25 September 2011

An Explosion of Inspiration: Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III

"The Next Generation" is the theme of the Symposium, and indeed it was heartening to see so many young people leading at the event, from speakers to moderators to poster presentations and more!
Lim Wei Ling and Marcus Chua embody the Next Generation
who are already a significant force acting for Singapore's biodiversity.
It was an exhilarating day with a whirlwind of interaction and events! Inspiring the 300 plus people who attended to do even more for our biodiversity!

We are very heartened by the Guest of Honour's very fortright sharing. Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State (MOS) for National Development and Manpower spoke at great length before he got around to his prepared speech!
As Ivan highlighted on his twitter feed, BG Tan talked about the challenges of conservation in Singapore and the need to tap the nature community, and how Singapore's native flora and fauna make up a part of what it means to be Singaporean. In the media, it was reported that BG Tan emphasised the importance of nature conservation in Singapore. Identity is not just centred on history but also on the country's biodiversity, he said, adding: 'I think it is important to embrace that and preserve as much of that as we can.' Here's BG Tan's speech, thanks to Andy Dinesh!

Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III - 24Sept2011 - GOH Speech from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

BG Tan also launched the exciting new NParks Community in Nature programme to allow individuals, community groups and organisations to take part in nature awareness activities like photography and birdwatching. The activities will start next month. More details in media reports on the Symposium.
The Symposium kicked off with a ceremony to recognise the efforts by stalwarts from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore who had been a part of the programme for decades! Bravo!
Siva had asked me and Darren to give a brief overview of issues. Alamak! Siva tricked us. Siva didn't have any slides! But as usual, Siva spoke eloquently and inspired us to think more deeply about some issues impacting forest biodiversity.
Darren Yeo gave a great introduction to issues affect freshwater ecosystems, which are among Singapore's most threatened.
I struggled for days with compressing as much as I could into my presentation on marine issues. Zeehan (chairperson for our session) was adamant about sticking to the 10-minute allocation. So I'm very glad I got it done within the time limit.

There were 21 speakers at the Symposium! Despite being given a strict 10 minutes each to speak, all of them raised interesting ideas, covered the main issues and shared important findings. Some of those I found particularly interesting included this amazing photo of a pangolin mama carrying her baby across the road. Fortunately there were no cars on the road at that time, or they would have turned into Pangolin Pancake. Hence the importance of the Eco-link effort, as shared by Delfinn Sweimay Tan.
I love dinosaurs! And I can't get enough of them. Swee Hee shared latest updates including how Apollo might have to be renamed Apollonia with recent discoveries about these dinosaurs.
Linda shared more about the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) for biodiversity in Singapore. This important plan helps pull together all the many efforts that so many of us put into understanding and protecting our biodiversity. My earlier post about NBSAP and the actual Plan on the NParks website.
Chong Jun Hien gave a delightful reminder about how what we do is all about relationships! Indeed, often in the quest for data we forget it is also about attitudes and people, as well as relationships among our target subject and all kinds of other things we may not even know about.
I'm always stunned and awed by Tan Heok Hui's amazing photos. He spoke about the rather disturbing issue of non-native freshwater species.
Karenne Tun as usual gave a delightful presentation about coral spawning in Singapore! A remarkable event that went unnoticed in our waters until it was studied by NUS.
And shared Lim Swee Cheng's incredible find of a Neptune's cup sponge which was long thought to be extinct in Singapore waters. This is my first look at the sponge. I had heard rumours of this find for some months already, so it was great to finally see it!
Dan Friess also gave a fascinating insight into my current favourite destination: Mandai mangroves. The work being put in by Rick and his team will literally allow us to see the big picture.
And shared more about some awesome tools to measure how our mangroves are coping with rising sea levels.
Sadly, this beautiful mangrove is under threat. A recurring theme made by many of our speakers. Many speakers also began or included in their talk, the catch phrase "Singapore got (insert biodiversity focus), meh?" - Singapore's biodiversity is not well known to ordinary Singaporeans. It seems Singapore is in danger of losing biodiversity before most Singaporeans even know they exist!
There were lots and lots of talks which I can't blog about. Check out the talk abstracts and the twitter feed #biodsg3 for live comments mainly by Ivan Kwan as VaranusSalvator and hairen, also by David Tan and others. See also NUScasts and Youtube videos from Habitatnews.

