Tweets from the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III (BOSS3)

Tweets were posted live by Ivan Kwan and David Tan for those who could not join us. Jocelyne Sze copied their twitter archives, sorted tweets chronologically and inserted photos. The link to this published page is listed on the BoSS3 webpage at Thanks everyone! Sivasothi

Ivan Kwan’s tweets

David Tan’s tweets

Video timings

7.30am         Coffee for early birds

At the Third Singapore Biodiversity Symposium

Ready for the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium 3? I'll be providing live updates throughout the day!

7.45am at the Biodiversity Symposium and there's quite a crowd!

Some of the posters that will be showcased at . Will take a closer look during the tea breaks!


Posters featuring Coastal Cleanup. 20 years of battling marine trash!  

The Raffles Museum Toddycats! booth. Will be sharing stories about Singaporean wildlife during the lunch break.

8.00am         Registration

8.30am         Organiser’s welcome

Part 1 - 1:24 to 11:21

Inside NUS LT27 waiting for the Biodiversity Symposium to begin

Guest of Honour for  Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin arrives.

Opening address by Sivasothi, talking about importance of sharing information and some background about the Biodiversity Symposium

"NParks has vetted the caterer to make sure that they are green." -Sivasothi, to chuckles from the audience.

Theme for  is "The Next Generation" - most of the speakers are less than 42 years of age.

"When we take students to Bt Timah, and we ask who's ever been here, it's the exchange student who raises his hand."

Sivasothi raises the topic of ignorance and nature deficiency among the youths, who are oblivious & unaware of local biodiversity.

"Will we stay green? We can't take it for granted." - Sivasothi

Opening address by Guest of Honour

Part 1 - 11:40 to 20:40 impromptu, 20:40 to 32:40 formal

BG(NS) Tan Chuan-Jin takes the podium for his opening address

Tan Chuan-Jin talks about the challenges of conservation in Singapore, and tapping on the knowledge of the community

He mentions how our native flora & fauna make up part of what it means to be Singaporean.

"Tensions (between conservationists & government) are inevitable, but necessary."

“Government does not monopolise wisdom, and active citizenry needs to be encouraged” - BG (NS) Tan Chuan Jin

He highlights the importance of how individuals can make a difference. Indeed, if only more Singaporeans took action.

He mentions the City in a Garden vision, as well as the Eco-Link and the Green Corridor.

Tan Chuan-Jin showcases 2 examples of committed individuals - Lim Wei Ling and Marcus Chua

He encourages everyone to share our natural wonders with the younger generations, and "prepare them for National Service."

Presentation of Symposium Awards

Part 1 - 33:15 to 48:00

Sivasothi presents some Symposium awards, in recognition of the efforts and contributions of some individuals.

Sivasothi talks about Coastal cleanup, which is now 20 years old.

Sivasothi shares about Coastal cleanup's efforts, which have gone beyond Singapore's shores, in Penang and Bintan.

Last year, 13,926kg of trash was collected from Singapore's shores during Coastalcleanup.

Sivasothi - how long can the landfill at Pulau Semakau last?

Some individuals & organisations have persisted and remain committed to Coastal cleanup for 20 years.

Sivasothi quotes a paragraph from Tan Chuan-Jin's blog. "See, you blog and get into trouble."

Presentation of Symposium awards, to the organisations and individuals who have contributed greatly to Coastal cleanup.

Ria Tan gets a Symposium award as well. As stated by Sivasothi, "She is a true force of Nature."

GOH Tan Chuan-Jin takes his leave to take a look at the exhibits and posters outside. And it's time for the tea break!

9.15am         Tea Break / Poster Session 1

Tan Chuan-Jin looks at some of the posters.

Exhibits by NParks & URA  

Exhibits by MPA & NEA  


The City in a Garden vision for Singapore

The posters generate a lot of interest. These ones are on urban common palm civets.  

The Raffles museum booth selling museum merchandise such as T-shirts, books & badges


The people who submitted posters for the Biodiversity Symposium are busy presenting their work


The Raffles museum Toddycats! hard at work

NParks booth on BIOME - Biodiversity and Environment Database System  

10.15am         Impressions from the Community


Zeehan Jaafar, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

Tea break's over! Zeehan Jaffar chairs the 1st session: Impressions from the Community

Terrestrial issues in Singapore: perspectives from the natural history community

        N. Sivasothi, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

        Part 2 - 0:50 to 11:00

Sivasothi talks about Bukit Timah: a patient under intensive care? Bt Timah might be the subject of some greenwashing.

Sivasothi pauses to announce the arrival of Paddy Murphy, the King of the Mangroves.

Bt Timah is isolated and threatened on all sides - isolation + heavy impact from large number of visitors.

"At 6.45am (at Bt Timah), you might have trouble finding parking. By 8am, it's Orchard Road in Bt Timah."

Sivasothi says Bukit Timah needs a place for people to scream to buffer the wildlife from human impact without isolating public  

Sivasothi shares about the importance of buffer zones: space for the noisy kids to scream and trample, and a protected core area

Human-wildlife conflict: Problems with long-tailed macaques & common palm civets, similar to conflict with stray cats.

The general trend is that only a very small % ever want the animals killed

"The vocal minority cannot hijack the cause."

Only 2-4% of people want animals killed due to urban encroachment and conservation should not be hijacked by this minority

What’s going on with freshwater biodiversity in Singapore?

