08 June 2013

Learning about Singapore's seagrasses!

Dr Len McKenzie and Rudi Yoshida of Seagrass-Watch started the first of a series of training sessions for TeamSeagrass today.
We learn all about Singapore's seagrasses and have lots of fun too!

Early in the morning, Rudi has set up lots of lovely photos as well as samples of real seagrasses that Len collected from Cyrene during the Southern Expedition of the Mega Marine Survey.
Thanks to Sze Peng and Pearlynn for helping to set up and man the reception table, which is loaded with all kinds of goodies provided by Seagrass-Watch.
There's the gorgeous Seagrass-Watch magazine put together by Rudi (also available for free download online), as well as bookmarks featuring TeamSeagrass as well as Singapore seagrasses from Chek Jawa and Labrador.
Wei Ling and Rachel arrive directly from Changi to find seagrasses for the training session. Alas the tide was too high to find some of our species. But we have enough to get by.
Then it's time to plunge into the training. Len outlines some of the reasons why we would want to monitor seagrasses. For TeamSeagrass, it's all of the above!
There's lots of details in the lovely handouts about how to identify our seagrasses. With Len highlighting the features to look out for, it's a lot easier to figure them out.
Len shares a sample of the tiny seagrass seeds produced by Needle seagrass. Each fruit produces only one seed which is called a nut. So it's a sea nut!
Then it was time to have some fun trying to figure out the live seagrasses for ourselves.
Wei Ling helps some of the participants.
Rachel gives some tips.
Len guides the discussions.
We practice our explanations of why we think a seagrass is a particular species.
Because later on, each group has to decribe a species to the rest. We sure learnt a lot about the features that distinguish the various species.
Len shares that there are about 60 seagrass species globally, 22 in the Indo-Pacific and Singapore has 12 species! Here's some of our seagrasses, with fact sheets about them on wildsingapore and how to tell apart the particularly vexing ribbon-like seagrasses.
Len also taught us how to press seagrass samples and reminded us of the different information that needs to be included in a herbarium sample. We need to collect the growing tip which has the most DNA so that DNA work can be done on the samples.
Pei Yan takes awesome notes during the session! There were also little tests to make sure we remember the important stuff.
Among the many many other topics Len covered, he shared how his study of Singapore data suggest there is seasonality in Singapore's seagrasses: flowering, germination, growing and resting. These follow the monsoon seasons.
Another point Len highlighted is that seagrasses are part of a continuum of marine habitats. It is futile to try to conserve just one kind of habitat, like coral reefs, without conserving the other different kinds of habitats around it.
TeamSeagrass is a great way for ordinary people to make a difference for our shores and see the shores for themselves. More about the Team on the TeamSeagrass blog.

How to join? Simply email these details
(a) your full name
(b) your age
(c) your email address
(d) your contact number
(e) any previous experience
to Ria at hello@wildsingapore.com, please put "TeamSeagrass" in your subject header.

A few of us will be live-tweeting the training sessions #teamseagrass so everyone can keep up with the exciting lessons!

Here's what was tweeted today compiled with Storify

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