Category Archives: engage!

LKCNHM Volunteers Engagement Tea

In an effort to thank existing and welcome new volunteers, LKCNHM hosted a Volunteers Engagement Tea on Saturday, 28 Feb 2015. The galleries and their resident dinosaurs are a long way off (wait for April) from being ready to receive visitors. So it was the LKCNHM Learning Lab which hosted volunteers, Museum Associates and museum staff with the chance to catch up, network, and get a feel for the new museum environment.

Eager faces appeared in the environs of LKCNHM by 9.00 am, and seats filled by 9.45am – a good 15 minutes before the start of the welcome speech by Prof. Peter Ng and Prof. Leo Tan!

Prof. Peter Ng giving the welcome speech to the huge turnout!

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Prof. Leo Tan introducing the great history of the museum to the participants

Dr. Joelle Lai provided an overview of the museum’s volunteer programme which has roots in the 90’s and officially began in 2000 – a good 15 years ago! She highlighted well known volunteer programmes which emerged back then such as the Public Exhibitions, Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail, Pedal Ubin, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk. More recently we have seen Project Semakau, the Otter Cycling Trail, Love MacRitchie walks, and even more recently, curatorial assistants!

The audience then obligingly regrouped and were crowd-sourced for ideas, expectations and suggestions for the new museum volunteer programme. Active chatter filled the Learning Lab as ideas and suggestions from their combined experience made for a productive 30-minute discussion.

Then, a quick sneak peak of the upcoming museum through some small windows and then to tea! Volunteers and staff had a great time mingling amidst the breezy courtyard around the museum, full of anticipation for April, when the LKCNHM doors will be finally open!

It was truly a lovely day, with friends from over a decade of volunteer work and some fresh faces, combine to signal a happy and supportive community behind the museum! Only one word for it – priceless!

Photos our Flickr at: Part 1 and Part 2!

Toddycats at the Faculty of Science Open House (17 May 2014)

There is a good three months or so of vacation between the final exams and the start of the new academic year here in NUS.

Besides taking a well deserved break and pursuing shelved-for-the-holidays-projects, this is also a good time to start preparing for the Festival of Biodiversity! Last year, we participated in two NUS events to warm up before FoB, the Faculty of Science Open House on 18 May and the Faculty of Science Alumni day, dubbed Science on Saturday on 8 June.

For this year’s Open House, the Toddycats were very quick to register our interest with Ann Nee at the Department of Biological Sciences Office – even before details were officially released! As our usual stomping ground, Life Science Lab 7 was not available, we had to look for other venues. Fortunately, Mrs Ang from LS Lab 2 kindly allowed us use of the lab and it proved to be a great alternative.

A call for help saw 25 Toddycats sign up to help out and we spent the previous Monday evening at LS Lab 2 at a training workshop for the event. There were six stations in all, with each station helmed by an experienced guide, ready to share stories and guiding tips with some of the new Toddycats. Each person had to be familiar with two stations by the end of the training session. This will be a useful start and a base to move on to other stations over time.

On Open House Day, we met earlier to organise ourselves and set up the various stations. Tze Kwan and Weiting worked out who was going to demo at which station based on their training from Monday. A short lunch break, some last minute revisions and we were good to receive the first of two groups who had signed up for the Life Science tour!

In total, we spoke to 140 prospective students and parents over two sessions. In addition to speaking about the specimens on hand, the undergrad experiences of the Toddycats came in pretty handy too! We shared with our guests (especially the more inquisitive parents) the various options leading to a Life Science major, as well as personal undergraduate stories in general. I hope we gave our visitors a good perspective and overarching understanding of a degree in Life Science  in the hour they were in the lab!

Many thanks to Oi Yee, Ivan, Marcus, Weiting, David, Amanda, Tze Kwan, Yi Yong, Joleen, Wei Han, Ambert, Kwi Shan Claudia, Mioa Shan, Kar Mun, Letchumi, Bokai, Joanna, Erin, Prab, Joys, Lesley, Hazel and Navneeth for signing up to help, and Ann Nee, Mrs Ang for your support!

