Monday, 24 December 2007

Chek Jawa!

Last Sunday, a group of 40 NTU students went to Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin. The eventful day started with waiting for the bus for around 45 minutes. When the group finally reached Pulau Ubin, it was already 1045am! Nevertheless, two interesting ice breaking games ensued.
The first game involved protecting an egg using recyclable materials, after which the whole art piece (with the poor egg hidden within the creation) was thrown onto the ground. The group whose egg did not break won the game. I hope the game made an impact on the undergrads about the usefulness of recyclable materials as much as the throw did on some of the eggs.

Throwing the protected egg...

The second game was a three legged race in which the group which filled 2 cups with the most marbles and water respectively wins. It was a tiring but exhilarating race in the ruthless late morning sun.

Simultaneous with the three legged race… hello doggie… (I WANT YOUR FOOD!! *woof)


After lunch, we set off for Chek Jawa in a total of 4 vans. Chek Jawa is situated at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin. Chek Jawa escaped reclamation and preserved its natural state, hence enabling us and many other groups to visit its rich marine life today. We first made our way to House number 1 after a bumpy van ride. The house is so named because it is a house, and its address is number 1.

My guide then took my group to a board walk just beside House number 1. We spent quite some time there marveling at a whole ‘field’ of sea grass, weeds, trapped fishes, crabs, their molts and anemones. Something which I found particularly exotic was the self sacrificing nature of the male fiddler crabs. The males have an extra long pincer which is red in colour while females are a (relatively) boring shade of grey. This is so that birds prey on the males which are easier to spot instead of the females as the latter are rarer. How touching…

We then headed to another boardwalk which led us to the mud flats. There, we saw most of the marine life. It was amazing! We saw hermit crabs, tube worms, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, bristling worms, sea stars, two mantis shrimps, a moon snail, a nudibranch, a catfish and a carpet anemone.
Hermit Crab in Noble Volute shell

You only see some of the hermit crab here. When you see a beautiful shell on the beach, don’t bring it home! It is the home of hermit crabs though they may not be in when you visit them.


See the tubes poking up from the ground? Those belong to the tubeworms. *shivers (I don’t like worms…)
Sea Cucumber

The slimy and cute sea cucumber. It’s rather shy, it contracts and appears smaller when in human hands.
Ferrari seastar

The Ferrari Seastar in action. It flips itself over very fast hence its name.
Seastar #2

The nudibranch.
Those circular disc-like objects are the sand dollars. They are actually alive and the tracks you see are evidence of their movements. Sand dollars are actually the mermaids’ and mermen’s currency too.
I found the Chek Jawa trip educational and an eye opener. My knowledge of marine life is very limited, so I learnt quite a lot from this trip! I also hope that through experiencing marine life first hand, the participants learn to appreciate them more and do their part in saving nature.
For more photos of the other marine life, please visit

Monday, 29 October 2007

Nature Walk @ NTU: Yunnan Gardens Recce

With the intention of starting a nature walk in NTU next year, we conducted our very first recce session last Friday. The purpose of this nature walk is to introduce to NTU staff and students the types of flora and fauna (mostly flora though) that can be found on our garden campus, to increase awareness and in the process nature appreciation. Yunnan gardens was chosen as our first location to start the nature walk, partly due to its high concentration of flora in a designated area, and also its links to NTU history and culture.

Dr Shawn Lum kindly agreed to come down and conduct this recce cum guided walk for us. A total of about 10 people turned up for the walk, a myriad of people from various nationalities (China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Singapore), but with the common interest to learn more about the biodiversity on campus and to share it with fellow students and staff as nature guides.

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Among the trees that we saw was a saga tree. As we found out from Dr Lum, the red seeds of the saga tree are sometimes collected and given during Valentine's day as a representation of love.
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Moving on, near the replica gate to Nan Tah, were two majestic trees, a Banyan tree (in the middle) and a Sea Almond (on the right). The actual Nan Tah gate is actually still standing, somewhere in Jurong West. In the past, between the actual gate and where NTU now stands was all rubber, and students had to walk through the rubber plantations to get to class.
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We also found a few cycads planted in the garden. These trees have been around since ancient times, and are non-flowering (compared to similar looking, but much larger, palms, which do flower).
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Below a Trumpet tree,
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we found saplings of Brown Heart, Sea Almond, etc. Knowing that these trees normally do not disperse their seeds too far from the parent tree, the logical explanation was that there were bats that took the fruits from the other trees, returned to the Trumpet tree to eat it, and dropped the seeds onto the grass below, where the saplings germinated.
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The seed of the Brown Heart looks like this (when dried)
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We also found a few Kapok trees. Kapok is a cotton-like fluff that is found in the fruit, but is not strong enough to be made into thread. It was commonly used as fill in pillows/bolsters in the past.
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There was also a rather big Hop tree, with distinctive purple flowers covering the whole canopy of the tree. These flowers were in fact individual buds.
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We found a woody fungus growing out from the grass. It was pretty interesting as the fungus seems to have grown around the grass, with a few blades actually sticking out of the fungus itself.
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Near the end of our walk, we reached a Yellow Saraca tree, with a whole gathering of Birds' Nest Fern below it. Very few flowers were in bloom at this time of year though.
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Dr Lum indeed gave us alot of information during the short recce, too much to remember for one time. However, over the subsequent training sessions in December with more walks around the garden to familiarise ourselves with the flora and fauna there, we will slowly gather enough knowledge to be able to share our garden campus with others.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Student Leader Briefing (By Zhiyang)