Besides the talks, there were more than 40 posters about our biodiversity! These posters shared about the ongoing work for forests, freshwater and marine biodiversity, with many opportunities for ordinary people to contribute! My impressions of the posters in this separate post.

The talks were followed by lively and enthusiastic Q&A sessions! With many answers contributed by members of the audience as well, and great discussions of some topical issues. All very well handled by the speakers and chairpersons.
Very long tea breaks were purposely scheduled between the talks, a great opportunity for everyone to get to know one another and catch up. During the first teabreak, many of us got to chat personally with BG Tan.
One of my special moments at the Symposium: an opportunity for Rick and Wei Kit to personally meet with the legendary Prof Murphy. The young gentlemen are preparing to repeat Prof Murphy's work at Mandai mangroves and are seeking advice from the Master! The Next Generation is already indeed hard at work!
Besides the talks, the ToddyCats! also had a great booth showcasing some of Singapore's amazing biodiversity! Among the highlights is Junius's papercraft that feature our native animals. Ivan shared more about the work that went into setting this up! His post also has more about Junius' wonderful papercraft that will surely encourage children to learn and love our native biodiversity.
Sarah manned a booth with all kinds of cool biodiversity stuff for sale. Books and educational materials and the cutest Civet Cat t-shirt ever, drawn by Kelvin of course!
A huge amount of effort went on behind the scenes to make this event possible. From tireless hands to make sure everyone had enough coffee to keep going. Joelle said she felt like 'Vanna White' finding people to introduce to the Guest of Honour. Siti was not only our MC but also handed out encouraging facebook 'like' stickers. Yay, I got one!
Lots and lots of photographers work endlessly throughout the long event. Kelvin posted up handwritten programme updates throughout the day. And the many young chairpeople who not only introduced all the speakers and managed the Q&A sessions so well, but also did a great job on the dreaded time-keeping instruments to make sure all speakers kept to their allocated 10-min slot. There were also people who made sure we had appropriate background music in between and took care of the countless other details for a smooth Symposium.

There was obviously lots of effort to ensure two tea breaks that were not only sumptuous, but as Siva mentioned, vetted the caterers to make sure they were green, i.e, did not use plastic disposables. The teas were so scrumptious and plentiful, I didn't even have to eat lunch or dinner. Btw, I love Ben's dugong shirt!
The Symposium went live on the interwebs! All thanks to the tireless efforts of Twitter Warrior Ivan Kwan who live tweeted non-stop for 10 hours straight. To the point that he got locked out and had to tweet on his other account. And those who missed out will have to thank Andy Dinesh who doggedly videotaped all the talks and other events at the Symposium.
Of course, we should especially thank Linda Goh and Lim Wei Ling who put in long hours and lots of work to organise the Symposium. And the most important person: Siva, whose boundless energy and deep involvement in the community not only made this and previous Symposium events possible, but keeps us going in between.
Airani and Weiting helped take care of those to be awarded at the Symposium. They and Siva also tricked me! I was totally surprised by the kind award and overwhelmed! I find what I do to be such a normal part of my life that I am quite embarrassed by this attention. But I really do appreciate it and am motivated to do better.
The Symposium worked like a bomb! Explosively inspiring for so many of us! More links below to photos, thoughts and background on the Symposium.

As Siva said, the work between Symposiums goes on. Can't wait for the next Symposium, hopefully it won't be another four-year wait!

Links to more

Impressions of the Symposium

Photos on facebook

Behind the scenes


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