For more pictures, see our flickr set here.

Jane’s Walk Singapore feat. Love MacRitchie

A few days after we wrapped up our last series of Love MacRitchie Walks on 12 April, the organizers of Jane’s Walk Singapore approached Toddycats to join in their movement to get people to explore the city.

Jane’s Walks of diverse themes (heritage, architecture, food, nature, etc.) were held in Singapore and cities around the world between 2–4 May. We jumped at this unique opportunity to show Singaporeans that our city has more than just skyscrapers! The walk was a hit among Jane’s Walk registrants, 27 of whom turned up at Venus Loop on 4 May for a walk in the rainforest with seven Toddycats.

Jane’s Walk organizer Mai Tatoy kicked off the event by giving an introduction to the annual global movement of locally led tours inspired by Jane Jacobs, an urbanist and activist who championed a community-based approach to city building. Toddycat David Tan then took over the first batch of participants and set off into the forest, and the group led by Joelle Lai and I followed shortly after.

David Tan introducing MacRitchie Forest to Group 1. Photo by Pearlynn Sim.

David Tan introducing MacRitchie Forest to Group 1. Photo by Pearlynn Sim.

Once again, the forest wowed us with its amazing wildlife. We were treated to sightings of  fungus beetles and their larvae, scale insects, Many-lined Sun Skinks (Eutropis multifasciata), Crimson Sunbirds (Aethopyga siparaja) and Short-tailed Babblers (Malacocincla malaccensis). But the head-turners were definitely the gliding animals, including the Five-banded Gliding Lizard (Draco quinquefasciatus) and the Black-bearded Gliding Lizard (Draco melanopogon) that showed off their aerial skills to the first and second groups respectively. The second group was also extremely lucky to spot the Malayan Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus), which was hiding so well in plain sight, on a tree just beside the trail!

Fungus beetle on a bracket fungus. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Fungus beetle on a bracket fungus. Photo by Chloe Tan.

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Scale insects. Photo by Pearlynn Sim.

Many-lined Sun Skink. Phot by Wynnie Kwok.

Many-lined Sun Skink. Photo by Wynnie Kwok.

What's everybody gawking at? Photo by Joelle Lai.

What’s everybody gawking at? Photo by Joelle Lai.

The Malayan Colugo! Photo by Chloe Tan.

The Malayan Colugo! Photo by Chloe Tan.

The plants at Venus Loop were just as interesting that day. The mango and durian trees were fruiting!

A fragrant mango! Photo by Chloe Tan.

A fragrant mango! Photo by Chloe Tan.

What does the durian say? Photo by Chloe Tan.

What does the durian say? Photo by Chloe Tan.

All these creatures that we saw sent a strong message to the participants – our forest is rich yet fragile. And we can all help to protect our natural heritage. Toddycats would like to thank all the participants of this walk for being such an enthusiastic, inquisitive and engaging bunch. It was truly an enjoyable Sunday morning!

Group 1. Photo by Pearlynn Sim.

Group 1. Photo by Pearlynn Sim.

Group 2. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Group 2. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Stay tuned to the Love MacRitchie Facebook page for updates on future walks, and check out the Love MacRitchie website for more information about the movement.

Love MacRitchie Walk – kampung games and ethical wildlife photography

After a brief foray to explore the Prunus-Petai Trail –part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve – the Love MacRitchie Walk made a return to Venus Loop trail.

The walk, held on 15 March 2014 saw 19 members of the public, including six exuberant youngsters, go on a 2.5-hour jaunt through the regenerated secondary forest under the lead of six Toddycat guides.

