Singapore’s first Marine Park at Sisters’ Island!

On 12 July 2014 at the annual Festival of Biodiversity, Minister Desmond Lee announced the opening of the first Marine Park on Sisters’ Island, one of the off-shore island of Singapore. It was something to celebrate because marine biodiversity in Singapore is rich and having a Marine Park would provide our marine biodiversity with a safe haven. The public can sign up for free guided walks and the dates of the walks are available here.

Minister Desmond Lee was invited for a guided walk at the future Marine Park and I represented Toddycats, the volunteer group at LCKNHM on this trip and was treated to the amazing biodiversity that can be found at Sisters’ Island.

IMG_5069[1]Ria giving a safety briefing and showing the participants how a stone fish looks like. She cautioned us about looking out for the venomous fish and told us to look where we place our feet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeastar with one arm missing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACorals that were translocated from Semakau Landfill, they are doing well at Sisters’ Island!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiant carpet anemone; spot the clam that is on the anemone!


This is the egg case of a moon snail. The female moon snail excretes mucus which binds the sand and her eggs to give the eggs protection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Anemone shrimp usually live in pairs on an anemone, we only spotted one though.


We spotted a flower crab that was scurrying across the intertidal flats. It must have felt threatened because there were so many people staring at it and starting waving its pincers at us.


The star of the day was the Giant Clam. With the new marine park in place, there are plans to reintroduce this endangered clam back into our waters.


The view of Sisters’ Island as we left for mainland. Remember to sign up for the free guided walks to learn more about the amazing marine biodiversity that we have in Singapore!

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On my way to US:)

I’m waiting at the transit area of Pudong International Airport, Shanghai, en route to San Francisco. Gonna be traveling for about 2 weeks before heading to New York to catch the mass spawning of the Atlantic horseshoe crab. I’ll be meeting with other horseshoe crab researchers there and will be giving a talk as well!

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Poster presentation day

Today marks a milestone in my FYP journey.

Me and my poster!

Me and my poster!

Poster presentation went pretty well and honestly, I was nervous but excited to present my project. Many people gave me very useful feedback and we had some pretty interesting and insightful discussions.

Dr. Amy Choong asked me if I was happy with my project. I told her I was, and I realised that I grew alot in the process. I started out as a headless chicken and dissected horseshoe crabs using a pen knife (until Siva and Marcus saw what I was doing and explained the use of a scalpel blade) to being able to pick out tiny ostracods and nematodes and identify polychaetes (ok, only 2 families) by their fangs.

I am truly glad that I embarked on this seemingly impossible FYP project:)

The poster won’t have turned out so nicely without the help of the Otterman Holt.The seniors did countless of dry runs with me, proof read and went through the formatting of my poster throughout the entire one and a half weeks. And also, Siva who helped to make my discussions concrete. Its nice to be part of this big family who understand the passion for the project and doesn’t give you weird stares when you gush about your organism non-stop.

Seniors decked in blue.

Seniors decked in blue.


Marcus’s birthday and post poster Ice cream celebration!

Special thanks to TK for picking out all the nitty gritty details in my poster (this bullet not aligned; must be 4 cm, not 4cm; figure not aligned!) and to Bee Yan for the mangrove/taxonomic advice (plants are not important!).



Bee Yan!

Bee Yan!

To the S14 labbies who stayed till late at night and were always around on weekends, thanks for the cross cubicle talks in the students’ room,  your company was always a source of comfort!

Not forgetting my family who had to deal with a sleep deprived and cranky me for the past one and a half weeks, I promise to be nicer.

FYP hasn’t ended, I have another presentation on Monday and thesis report is due on 10 April. Work resumes tomorrow:)

Horseshoe crab origami by TK and me covering my face because I was too tired to take photos.

Horseshoe crab origami by TK and me covering my face because I was too tired to take photos.

P.S. I double checked and made sure that there was a full stop at the end of all my captions.



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Points to note:

  • Singapore is/has undergone rapid development. In addition to sea level rise, how much mangrove will be left?
  • Mangrove left in Singapore located along Western and Northern coast
  • Essentially medium (ca. 100 ha or 1 km2) to small remnant patches (ca. 20 to 50 ha), and isolated strips (ca. 10 ha or less) confined to tidal river, river mouths and sheltered bays except for the mangroves on Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin

