04 December 2011

Volunteer Appreciation and NatGeo talk

Once a year, NParks' Conservation Division celebrates the volunteers with an appreciation event. As always, it's a great opportunity to catch up with old and new friends, and enjoy the company of fellow volunteers!
Photo taken by Lim Wei Ling.
Later in the afternoon, I had a great time giving a public talk about our shores organised by Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers and hosted by the National Geographic Store.

Dr Chua Ee Kiam is as usual, enthusiastically taking photos of everyone with his awesome D3S. Dr Chua is author of probably the  most number of nature books of Singapore's wild places and wildlife! And has been a deep influence on me on photography, publishing books and many other aspects of life.
I was delighted to meet up with Keith Hillier after a long long time. Keith first introduced me to nature guiding, at Sungei Buloh. Next to him, the ever cheeky Edie, another long serving nature guide. It is such people who inspired me to get started in nature work!
And here's Yi Feng a young guide at Chek Jawa who recently guided the President there. And his dad Jin Kiat. It's great to know that there is a new generation of nature lovers who will look after the wild places that we love.
Mendis sneaks around taking lots of candid shots of the volunteers and goings on. Mendis also takes wonderful photos of birds and wildlife and responsible for some of the recent awesome volunteer and outreach efforts at Sungei Buloh.
It was great to catch up with CEO NParks Mr Poon, who shared some information about the big picture of what we are doing for biodiversity in Singapore. And later gave out many many recognition awards to the volunteers.
All the volunteers also got a wonderful wide brimmed field hat! Perfect for our work outdoors, and for feathers in the cap, literally!
The hat was also handy as a kind of bag. I was very touched to get a long-service award, and totally surprised to have to go up for yet another token, so I hastily dumped everything into the hat!
There were so many volunteers, Mr Wong took over from the CEO and the photographers are busy capturing these memorable events.
It's fun to volunteer! And we often forget that we also have to thank managers who make such meaningful experiences possible. It's not easy handling passionate volunteers! The appreciation event is made possible by yet more people behind the scenes, including these cheerful folks.
After the presentations, more opportunities to catch up. Nature artist and guru Tham Pui San gives a glimpse of how we can sketch on an iPad. To find out more, come for Sungei Buloh's Anniversary Celebration on 10 Dec (Sat) where he will demonstrate this. With lots of other art and nature events too!
Nature volunteers can't help but spot wildlife wherever they are. Apparently, it was a bird. Which as usual, I couldn't see.
All the while, we enjoyed a lovely brunch prepared by Shila! Perfect as we caught up with one another, and get energised for the Biodiversity Race at Tampines Eco Green later in the morning. Alas, I had to give the Race a miss as I headed downtown to give a public talk in the afternoon.
Even before the talk was due to start, there were already so many people gathered at the National Geographic Store to listen. Wow.
I had lots of fun sharing about our shores. I am never tired of explaining how splendid Singapore's shores are. We have all the major tropical marine ecosystems, all within easy reach of our urban areas. I think this is something Uniquely Singapore!
Of course, I can't resist talking about my favourite shore, Cyrene Reef. Its rich marinelife is particularly amazing as it lies in the middle of the Industrial Triangle. In many ways, Cyrene is the Chek Jawa of the South.
The talk and much of the documentation work for our shores would not be possible without the support and friendship of a tiny team of hardcore volunteer shore explorers. They not only make these trips at ungodly hours, regardless of weather, but also contribute towards costs and tirelessly share their encounters online. See the links on the right column of this blog to links to their posts. Not forgetting the reliable and safe support from Alex and Jumari of Summit Marine System who take us out to the strangest parts of Singapore at oddest times.
During the Q&A, I was also glad to be able to give out copies of the great 2012 calendar featuring my photos of our shores, kindly put together by Kenneth Kee and generously provided by Aardwolf Pestkare.
I didn't get a chance to cover everything. So I'm glad that Siti will be giving a talk next week also at the Nat Geo Store, to cover in greater detail, my favourite ecosystem: the seagrasses! Do come to find out more and why everyone should hug a seagrass today!
I forgot to take photos of the marvelously patient audience who listened to my rambling and put up with my lame jokes. Thanks to Rene and Debby, here's a glimpse of them.
Photo by Rene Ong.
Photo by Debby Ng.
Thanks also to Andy, Kenneth, Sean and other friends for helping to give out calendars and posters to the audience. It was great to see Philip and family at the talk, as well as many other people whom I've not met for a long time, or have only conversed with online. Thanks also to Wei Qian of the National Geographic Store for taking care of all the logistics of the talk.
Photo by Debby Ng
I was deeply touched by Siva's kind advert of the talk, and Debby's write up of the talk. I'm so glad Debby put together this series of talks for the public which seems to have reached out to many people about our shores! Thank you Debby! I'm looking forward to giving more public talks next year!

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