Love MacRitchie Walk by Toddycats 15 Mar 2014 Group 1

Participants and guides of Group 1. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

Participants and guides of Group 2. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

Participants and guides of Group 2. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

Right at the start of the trail, the ground was littered with empty rubber seed pods. This was a wonderful opportunity to show the younger participants how  the older generations used to entertain themselves before the age of televisions and mobile devices. The halves of the pods were quickly assembled to resemble a windmill that spun when blown on, giving the kids a glimpse of a simpler time when people had to be more creative in making use of the resources around them.

Rubber seed pod windmill. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

Rubber seed pod windmill. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

The walk proceeded along the trail, with the guides sharing their knowledge on the plants and animals that can be found there, when attention was drawn by excited cries of a young boy. His sharp eyes had spotted a Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), which brought the rest of the youngsters scrambling to his spot. And true to its name, in the vicinity was also found a Greater racquet-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), or “hamba kera” (slave of the macaque) in Malay. The drongo earned this moniker due to its habit of following troops of macaques, picking on insects stirred up as they move through the forest canopy.

Long-tailed macaque. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

Long-tailed macaque. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

A noticeable difference of this walk compared to previous ones was the presence of a large group of photographers camped along the trail, all cameras seemingly pointed on the same subject. At first glance, the attraction seemed to be a Red-legged crake (Rallina fasciata) which was foraging on the ground right in front of the group. A closer look, however, revealed the star attraction to be a Black-backed kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca), a small and rare migrant. It is hoped that these photographers adhere to an ethical code of conduct and not resort to practices such as forcefully posing or baiting animals just to get their “perfect” shot. 

Photographers shooting the Black-backed kingfisher. Photo by Sean Yap.

Photographers shooting the Black-backed kingfisher. Photo by Sean Yap.

Black-backed kingfisher. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

Black-backed kingfisher. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

As the 15 March marked the celebration of World Water Day, the walk was an opportunity to educate the participants on the importance of forests in maintaining good water quality in our reservoirs. This brought home one of the reasons the Central Catchment Nature Reserve should be left undisturbed, and not sacrificed in the line of some unjustifiable development. The next Love MacRitchie Walk at Venus Loop will be held on 29 March 2014 (fully subscribed).

View more photos from this walk at https://www.flickr.com/photos/habitatnews/sets/72157642477618975/

First Love MacRitchie Walk of 2014: Macaques, drongos and bird waves

On 15 February 2014, seven Toddycats took some 25 participants on a Love MacRitchie Walk at Venus Loop. This was the first of a series of fortnightly free guided walks for the public planned for 2014. Through our second guiding workshop earlier this year, we have more than doubled our crew of trained guides to 40! This ensures a high guide to participant ratio for future walks.

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Participants and guides of Group 1. Photo by Chloe Tan.

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Participants and guides of Group 2. Photo by David Teng.

This walk, like previous ones in 2013, was anchored around five major stations along the trail, giving participants a holistic learning experience of the importance of forest reserves, forest ecology and human impacts. The walk was also peppered with fun facts about plants and animals encountered along the way.

A young participant getting to know the rubber tree with guide David Tan.

A young participant getting to know the rubber tree with guide David Tan. Photo by David Teng.

Among other stories of forest critters, participants on this walk would probably best remember the foraging habits of the Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) and other birds. The drongo is known as “burung hamba kera” in Malay, meaning “slave bird of the Long-tailed Macaque (kera kera)”. We watched in wonder as the story behind their common names played out, with drongos following behind a troop of macaques, picking on the insects stirred up as they moved through the forest canopy. Then, calling the participants to a brief moment of silence, we listened to a medley of bird calls, which we believed to be a bird wave! A bird wave is composed of various species flocking in to pick up prey rustled by other foraging birds. Drongos are also capable of initiating bird waves with their ability to mimic the calls of other species.

Long-tailed Macaque

Long-tailed Macaque. Photo by David Teng.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. Photo by Chloe Tan.

View more photos from this walk at http://www.flickr.com/photos/habitatnews/sets/72157641073077383/

Love Our MacRitchie Forest will celebrate World Wildlife Day with our next walk at Prunus-Petai Trail on 1 Mar 2014 (fully subscribed!).