Darren Yeo, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

        Part 2 - 11:50 to 23:58

Next speaker: Dr. Darren Yeo, who focuses on freshwater ecosystems. Started on crustaceans, now investigating invasive species

People tend to forget that canals, reservoirs and ponds are also freshwater habitats - Dr Darren Yeo at the Biodiversity Symposium

More than 1/2 of Singapore's area is classified as water catchment.

Natural freshwater habitats include streams and freshwater swamp forest.

Many native organisms found in these natural habitats include fishes and shrimps found and described from Singapore.

E.g. Harlequin rasbora was described from specimens in Botanic Gardens - the population there is now extinct.

Darren also mentions the 3 endemic species of freshwater crabs - Uniquely Singapore.

We have lost 43% of native freshwater fishes and 30% of freshwater crabs and prawns. :C

The great freshwater biodiversity squeeze: many of our native aquatic species are restricted to Bt Timah & CCNR area

Much of our native freshwater diversity is squeezed into very small areas (esp. Nee Soon Swamp Forest) - Dr Darren Yeo at the Biodiversity Symposium

Threats - loss or modification of freshwater habitats - dam building, canalisation for flood & mosquito control

Loss of habitat (from dam construction, canalisation and mosquito control) and over-exploitation major threat to freshwater habitats

Overexploitation for food and ornamental fish  Less prevalent but still occurs in Singapore

Pollution - chemicals & nutrients from Industrial/domestic effluent; Urban/rural surface runoff

Another area of interest is the possible impact of invasive & non-native species, like red-eared slider turtles & Amazon stingrays

Pet shops are not allowed to sell stingrays to the public, but fish farms can sell to individuals.

But wait, from article in Nov 2010, AVA has now allowed the sale of freshwater stringrays in pet shops...

Darren concludes with an overview of what's going on in freshwater biodiversity research and outreach.

Books, books and more books! Efforts and activity in promoting freshwater conservation in Singapore

Making a difference for Singapore’s marine biodiversity

Ria Tan, WildSingapore

        Part 2 - 24:48 to 36:05

Next speaker: Ria Tan, who needs no introduction.

"Singapore got marine life, meh?" Most common contact with marine life: chilli crab and butter prawn

Singapore got marine life, meh? Common responses by Singaporeans

A quick run-through of some of our shores, such as Chek jawa, Sisters Islands, as well as reports of sea turtles & dolphins

Singapore has dugongs and otters, many important marine ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, coral reefs and mangroves.

Ria shares about the threats, such as overexploitation, abandoned driftnets and fishing lines, pollution, and development.

Litter, driftnets, fishing traps are major threats to marine life - Ria Tan at the Biodiversity Symposium

Petrochemical and industries occur very near some of our very special shores.

Cyrene reef a massively rich marine habitat right smack within the 'Industrial Triange' and between major shipping lanes

Reclamation is another threat to many of our shores. We've lost a reef near Pulau Hantu, as well as on Sentosa

Tanah Merah beach heavily impacted by recent oil spill but marine life continues to thrive

Ria shares about marine life growing on our artificial shores - Tanah Merah, pontoons at Keppel Bay, and artificial seawalls

Final words: Explore, Express, and Act.  Ria is a living example of the influence of an individual.

We need to go beyond complaint letters, and reveal the positive aspects of our nature areas. We have to speak up for them.

Important for scientific information to get to government agencies

Sivasothi: Powerful 10-min presentation by Ria Tan illustrating why she's the BoSS Award Recipient 2011 yet again!

Q & A session

        Part 2 - 0:36:42 to 0:54:54

Q&A: What's the best way to get scientific results to influence public policy?

Lena from NParks explains importance of sharing information & data to govt agencies.

NParks has set up a centralised database called BIOME to centralise biodiversity data - Lena from NParks

Sivasothi's answer: You can organise a conference... Audience chuckles

Darren: There are usually agreements with govt agencies to share data when applying for the required permits for research.

Sivasothi recommends sending researchers to present data, 1st to the govt agencies, then to the public. - Good outreach strategy

Scientific research needs to be couched in practical terms for it to be relevant to government agencies

Question on whether there are efforts for schools to take ownership of natural areas. Karen Teo will be sharing about it later

Final question: How do we approach people who are only interested in charismatic fauna?

How do we conserve more fundamental species and environments beyond the more 'charismatic' species?

Sivasothi says Coastal cleanup uses otters, dolphins & dugongs to draw in participants, even if they end up in muddy mangroves

Appeal to something the public can relate to to elicit their interest

Darren says it's all about relating to the target audience. Predation, sex, or whether it's edible.

Another question was the value of captive collections for conservation.

Sivasothi shares about how captive collections like the zoos & aquaria do play a critical role in education & inspiring ppl

Whether a captive animal/area can be meaningfully educational depends on what you make of it

I didn't know the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre started out from individuals who first worked at the zoo. Now they're saving sun bears in Borneo.

11.00am         Forests Session, 5 speakers (10 mins per presentation)


Yong Ding Li, South-east Asian Biodiversity Society, Nature Society (Singapore)

Yong Ding Li, chairperson for the Forests session, begins by introducing Delfinn Tan, who will present on EcoLink @ BKE

Singapore's biodiversity does not get as much media traction as compared to other regions such as the Serengeti - Yong Ding Li at the Biodiversity Symposium

Who will cross the highway? Monitoring surveys for the Ecolink        

Delfinn Sweimay Tan & Tan Yeng Kheng, NParks (Central Nature Reserve)

Part 2 - 0:58:00 to 1:07:00

How effective would the EcoLink be in encouraging animals to cross between Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) and Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)?