  • Current mangrove forest estimated at 7.35km², which is 1% of Singapore.
  • Largest tract of mangrove on main island is SBWR, if combine Mandai, Kranji and Lim Chu Kang, mangrove there will be 136 ha.
  • SBWR is 98 ha, Mandai is 20 ha, Kranji 8 ha, LCK 10 ha
  • Mangrove tree species diversity still high, holds half of the number of global mangrove species.
  • To restore and reverse decline mangrove forest, should re-connect ecologically remnant patches of mangrove forest.
  • Mangroves can be rehabilitated but full ecosystem functions may not be effectively restored because rare species difficult to replace and replanting of spp may be difficult.
  • The loss of keystone (or foundation) tree species often changes the local environment on which a variety of other plant and animal species depend and this will ultimately disrupt the fundamental ecosystem processes including rates of decomposition, nutrient fluxes, carbon sequestration, and energy flow; and dramatically alters the system dynamics of
    associated aquatic ecosystems (Ellison et al., 2005). In our context, we do not know how the loss of one species, and with several species close to local extinction, will perturb the fundamental mangrove ecosystem processes.

Here’s the link to the paper:,%202013.%20Singapore%20Mangroves.pdf

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Poster presentation is on the 26 of March.                                                                                            Thesis is due on 10 April.

So I have been sorting like mad. Horseshoe crab gut samples are all done and I am left with 7 sediment samples.

Managed to id another gut content with TK’s help. Chironomid larvae. Identifying them took some CSI work with only the heads being recognizable until I found a few complete chironomids in the gut content.

According to Wiki, chironomids are insects, non-biting flies to be exact. Larvae are found in supposedly degraded ecosystems because they have adapted to anoxic conditions. Does it mean Mandai is polluted? Not necessarily. Because the mud habitat is generally anoxic.

An interesting thing to note is that juvnile horseshoe crabs (T. tridentatus and C. rotundicauda) in Hong Kong feed mainly on chironomid larvae. Doesn’t seem the case for Mandai where polychaetes are the most commonly occurring food item. Why the disparity? Might be because insect larvae aren’t as abundant as polychaetes in Mandai? Haven’t found chironomids in the sediments so far.


Chironomid larvae

TK also helped me identified another gut content. This is a barnacle larvae, cypris to be exact. She went for a graduate congress in Malaysia and the speaker was talking about his study on barnacles. She messaged me excitedly to tell me that she had a possible id for my unknown gut content, after which she managed to catch the guy and show him my photo. The guy said highly possible that its a cypris and also mentioned that they are ideal food for other organisms at this stage because they hold alot of nutrition content (they do not feed at this stage, priority is to look for a good environment to settle down, so the nutrients in them are supposed to last them till they settle down).


Barnacle larvae

Sorting mud sediment samples are extremely painful because the sediments are very fine and you really need to look very closely to pick out infauna. The sand ones are much better because they are coarser and infauna is easier to spot. So far nothing that in particular that caught my attention in the sediments, maybe because I kind of have already seen everything that is there. But copepods are still my favourite.



Yen Ling from TMSI is also helping me with polycheate identification based on fangs. These biod people are all so helpful, glad to be in such a community:) Will post about polychaetes soon!

In other news, I went for HSBC’s coastal cleanup at Semakau. Its such a trash filled place, and I really do not like styrofoam now. Horrbile styrofoam, they break down into small bits that are extremely detrimental to the ecosystem because animals may ingest them. Interesting how I noticed that all the mangrove trees where Rhizophoras and Ngan Kee mentioned about how when they replanted mangroves, only one species was planted. Haha.

I also went birding with the birder Grace Tang for our urban ecology project. Quite fun, even though waking up at 5am is crap. I learnt about the Crimson Sunbird and the Blue Crown Hanging Parrot and alot of other birds that I can’t remember. Interesting to note that I can’t spot birds/terrestrial life for nuts. Must be something to do with the search image. I’m gonna get the terrestrial people to bring me out after FYP.

Blogging is also good because it forces me to research and consolidate my thoughts.                   Life’s realllllly busy, but nice in a way because I love what I’m doing.

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I might have been mistaking ostracods for flatworms undergoing regeneration.

Ostracods are bivalve looking crusteaceans that have 7 pairs of appendages that can be kept in the carapace. They can have eye spots.

Why I think my ‘flatworms’ are ostracods:

1. I found a ‘flatworm’ with appendages sticking out. I am pretty sure flatworms don’t have appendages.


2. Upon closer examination, it seems like there is an opening ( at the top of photo).


3. The yellow spots may be the eggs that female ostracods brood.

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Junkie Horseshoe Crab

I have many many samples to sort (7 horseshoe crabs and 6 sediment samples). Time to pull an all-nighter soon.

Today’s horseshoe crab, F#13 (female, no. 13) ate a whole lot of junk food. So far, polychaetes and arthropods are pretty common but this horseshoe crab ate so many different things that I have never come across.

