptu training, we were left in awe at the rich history of the Ridge as well as the budding biodiversity of this small green patch in NUS.

More photos of our walk can be found on Flickr!

Would you like to find out more about this amazing trail right in NUS? Do keep a look out for our next walk!

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Brought to you by NUS Toddycats, volunteers with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum as part of SG50 celebrations.