The EcoLink @ Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) is supposedly the 1st project by any Southeast Asian government to reconnect 2 nature areas.

Roadkill along BKE points to attempts by animals at crossing BKE - possibility of EcoLink providing a bridge that animals will use

Who else uses the BKE? Photo of pangolin mother and baby crossing Rifle Range Road. Seconds later, a car passed by.

"If the car had been there a few seconds earlier, this could have been a pangolin pancake."

Why build the EcoLink @ BKE? Reconnect Bt Timah Nature Reserve with Central Catchment Nature Reserve

Bt Timah's isolation and fragmentation might cause some species to die out, due to lack of replenishment from CCNR.

Forest fragmentation tends to result in degeneration due to a smaller number of species

EcoLink monitoring surveys involving Nanyang Technological University(NTU), National University of Singapre (NUS), Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) & Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) have looked at arthropods, both small and large mammals, and birds.

Bird banding - birds caught in mist-nets placed alongside BKE, banded with unique numbers, measured, and released.

No forest-dependent bird species have been determined to have moved between BTNR and CCNR - Impact of BKE on forest fragmentation

Forest-dependent species like Asian fairy bluebird & red-crowned barbet may decline if the isolated forests degrade further.

Dairy Farm Nature Park is an important feeding & resting ground for birds.

100+ camera traps in 2 sites (1 on each side of BKE), allows non-intrusive 24/7 monitoring of wildlife.

Malayan Porcupine rediscovered in BTNR due to camera trapping by NParks

Malayan porcupine recorded on camera trap in Bukit Timah - formerly thought extinct on Singapore mainland!

Species recorded by camera traps include pangolin, common palm civet, lesser mousedeer, and even sambar deer!

EcoLink @ BKE will improve animal movement between BTNR & CCNR. Preliminary results have been encouraging

Nature rocks, Let’s G.O. (go outside)!

Karen Teo, NParks (Central Nature Reserve)

Part 2 - 1:07:53 to 1:19:10

Next: Karen Teo from NParks on education and outreach, and why it's important to go outdoors.

Karen's impression of the ignorant Singaporean: "Singapore got forests, meh?"

Singapore got forests, meh? Another common question posed by Singaporeans

Students' typical impression of beautiful photos of BTNR & CCNR "Wah, is this Singapore?"

NParks Nature Reserves Survey found a staggering amount of species, including some previously undiscovered, and rediscovered.

1995 and 2001 - Major milestone years in NParks' outreach activities

1995 & 2001: Commencement of outreach & education programmes at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Conservation Volunteer Programme: Example of Leshon Lee, who started guiding when he was just 9 years old!

Oldest conservation volunteer is 90 years old!

School & corporate groups participate in habitat restoration programmes: clearing invasive weeds and planting.

For the teachables heART for Nature Programme: Art & nature education for young children (4-7)

Using art to engage children from 4-7 y/o in nature education

Young Nature Explorers, Nature Keeper & Kids for Nature programmes for the older children.

Ultimately, it's all about encouraging participation and cultivating appreciation for nature.

Why would anybody want to be a botanist in Singapore?

Chong Kwek Yan & the Plant Systematics Lab., NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

Part 2 - 1:19:52 to 1:30:26

Next session: Chong Kwek Yan: Why would anybody want to be a botanist in Singapore?

Timeline of some important publications regarding the flora of Singapore

Latest checklist: 2141 (51%) native, 1822 (44%) exotic and 210 (5%) cryptogenic (unclear origin) species of plants.

Latest checklist of total vascular plant species in Singapore incorporates exotic as well as cryptogenic species

Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online is another platform for education - potential community project

Singapore's flora goes online at

Map comparing original vegetation of Singapore and current map - much of Singapore is now urban or managed vegetation

One area of research is the fate of former plantations in Singapore - is there succession to secondary rainforest?

Other studies include the establishment and spread of exotic plants.

The informal photos of the people involved in research with the Plant Systematics lab are hilarious.

Urban greenery studies and enhancing urban native biodiversity - investigating which natives are suitable for urban landscaping

100% native plant species demonstration plots - ecosystem services, and ex-situ conservation of genetics.

I still think plants are boring, but this talk reveals just how much there is to learn about plants in Singapore.

The new, the warm and the furry: undergraduate zoological explorations in Singapore

Marcus Chua, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

Part 2 - 1:31:18 to 1:44:45

Next: Marcus Chua on the new, the warm, and the furry. Mammal research in Singapore!

Mammal research in Singapore began with Sir Stamford Raffles

Mammal research in Singapore started with Sir Stamford Raffles, who collected and described a number of species in Southeast Asia.

Example: He described the cream-coloured giant squirrel, unfortunately probably extinct here now.

"Who wants to be a botanist when you can study mammals?" Even "Mad" Ridley studied mammals in Singapore

Who wants to be a botanist when you can study mammals!? -Marcus Chua at the Biodiversity Symposium

Ex-directors of Raffles Museum contributed a lot to knowledge of mammals in Southeast Asia.

John Harrison trumpeted mammal research in the University of Malaya in 1960s & 1970s.

Vertebrate Study Group (part of NSS) help survey Singapore for mammals.

Subaraj and the vertebrate study group in NSS are major contributors to mammal research in Singapore

Marcus Chua credits Sivasothi, who worked on otters; includes photo of dissection of otter carcass found at West Coast this year

Singapore has lost at least 71% of our mammals. Now, our questions are about how we can conserve them.

At least 71% of mammal species in Singapore have been lost - This has changed many of the research questions in Singapore

Norman Lim studied colugos & pangolins. His research showed that colugos are not as endangered as once thought.