1. Seastar.

Second time it occurred in gut content, this seastar was much bigger than the first one I saw.. Never seen in sediment samples before. 


2. Cute little…

I have no idea what this is, my guess is some sort of crustacean? You can see the appendages coming out from the shell like thing. First time it occurred, and there were 3 of them. This was pretty much the most interesting find today.

3. Fish bone?

This is definitely something hard, either bone or shell. I named the first one fish bone and the purple one purple bone. Second time it occurred and the previous time it occurred, both white and purple ‘bone’ were present too. 
ImageImage4. Ostracod or bivalve?

I used to consider something an ostracod when it has appendages sticking out but I think ostracods can keep their appendages. Another way to tell ostracods from bivalves is that ostracods have eyes. I think the black dot in the picture is an eye so this is an ostracod. But I’m not sure, gotta check somemore. Another thing I thought of to tell them apart is by the umbo, don’t think ostracods have that. Shall check and update again!Image5. Polychaete

This fang occurred a number of times too, maybe 5? And each time it occurs, it comes in a set of 4. Today, it came attached to a long string like thing which I believe its a worm. Juat thinks its a eunicid. Again, more research to be done.Image

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Interesting finds and discussions

Gut content


Sea star


Amphipods (highly possible) in the crop


Amphipods from the crop


Mite-like organims, seem to be occurring quite frequently





Sediment infauna







Interesting discussions

  1. What is considered accidental ingestion?
  2. Is there a minimum size to the food items that the gnathobases can grind?
  3. Identification- Lowry, Helen (TMSI), Bee Yan’s book, Tan Koh Siang,  Tan Siong Kiat (RMBR)
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Project check


  1. What is the diet of horseshoe crabs in Mandai mangrove?
    1. Raw data
    2. Frequency of occurrence and relative importance
    3. Do they feed selectivity? (Strauss selectivity test)
  2. Do the diet of male, female and juveniles HSC differ?
    1. Compare gut content of male, female and juvenile (Frequency of occurrence and relative importance)
    2. Compare feeding intensity (ANOVA)
  3. Do the diet of HSC differ base on the habitat (tidal streams or mudflat)?
    1.  Compare diet of those collected from tidal stream and mudflat (Table and graph)
    2. Compare feeding intensity (ANOVA)
  4. What is the infauna biodiversity like in Mandai?
    1. Raw data: ID
    2. Does it differ between tidal stream and mudflat? (stats test)
  5. What are the feeding structures of the MHSC?
    1. Photo/drawings
    2. Label


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Just flip em’!

This is the Just flip em’! song song that (open it in a new tab!)I mentioned in my previous post.
Pretty catchy eh.

Just flip ‘em!
(copyright Janine Kelly 2001)

If you take a little walk down by the sea
You just might find some horseshoe crabs washed up on the beach.
And if theyʼre stranded upside down and if their legs are in the air,
Tell yourself, “Iʼm gonna help them out; Iʼm gonna walk right over there.

Just flip ʻem, flip ʻem over. Flip ʻem over, let them live.
Just flip ʻem, flip ʻem over. They need all the help we have to give them.
Flip ʻem, flip ʻem over and very soon youʼll see
Those horseshoe crabs will be making their way back home to the sea.

You know, horseshoe crabs are really not crustaceans; theyʼre not crabs!
Theyʼre called Merostomata, kind of related to a spider. How ʻbout that!
And theyʼre gentle and theyʼre harmless. And youʼd be such a help–
If you see them stranded upside down, gently flip them by their shell.
Now donʼt flip them by their tail ʻcause that will hurt that horseshoe crab.
It hurts them the way it hurts a little puppy or a cat.
So to flip them over properly, flip them by their shell
And as the horseshoe crabs go home, theyʼre gonna thank you for your help! (Chorus)

The mommies lay their eggs on the beach in holes. These are her nests.
She lays a hundred thousand eggs and then she needs a rest.
And then the trilobites, or babies hatch and then they make their way
To the intertidal waters where theyʼll grow up in the bay.
Horseshoe crabs were here a hundred million years before the dinosaur
And theyʼre very hardy creatures in their homes along the ocean floor.
But they canʼt survive a day stranded on the beach upside down
So if you see any flipped onto their backs please help them turn around. (Chorus)

Horseshoe crabs have ten eyes; not just two like you and me.
They use them for more than seeing things while their swimming in the sea.
Theyʼve been such a help to science ʻcause research on those eyes
Helped to win the 1967 Nobel Prize!
These quite amazing creatures have saved millions of lives
The horseshoe crab protects us from toxins that might hide
In our vaccines and medicines. Theyʼve been such a gift!
So if you see they need your help on the beach, wonʼt you offer them a little FLIP?

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