15 June 2011

The Sea Anemone Workshop 2011: Day 1

With great excitement, we gathered at the Tropical Marine Science Institute on St. John's Island to learn more about sea anemones from Dr Daphne Fautin, world authority on sea anemones!
As usual, Dr Daphne explains everything so clearly!

Her introduction begins with this awesome photo of super long anemones!! She says some of ours may be just as long. Indeed, we have field personal experience (of failure) with some anemones that are longer than our arms!
She begins with the basics. And shares some fascinating insights into just what makes a sea anemone a sea anemone. That curly thing in the lower left corner of the photo is a deep sea anemone!
It's also important to know what is NOT a sea anemone. Just because the common name includes the word 'anemone' doesn't mean that it's a true sea anemone. Many animals may LOOK like sea anemones but actually are not.
One of the many interesting things I learnt today from Dr Daphne was that sea anemones are found EVERYWHERE. From the poles to all latitudes, from the shallowest fringes of the sea to the deep oceans! More on her awesome Hexacorallians of the World website with a great map of the global distribution of sea anemones.
She also shares MORE about Singapore's sea anemones! From her visits here and her work on our sea anemones, it seems we may have more than 50 different kinds of sea anemones! She shares lots of fascinating information about some of them. She had earlier documented 16 species of anemones on the shores of Singapore, ten of them new occurrence records (here's the paper!).
We then have a quick look at LIVING sea anemones! There's a bunch in the touch pool at TMSI.
It's a great place to get a hands on look at all kinds of marine life.
She also shows us some cool sea anemones that have settled in the working tanks here.
And we all have a look at some of the anemones from Changi that we encountered earlier this morning.
After a lovely chat over delicious kueh-hueh kindly provided by Dr Tan Swee Hee, it's back to learn more about sea anemones. Sea anemones are tricky beasts to identify. She provided a great template which has motivated me to better observe the living sea anemones on our shores!
But the proper way to be very sure of a sea anemone's identity requires a painstaking look at its internal structure. Many anemones look similar from the outside. It is only by looking closely at their insides that we can be more sure about their proper and correct identity. I had a glimpse of the process during her last trip to Singapore.
As part of the workshop, the full-time participants will be working on three mysterious sea anemones of Singapore. The enigmatic but charismatic 'Strawberry' sea anemone with pretty pink spots, the 'Peachia' sea anemones and the boring but befuddling 'Bob the Blob' anemones.
This is so exciting!!

Of course Dr Daphne shared lots and lots more than I can include in this short post!

It's been a long long day for me that started at 2am. And another early wake up call tomorrow to join the Workshop team in the field. But as usual, Dr Daphne motivates us all to look more closely at the fascinating sea anemones on our shores!

The Sea Anemone Workshop is jointly organised by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and the Tropical Marine Science Institute in conjunction with the National Parks Board, National Biodiversity Centre and their Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey of Singapore.

If you can't attend the Workshop, do try to catch Dr Daphne's "The Sea Anemone Lecture"on 21 Jun (Tue) (now rescheduled to 7pm!) to find out more about our sea anemones and the results of the workshop!


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