Andie Ang studied the banded leaf monkey: investigated diet & population & genetics.

Marcus Chua himself studied Ubin mammals, included rediscovery of greater mousedeer.

Weiting and Tze Kwan study common palm civets, a species which is still doing quite well.

Meryl is studying the ecology & distribution of smooth-coated otters in Singapore

Amanda Tan: studies small mammals, Ou Yang Xiuling looks at scavengers in the forest. Mei Ailian looking at community cats

Ong SayLin and Rachael Li are studying the return of wild boar to mainland Singapore.

Wild boar have returned to Singapore, but their predators (tigers & leopards) are gone. What are their impact on forests?

It's a great time to study mammals now in NUS

Kena rotan – a botanist gets whipped in the forest

Adrian Loo, Raffles Institution

Part 2 - 1:46:09 to 1:57:55

Next: Adrian Loo (@lekowala) on palms of Singapore. "Kena rotan: a botanist gets whipped in the forest."

Adrian Loo talking about the palms that give us the family heirloom that is the rotan cane

Canes are made from rattan, a palm. "Too bad we remove the spines."

What are palms? Coconut is the most famous species. 54 native species listed in Singapore. 17 presumed locally extinct.

There are 54 native species of palm in Singapore, of which 17 are presumed extinct

Korthalsia rostrata - the 'wait a minute' palm, because you get snagged in it and have to slowly extricate yourself.

Korthalsia rostrata, known as 'wait-a-minute' in Australia since your friends have to wait a minute if you get caught in it

Daemonorops didymophylla has a reddish resin known as Dragon's blood.

Singapore has a remarkable diversity of palm species in spite of its tiny land mass

"There are as many palms in Singapore as on the whole of mainland Africa." Is this true?

Currently, this is no longer the case, due to updates in taxonomy. But we still have comparable numbers.

Fancy that, a little red dot has nearly as much palm diversity as the whole of mainland Africa!

4 palm species resdiscovered and 1 new record (never recorded before).

Current list: 41 extant species of palms in Singapore, 13 extinct. And we're still making discoveries in this tiny patch of forest!

Many new discoveries and rediscoveries being made in palm biodiversity in Singapore

"But children are in love with life, and it is their first love." - Tagore, 1933.

Q & A session

        Part 2 - 1:59:00 to 2:20:10

Q&A: Is there a movement to raise awareness of biodiversity in the education system, and how can we contribute?

The importance of reaching out to MOE and CPDD officers to bring back biodiversity to formal science education in SG

Singaporean children learn more about ecosystems & wildlife in other parts of the world than about SG nature

Seems that biodiversity and ecology has been relegated to the humanities by MOE

Not only do we need to teach biodiversity in the formal science curriculum, we need to teach more about native biodiversity as well

Potential target audiences: People from petrochemical companies & outdoor products companies need to be involved.

RE: Conservation outreach RT Grace Chua ...and the ministry of trade and industry, edb, construction and real estate companies.

Jocelyne Sze (recent JC graduate) shares how there's no continuation of ecology education in sec school & JC.

Karen Teo: In 2 years' time, there will be changes to the MOE curriculum to ensure continuity of education in ecology.

12.30pm         Lunch Break (lunch not provided)

Poster Session 2

Lunchtime, and time for me to man the Raffles museum Toddycats! booth.

Papercraft featuring Singapore's native wildlife at theRaffles museum Toddycats! booth.  

Back from lunch and ready for the next session.

1.00pm         Special updates, 2 speakers (10 mins per presentation)


N. Sivasothi, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

We return after lunch to Dr Tan Swee Hee updating us on the state of the future Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the fate of Apollo, Prince and Twinky

Tan Swee Hee, NUS (Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research)

        Part 3 - 0:01:30 to 0:15:43

Tan Swee Hee ('curator of dead seafood') up next to talk about the upcoming Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Original zoological & botanical collections were formerly housed at National Museum, but then 1971, museum changed focus to history

These collections were 'homeless' after 1972, then moved to NUS in 1988.

Museum holds > 1/2 million specimens, including >500 type specimens.

There are more than 500,000 specimens in the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research!!  

Int'l Museum Day 2009 showed need for a proper natural history museum in Singapore, when visitors overwhelmed the Raffles museum.

$46m was raised in 6 months to secure the land for the new natural history museum to be located next to University Cultural Centre.

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum to be built on site of current Office of Environment and Design building

Architectural design of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum looks like something out of Avatar - Dr Tan Swee Hee

Major centrepiece for natural history museum: the 3 diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs Apollo, Prince & Twinky.

In a remarkable switch of gender, dinosaur originally named Apollo was renamed Apollonia after much larger Prince was discovered

Unfortunately, the whale that was in the old National Museum was given to Malaysia. No way we're going to get it back.

Museum sent a team to North America to observe fossil dig. "Who knows if these dinosaurs were made in some north Asian country?"

Despite criticism about value of dinosaurs to Singapore's biodiversity, money was raised to purchase the 3 dinosaur fossils. YAY!

The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP)

Linda Goh, NParks (National Biodiversity Centre)

        Part 3 - 0:16:28 to 0:24:27

Singapore's National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan being discussed now at the Biodiversity Symposium

NBSAP's 1st strategy: safeguard biodiversity, including species conservation & recovery programmes.

Concerted effort by NParks and various stakeholders in safeguarding Singapore's biodiversity (e.g. Banded Leaf Monkeys & Hornbills)

2nd strategy: Consider biodiversity issues in policy & decision-making.

