24 April 2013

Sharing about our shores: School talk for Youth for the Environment Day

This afternoon, I had a great time sharing about our shores with 800 students and teachers of River Valley High School.
Thanks Neo Su Hwei for inviting me to speak as part of the school's Youth For the Environment Day event! And for the Environment Club for giving me such a warm welcome.

After my talk, there was a most interesting quiz on marine life!
The quiz was awesomely techie!
Participants enter their answers on their handphones!
I was most impressed by the questions chosen for the Quiz. And I've added some links here for those who want to learn more about the questions. Starfish are indeed NOT fish, which is why most nature guides prefer to call them sea stars. Starfish are invertebrates (animals without backbones) that belong to the group EchinodermsFish are vertebrates (like you and me) with backbones. Even scientists struggle with whether to call them sea stars or starfish or other common terms, here's more on the naming issue on the awesome Echinoblog by Chris Mah, world expert on these creatures.
Yes, plastic bags do look like jellyfish and thus sadly, eaten by sea turtles. Because sea turtles can't throw up, if the trash it eats doesn't pass through the turtle, its digestive system is blocked and it dies a slow and painful death.
I'm very impressed that the students picked on the rather complicated but important topic of invasive aliens! What are invasive aliens? What impact can they have? How did they get here and what can we do about them? Find out in the Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity blog.
There seems to be a sea star lover among the quiz organisers! As there was another question on the fascinating cushion star, which is quite commonly seen in Singapore shores. In fact Singapore has a wide variety of sea stars! Some are small, others can be very large - even bigger than your face!
There was also a question on sharks being killed for their fins, with more information about this sad issue. You can learn more about this from groups in Singapore that work tirelessly on this issue, such as Project FINS.
Wow, there's even a question about the serious issue of mass coral bleaching! I was glad they covered it in the quiz as I had taken this topic out of my talk -- thinking it was a little too technical. But the quiz organisers did a great job highlighting the issue. Sadly, mass coral bleaching does happen in Singapore. The good news, so far, is that our reefs seem to have survived the recent episodes. Here's more about coral bleaching in Singapore on the Bleach Watch Singapore blog.
The School has an enthusiastic Environment Club whose members have been organising all kinds of activities for their fellow schoolmates to celebrate the Day, in addition to the talk and the quiz. Here's some them before the talk, getting all the details sorted out.
Wow, what a delight to meet Jose Hong's sister after the talk!
And here's all the people who made the event possible.
I had a great time sharing about Singapore's awesome shores. Yes, Singapore has wild dolphins, otters, dugongs, sea turtles and more!
A4 Poster: The Superb Sisters
One of the many posters and photos
for free download from wildsingapore flickr
I've also updated my 'filler' slideshow that showcases some of the marine life, landscapes and volunteers of Singapore shores. It's now on SlideShare for free download.

I also took the opportunity to highlight the efforts by Youth for Ecology, a group of young people hoping to gather the views of people 13-25 years on "What do YOU think is important in the long run?". Join their dialogue sessions on Saturdays at the National University of Singapore, or weekdays at Jurong Library. More details on their website.
There were lots of interesting questions after the talk, with enthusiastic interest shown in participating in environmental work. It's so inspiring to see so many enthusiastic young people making a difference.

Yes, each one of us can make a difference for our shores! Simply Explore, Express and ACT!

This is my last talk before I get sucked into the maelstorm of exhausting predawn field trips, Southern Expedition and other major events that won't let up until August. I can't give any talks until later in the year. I do apologise to those who have requested for talks during this period.

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