27 May 2013

Fun with VIPs on Day 8 of the Southern Expedition

A glorious sunrise over Cyrene Reef started what turned out to be a very busy day at the Southern Expedition.
Prof Daphne on Cyrene, an amazing reef
that lies in the middle of an industrial triangle.
VIPs descended upon Base Camp, accompanied by the media and other officials. It was a great opportunity to share more about the Expedition and our shores. We tried to find the best of Cyrene to show to these special visitors.


This is NOT a Knobbly sea star. But what is it? Is it the Pentaceraster sea star? That is why the Southern Expedition is so exciting. We often see this sea star but only when the experts are in town can we make some headway identifying this and other mysterious sea creatures. These and all kinds of other animals were displayed for the VIPs today before they were processed for the Expedition.

While we were still out at sea, the Minister had arrived for a formal launch of the Southern Expedition.
From the RMBR facebook page.
After which the delegation descends to the sorting area. Fortunately, by then we had arranged some of our best finds from Cyrene. Ivan Kwan swings straight into 'nature guide mode' to talk with Minister Tan Chuan Jin and other guests. I was so glad Ivan was at the event because he diligently tweeted throughout the day, so I didn't have to do it. Check out his tweets for all the details.
Minister is a great visitor to host. He often outpaces us in posting about events onto facebook.

One of the key specimens for display to the VIPS was this Frilly sea anemone embedded in dead coral that Prof Daphne collected. After a while, we noticed that a small octopus had emerged from the coral! There's so much life on our shores!
Among the special finds displayed for the VIPS to view were these large fishes that Ivan found in a fish trap on Cyrene Reef.
The huge Giant reef worm was a big hit. Minister even tried to touch it.
With the help of Dr Sammy de Grave and his humungous scary looking dive knive, Dr Joelle Lai opened a Fan clam to see if there were interesting commensals living inside it. Sometimes, we might find tiny crabs or shrimps in them.
Joelle has a closer look, alas, there doesn't seem to be any critters living in them.
Minister is curious about what the clam tastes like. Since he doesn't have an assigned food taster, he has to do this himself.
The Minister gets ready to taste the clam.
This activity drew everyone's attention!
Dr Arthur Anker, our expert in snapping shrimps, gives the Minister a demonstration of the power of these shrimps. By tickling them gently, the shrimps make impressively loud pops.
As the Minister was viewing the specimens collected from Cyrene, Prof Peter was sharing more about the Expedition and Singapore's marine biodiversity as well as marine conservation issues with the large contingent of media that came to visit Base Camp.
Photo by Ivan Kwan.
Prof Peter explains how the male horseshoe crab is often found clinging onto the female's back especially when they are about to mate. For this reason, in Taiwan they represent marital fidelity.
Rene Ong arranged for one of our hard working volunteers, Philip Stark, to present Minister with the Expedition badges.
Then it was time for Minister to join in a dive survey. Our dive leader Dr Tan Heok Hui gives a briefing to the divers.
And the divers are off in the NUS Research Vessel Galaxea. The dive is off Pulau Tekukor.
Thanks to Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers who tweeted about the dive, we have a glimpse of what happened and what they found. Among the special finds during the dive was a Winged pipefish.
Photo by Debby Ng.
As well as the Seven-spot reef crab!
Photo by Debby Ng.
After the divers left, there were lots of interviews with the media. Prof Peter and Ivan Kwan were among those interviewed.
Meanwhile, media photographers are taking pictures of the expedition at work. Including Dr Kevin Tilbrook working on some collected bryozoans.
Dr Charles Messing was also interviewed about some special feather stars that were collected during the Expedition.
I returned to Base Camp in the evening and all is back to normal. Prof Peter is glowering at the scientists, who are all very busy once again.
The divers found lots of red feather stars, which were presented to Dr Charles. He asked for 'a few' and got lots. These animals are quite abundant on our shores. After he had a look at them, he released them back into the sea.
Dr Betrand also conducted a short dredge survey in the afternoon. A small team have a smashing time, checking corals from the dredge for creatures that live inside.
They did indeed find a boring (i.e., burrowing) clam which Dr Taylor and Dr Glover found very interesting.
It is the largest of its kind that they have seen!
It's been a long and exhausting day and in a few hours, we're off for another pre-dawn survey!

During the Expedition, I will try to post live updates on twitter as well as to facebook and the Mega Marine Survey facebook page. These will get less frequent as I start to do field work. I'm not very good at the smart phone in the field, and also, phone connections are not always strong enough to post regularly. So also check out tweets by participants using the hashtag for the Survey  #MegaMarine. These are consolidated on the Mega Marine Survey blog.

Volunteer sign up for the Southern Expedition are already closed due to limited places and early logistical arrangements needed for participation.

But no worries, you CAN still join the Survey! Lots of surveys will continue after the Expedition, just at a less frenzied rate. There will be lots of other opportunities for volunteers to participate in dredging, field surveys as well as laboratory sessions. To join the Mega Marine Survey, register your interest in this form and you'll be invited to join the mailing list to receive updates on the Survey and sign up for Survey activities. Also check out the FAQs for more about the Survey.

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