Examples include Integrated Coastal Management & the Sustainable Management Plan for Chek Jawa

Integrating biodiversity issues with policy and decision-making (e.g. Chek Jawa)

3rd strategy: Improve knowledge of our biodiversity and the natural environment.

4th strategy: Enhance education and public awareness, e.g. education programmes, talks & promoting volunteerism.

Various programmes planned by NParks to enhance education and public awareness such as City in a Garden photo competition

5th strategy: Strengthen partnerships with stakeholders and promote international collaboration.

NParks strengthening partnerships with stakeholders (such as Team Seagrass) and fostering greater international collaboration

Participants can contribute to the Monitoring Working Group & National Targets Focus Group.

Find out more about the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan at

1.30pm         Freshwater Habitats Session, 4 speakers (10 mins per presentation)


Maxine Mowe, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences) & Adam Quek, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

Maxine & Adam are chairing the next session, which will be on freshwater ecosystems.

Minimising urbanisation impact on waterways - the use of Water Sensitive Urban Design and freshwater ecological guidelines

Benjamin Loh, Tan Puay Yok & James Wang-Wei, NParks (CUGE Research)

Part 3 - 0:26:42 to 0:37:55

Ben Loh on urban design and water quality guidelines to minimise impact of urbanisation on waterways & water bodies.

NParks trying to develop a model to focus on ecological value of Singapore's freshwater bodies

Management of our urban water bodies suffers from absence of a framework to assess chemical and ecological status.

Many of the ponds in our parks were built for aesthetics. Is it possible to develop an ecological model for assessing ponds?

Water quality guidelines for freshwater ponds in Singapore are being developed to help assess ecological health.

Another project aims to transform Kallang River at Bishan Park into a natural river, and to improve water quality.

Filter media added to pond at Bishan Park to filter and cleanse freshwater

Ameliorating highly eutrophic state of Kallang River along Bishan Park, transforming it into a meandering river

Species found along the Kallang River in Bishan Park include dragonflies, and waterbirds such as herons.

31 species of birds have been identified at Bishan Park, with more waterbirds being sighted after project completion

Another project is to improve water quality in a stormwater basin at Admiralty Park.

Admiralty Park stormwater basin badly contaminated by iron oxide leaching from surrounding environment

Pond at Admiralty Park is red due to iron oxide leaching from surrounding environment.

Strategy is to intercept the water, with filters and bio-retention to cleanse & treat it before flowing into stormwater basin

Ongoing project by NParks to treat water discharged into Admiralty Park stormwater basin with biofilters to clean water

The Story of the Freshwater Phytoplankton Guidebook

Wong Yueat Tin, PUB (Technology & Water Quality Office)

Part 3 - 0:38:24 to 0:49:50

Wong Yueat Tin on a guide to freshwater phytoplankton in Singapore Reservoirs. The small things matter too!

3 main groups of freshwater algae: Periphyton (attached to rocks), Phytoplankton (suspended in water), Benthic (at bottom).

Phytoplankton can be unicellular or multicellular, and even motile (some have flagella to swim around).

"Algae" is an artifiical term referring to many different groups of organisms.

A freshwater sample will contain a 'rojak' of major algal groups

Cyanobacteria ('blue-green algae') are bacteria-like

Other algae groups include green algae, euglenoids, dinoflagellates, yellow-green algae, golden-brown algae

Algal blooms can result in coloration of the water, or form a scum on the surface.

Algal 'scum' can come in different colours ranging from green to yellow to red

The colour and texture of pond scum varies according to the type of algae that is blooming.

Guidebook on freshwater phytoplankton aimed to provide a reference to more common algae found in reservoirs

Another aim was to allow readers to appreciate diversity of algae, the benefits & problems created by algae, and PUB's efforts.

Algae are exceedingly important due to their potential as future biofuels

Science Centre provided funding and published the guidebook, which was the 45th guidebook released.

Future projects might include freshwater zooplankton, such as rotifers and crustaceans.

Another Science Centre guidebook to be released in future is one on snails and non-marine molluscs of Singapore.

‘Bugs in my soup’ - freshwater macroinvertebrate biodiversity, a powerful tool for environmental and conservation management

Chong Jun Hien & Esther Clews, NUS (Tropical Marine Science Institute)

Part 3 - 0:50:15 to 1:02:17

Next: Chong Jun Hien on freshwater macroinvertebrates.

Midge swarms at Bedok Reservoir raise complaints of bugs in people's soup

Swarms of midges in Bedok earlier this year created a lot of inconvenience for residents

Freshwater lab at TMSI working to better understand macroinvertebrates in aquatic environments

Macroinvertebrates are basically those invertebrates visible to the naked eye (insects, annelid worms, molluscs, crustaceans etc.)

We look out and monitor our surroundings, which can indicate the health and quality of the environment.

Biomonitoring is the use of biological responses to assess changes in the environment, often due to anthropogenic causes.

Various aquatic organisms are tolerant to different parameters in the water, such as pollution, sedimentation, and oxygen content.

Sampling is relatively easy and can be used as an outreach tool for schoolchildren, who get to play with water and catch bugs.

Biomonitoring complements chemical testing of water quality, and help identify pollution and evaluate management policies

Biomonitoring can ultimately form the basis of an integrated catchment management system.

Biodiversity is more than just 'nice', 'iconic' and 'cute' species, but is an essential part of life

Alien aquatics in Singapore – friend or foe?

Tan Heok Hui, NUS (Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Dept. Biological Sciences)

        Part 3 - 1:03:10 to 1:14:15

Dr. Tan Heok Hui on non-native aquatic species in Singapore, and whether they're friends or foes.  Photo of pink tilapia in pond.

Hilarious photo of Heok Hui with fishing net in front of No Fishing sign.

Dr Tan Heok Hui tends to fish in places where fishing isn't allowed (with permission, of course)

Dr Tan Heok Hui is an ichthyologist by training, and studies freshwater fish biodiversity in Southeast Asia.

Ecological information about tropical fishes still largely unknown

Southeast Asia has ~3000 species of freshwater fishes.

Native freshwater fishes of Singapore: 1966: 42 species, 31 extinct species. 2008: 34 extant, 23 extinct/doubtful, 34 introduced

Harlequin rasbora was described in 1904 from specimens collected in Selangor and Singapore Botanic Gardens.

This is a flagship species for freshwater conservation in Singapore, and was featured in a 1962 series of stamps of fishes.

"This is quite an accurate series of stamps; I counted the number of scales, they're correct."

2010: 54 non-native species of fish recorded from reservoirs. Currently, >60 species (and counting).

Tons of non-native freshwater fish in Singapore, partly due to release since SG is a major ornamental fish trading spot

Ornamental fish trade partly responsible for presence of some of our non-native fishes.

Dominant families of non-native fishes in Singapore are cyprinids and cichlids.

Of the 2 most dominant families of non-native fish in Singapore are the Cyprinids and Cichlids - which can be fairly large

Heok Hui stumbles on recalling name of Cichla. "I don't do common names very well."

Green chromide introduced from southern India are common in estuarine and coastal waters around Singapore.

Ohh, the green chromide, a fish commonly found at Sungei Buloh, is an introduced species in Singapore!

Seems that green chromides are quite delicious - one way of controlling their population, perhaps?

Digressing a little into marine waters, and discussing the loss of marine habitats.

Silting in Singapore is a problem, with <3m visibility off Lazarus island

There are non-native marine fishes, made up of escapees from aquaculture and releases by religious devotees.

Before talking about controlling non-native aquatic life, we need to find out about the possible impacts on native aquatic life 1st

More research needs to be done on SG's non-native freshwater species, meaning that native species need to be better understood too

Final point: it's not just non-native fish, but also a number of other aquatic organisms (e.g. insects, crustaceans, molluscs etc.)

Q & A session

        Part 3 - 1:15:20 to 1:38:52

BioD & its impact is a truly interdisciplinary issue and perhaps future symposia should bring educators and the humanities tgt too

Bioremediation needs to be studied further, especially in terms of using plants to absorb pollutants. Where do we dispose of them?

There is a call for data to be open-access, so as to cultivate scientific inquiry and assist monitoring.

To build a culture of scientific inquiry and monitoring, data access needs to be made easier - comment at the Biodiversity Symposium

A question is raised about mitigating pollution from developments along Kallang River in Bishan Park.

Comment: Litter in Singapore is the result of Singaporeans becoming lazy.

Asked a question about regulation of potentially dangerous non-native species (e.g. piranha, electric eel, Amazon stingray)

Tropical fish industry is a powerful economic force, and AVA isn't going to regulate imports of so-called 'monster' fishes.

Loosening restrictions on exotic pet trade might open up Pandora's Box and invite all sorts of invasive species into Singapore.

I mentioned snapping turtles, which have been recorded in Singapore's reservoirs, even though they are illegal in Singapore.

Darren Yeo comments that not all non-native species are necessarily disastrous for environment.

After all, tilapia sustain many piscivoress (e.g. birds & otters), and reservoirs are artificial habitats anyway.

Not as if the harlequin rasbora will colonise the very different habitats of the reservoirs should all non-native fish vanish.

Like it or not, non-native species have carved a niche in our artificial habitats & we shouldn't dismiss non-native species offhand

2.50pm         Tea Break (tea will be served)

Poster Session 3

Tea-break now. Will resume tweeting in 50 mins time

And it's time for the tea break! Going to take a break and read some posters.

3.50pm         Marine Session, 6 speakers (10 mins per presentation)


Alison Wee, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences) & Nanthini Elamgovan, NParks

... and we're back!

Alison Wee & Nanthini Elamgovan chair the final session, focusing on marine ecosystems.

Getting muddy for nature - documenting Singapore’s marine biodiversity with community help

Jonathan Ngiam & Linda Goh, NParks (National Biodiversity Centre)

Part 4 - 0:02:18 to 0:11:50

First up, Jonathan Ngiam on the Mega Marine Survey 

Jonathan Ngiam talking about the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, aka the Mega Marine Survey

Mega Marine Survey is a national project to conduct a "stock-take" of Singapore's marine biodiversity.

The mega marine survey will be going to most, if not all of SG's marine habitats, even the military areas

All of Singapore's marine habitats will be surveyed. So far, the mudflat component was launched in November 2010.

Another group consists of the Singapore Pelagics, involving boat rides out to sea to document pelagic seabirds like terns & skuas

2 new species of skuas added to the Singapore list thanks to the efforts of the Singapore Pelagics

>300 volunteers have signed up for the Survey. Shell Eastern Petroleum & Care-for-Nature Trust Fund are corporate sponsors

Schools have also been involved, such as Hwa Chong Institution & students from NIE's NSSE programme.

Tools for the Survey include simple plastic pails, sieves, forceps & trowels.  It's muddy work though.

Plastic pails, kitchen sieves, forceps and trowels: the tools of a mega marine surveyor

Mud is so soft & treacherous that some come up with innovative techniques for moving through the terrain. Like rolling on the mud.

Forget rolling in the deep, rolling in the mud seems to be the better way of getting around the mudflats

At least 14 mudflat surveys have been done, at least 50 species of organisms have been collected. Many remain unidentified.

Examples of animals encountered during mudflat surveys include polychaete worms, bivalves, sea anemones, octopus & snapping shrimps

Potential new genus and new species of goby found during mega marine survey

Most excitingly, a potential new species of goby which might also be so unique that it might be classified under a new genus.

Community effort essential in contributing to the success of the mega marine survey - volunteers as ambassadors of natural heritage

Community effort is vital to the success of the survey; not just manual labour, but also in outreach & cultivating appreciation.

PROJECT SEMAKAU—Connecting Conservation and the Community

Soo Wai Kit & Wang Luan Keng, NUS (Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Dept. Biological Sciences)

Part 4 - 0:12:47 to 0:24:10

Soo Wai Kit will be presenting on Project Semakau, connecting conservation and the community.

Project Semakau is a community-based conservation project for conservation and promote awareness of biodiversity of Pulau Semakau

Incredible diversity of ecosystems present on Pulau Semakau

Coastal forest, secondary forest, grassland, mangrove forest, etc all present on P. Semakau

Semakau has diverse ecosystems, from coral reefs, seagrass meadows, coastal & secondary forests, to mangroves & grasslands.

Project Semakau relies heavily on volunteers, who learn how to ID species and survey methods.

>300 volunteers in 3 years with ~40 field trips for Proj. Semakau

Results: >300 volunteers in 3 years, nearly 40 field trips, >12,000 data points.

Project Semakau has many findings of species not previously recorded in Semakau or not even previously seen in Singapore.

>800 species have been recorded on Pualu Semakau.

P. Semakau is something of a veritable treasure trove of rare plants, rare animals and new discoveries waiting to be found

Proj. Semakau as a model for community-based projects that encourage education while generating meaningful research

Singapore’s coral reef heritage - ongoing efforts to document and understand a diverse ecosystem

Karenne Tun, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

        Part 4 - 0:25:12 to 0:37:56

Next: Karenne Tun presents on Singapore's Coral Reef Heritage.

Singapore's coral reefs were largely situated in the southwest, including areas now covered by Jurong Island.

Almost all of Singapore's reefs are on the southern side of Singapore's shores though many are under threat

Some of our richest areas are situated in our military live-firing areas  

Are there coral reefs in Singapore? Good greef, yes!

Most corals are broadcasters, spawning synchrony occurs within populations and species.

In Singapore, coral spawning typically occurs following the March or April full moon. More than 35 species observed spawning.

NUS Marine Bio Lab has been going out almost every year to monitor the coral mass spawning event

Dr James Guest knows all about coral sex and he's not afraid to talk about it -

'big huge invertebrate orgy' - a description of coral mass spawning

Over a dozen species of corals recorded spawning on a single night.

Triggers for coral spawning synchrony in Singapore are unclear, variation in temperature or light might be factors.

It is not clear what drives spawning synchrony, but temperature and light variations may drive spawning and spawn timing

Knowing coral reproductive timing is important, since coral eggs & sperms can be collected, raised in captivity, then reintroduced

Singapore waters have large numbers of larvae so with right conditions, corals can be encouraged to grow on surfaces e.g. sea walls

Limiting factor in Singapore is a lack of a suitable space and substrate for coral larvae to settle.

Artificial granite seawalls, given the right conditions and location, may become carpeted in corals over time.

New lame pun from Karenne Tun: Bio-diver-sea-ty!

An incredible and incredibly punny talk by Karenne Tun on Singapore's corals and marine life

Many species of coral can colonise a small area in SG, though instead of having many of few species, we have few of many species

Singapore has 57 hard coral genera (compare to 68 for entire Indo-Pacific region, 95 global)

255 hard coral species in Singapore, which isn't much but impressive for how little coral reef area we have left.

We can't take for granted that we have good diversity as these species come and go unless we do something to help

One particular species was thought extinct, 1 colony was rediscovered, but died after coral bleaching event in 2010. :C

Lim Swee Cheng (SpongeBob) rediscovered Neptune's Cup Sponge, described from Singapore, and once thought extinct here.

"If our corals themselves have not given up, why should we?" - Prof. Chou Loke Ming

Zoning out and zoning in – the SBWR action plan to integrate needs and protect wildlife

Ang Hui Ping, NParks

        Part 4 - 0:38:48 to 0:50:13

Next up: Ang Hui Ping on the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Master Plan

SBWR the first ASEAN heritage park and a major part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway

Sungei Buloh sees around 100,000 visitors every year, with peaks during the June and December holiday periods.

Kranji Nature Trail area is a good place to observe different types of habitats.

Plans to create a buffer zone, with Kranji Nature Trail a high-intensity zone for most visitors.

Demarcation of core high biodiversity zone and high density interactive zone in SBWR

Sungei Buloh itself will be classified as a zone of high conservation value, with different levels of restricted access.

Seems that there is an increasing focus on creating buffer areas for SG nature reserves to reduce effect of human visitation

Kranji Nature Trail to be renamed Sungei Buloh Wetland Park to draw closer relation with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

The new Sungei Buloh Wetland Park will even feature a trail with wheelchair access (good for parents with strollers and prams too).

Wow, under the new masterplan, SBWR+SBWP will be HUGE!

Upgraded SBWR to have a lab for research to be conducted. Booyah!

Battling extinction: the horseshoe crabs of Kranji mudflats

J. Vanitha & Hsu Chia Chi, Nature Society (Singapore)

Part 4 - 0:51:00 to 1:02:28

Vanitha presents the horseshoe crabs of Kranji mudflats.

Horseshoe crabs are not really crabs, but are more closely related to spiders and scorpions.

Horseshoe crab blood is blue.

Horseshoe crabs eat anything soft they can find on the ground (e.g. worms) but have special taste for fish food from kelong

Singapore is host to 2 of 4 horseshoe crab species and are heavily threatened by human activities

Threats to horseshoe crabs include entanglement in driftnets and fishing lines, and habitat loss from coastal development.

Habitat loss is one of the most serious threats to horseshoe crabs

Electronic tagging of horseshoe crabs to study their movement, homing instincts & mating patterns has been carried out.

Public outreach & education efforts include engaging volunteers to count, survey horseshoe crabs, and rescue entangled individuals.

Plans to expand the project to an island-wide census of horseshoe crabs all over Singapore.

Nature Society (Singapore) looking for volunteers for future comprehensive nature surveys

Mandai mangrove: a living laboratory, but for how long?

Dan Friess, Edward Webb, Wee Kim Shan & Lee Wei Kit, NUS (Dept. Biological Sciences)

        Part 4 - 1:03:16 to 1:13:35

Final talk for the Biodiversity Symposium: Dan Friess and the fate of Mandai mangroves

Dan Friess with the final talk of the day, about Mandai's Mangroves

General theme for the Biodiversity Symposium: Singapore got ______ (particular habitat/ecosystem/species), meh?

This year's symposium theme seems to be "Singapore got <habitat>, meh?"

>50 journal publications based on research carried out in Mandai mangroves.

Damming of Kranji River to create a reservoir stopped sediment input into Mandai mangroves.

Construction of Kranji Reservoir disconnected Mandai mangrove from downstream sediment flow

Changes in currents have also led to erosion of the mangroves, and there is also encroachment.

Surface level rise relative to sea level rise determines the state of mangroves growing along the coast

Sediment is crucial for mangroves; accumulation has to exceed rate of sea level rise for mangroves to expand.

If sea levels rise faster than surface levels, then there is a deficit not conducive for mangrove settlement & growth

Sea level rise exceeding rate of sediment accumulation leads to degradation of mangroves.

Rick Leong and Wei Kit have been mapping the mangroves to determine the elevation of the surface, features photo of a grinning Ria.

The Digital Elevation Model, if trees are included, will give a clearer map of the Mandai mangrove community.

Old school technology being employed to measure the changes in surface elevation at Mandai and Sungei Buloh

Photos of old school (cheaper) technology to measure changes in surface elevation in the mangroves.

Digital Elevation Model has to be integrated with tree distribution data and each species' tolerance to inundation by seawater.

Surface elevation changes, climate change and sea level rise data will also need to be combined with the data.

The project will assess vulnerability of Mandai, identify the mechanisms underlying vulnerability, and support management solutions

And we're done with the final talk!

Q & A session

        Part 4 - 1:14:15 to 1:34:40

Q&A: Development of Kranji Nature Trail as expansion of Sungei Buloh should commence next year, expected to be completed by 2014

Are there cases of hybrids occurring during mass coral spawning? Question by Prof Benito Tan during the Biodiversity Symposium

Self-fertilised larvae tend not to survive and hybrids do form especially if species are closely related to each other

Singapore's reefs are unbelievably resilient, surviving right next to heavy industries.

The main question is how much coral reef we can afford to lose before collapse of the ecosystem occurs.

How much coral BioD can we lose before sustainability becomes a major issue? Big issue that needs to be addressed in coming years

Jim shares about why there is a need for all these studies and surveys, to give hard data on biodiversity for government agencies.

policy-makers love data

Is there leisure diving on Singapore's coral reefs? Yes, look for Debby Ng of the Hantu Bloggers!

Sites for leisure diving: Pulau Hantu, Sisters Islands and St. John's Island. Heavy shipping & strong currents limit suitable sites

Siti poses the question of why it is difficult to obtain data from government agencies

5.30pm         Concluding remarks

The mic returns to Sivasothi for the closing remarks.

The Symposium raised a lot of questions, and it is important to see if we can do anything about these questions.

The Symposium is not the only meeting of nature enthusiasts and researchers in Singapore, there will be more events coming up.

The PPTs and PDFs of today's presentations will be made available online at so do check back with the site!

6.00pm         Close of symposium

..and we're done for the day! Thanks for tuning in to today's live tweetstream of the Biodiversity Symposium of Singapore III

And it's over! See you at the next Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium in 4 years' time!  

Planning to collate all the  tweets into a blog post. Sorry, no photos of the speakers though.

Thanks everyone who followed my updates, those who joined in the tweeting about , and those who RT-ed my snippets of the talks!

Through The Backyards: Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III (2011) by Gladys Chua

Wild Shores of Singapore: An Explosion of Inspiration: Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III by Ria Tan

Wild Shores of Singapore: Posters galore at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III by Ria Tan

Nature in a Concrete Jungle: Hopping on the BoSSIII reflection bandwagon! by Sean Yap

Otterman Speaks: How did people find their way to the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III webpage? by Sivasothi

Trek Through Paradise: BoSS III (My Takeaways) by Lee Wei Siang

Psychedelic Nature: Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III - What went on? by Neo Mei Lin