From 25th to 27th September 2007, we presented environmentally-friendly guidelines to all Student Leaders of NTU. The purpose of this is to spread environmental awareness to the student population through the influence of the student leaders. The guidelines highlight green practices that are practicable for application by the Committees of all Clubs, Societies and Halls. Basically, the guidelines cover eco-friendly practices for common activities like meetings, events, camps and publicity. We have also proposed the idea of appointing a Green Ambassador for each main committee so as to better facilitate the incorporation of green practices in each club’s activities.
Thus far, we would not have achieved so much without the support of the NTU Administration. Particularly in this academic year (07/08), the NTU Administration has become more proactive in pursuing environmental initiatives. As a result, Earthlink is able to install recycling bins in all Halls and “green publicity” can been done on a larger scale. We look forward to further collaboration with the Administration and other student organizations of NTU to create a Green Culture on campus.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Outing #1 to Singapore Botanical Gardensn (by Ru Hui)

For Earthlink’s very first outing, we visited the Singapore Botanical Gardens.

At 745 am, we made our way there. Since we reached the place a little early, we had a small ice-breaking session while waiting for our tour to start.

Our guide was an experienced and enthusiastic volunteer who took us through the journey of plant evolution. She began by asking us to see the difference between the palm tree and a cycad right outside of the evolution garden. The cycad, though small in size, was much older than the palm tree that was twice its height. The cycads were a much older species of plants that was present even during the dinosaur period. So that was how we started our journey into the evolution garden.

Although the evolution garden is a relatively new area of the botanical gardens, there were many plants and interactive sculptures as it was set up mainly for educational purposes. Starting off with the mosses, we gradually moved to the taller ferns, cycads and lepidodendrons. We learnt many interesting facts along the way, like how some spores of ferns that were growing around a cave was used for camera flashes, how horsetails could grow back together if the broken pieces were put together again and many other interesting details of plants through the ages.

After the insightful tour, we headed to the national orchid gardens, a must-see when visiting the botanical gardens. We rested in the cool house after taking many pictures of the colourful and vibrant orchids, which were present in large varieties.

Finally, it was time for lunch. By this time, most of us were familiar with one another and we had a really enjoyable lunch at a food court within the botanical gardens. Overall, the trip was a fruitful one as we left not only with many things learnt, but also with a few more friends.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Coastal Cleanup 2007 at Kallang Basin (By Dang Kang)

This year on September 15th, 24 Earth link NTU volunteers went to clean up trashes on coastlines and waterways at Kallang Basin. The event is part of International Coastal Cleanup Singapore organized by Ocean Conservancy. It is the largest and most successful event of its kind. We not only tried to eliminate those rubbish, but also recorded the number of rubbish collected according to its type, which may be useful for further analysis such as tracing back origin of the trashes.

Morning Gathering at Chinese Heritage Garden, a beautiful day.

Around 8:30 am, we reached Kallang Basin, and quickly began our work.

We are divided into group of 4 to finish our job. Among the four people one records the data and the other three collect the rubbish.

Some of us are discussing among the groups on dividing of tasks and a good strategy to finish their job.

Each group was given a log sheet to keep a record of garbage item for different categories like plastics, food and so on depending on the materials they were made of.
The data then will be sent to the ICCS for consolidation and further analysis. The analysis results then would be sent to the SEC, ENV, NParks, PUB, URA, MND, MOE, MITA, The Internet. Some of them even affected the policy making!

Volunteers are so eager to collect the rubbish that they even forget the safety of their shoes!

Although it is a tough job, many of our volunteers feel very happy.

Let's hear what they say

“I think the coastal clean up is quite meaningful for me because I can help protecting the environment in my own way. I can also do my part in taking the responsibility of the citizen of this country.”

“I think sometimes people are very selfish. They clean and decorate their house very well however make our natural environment very dim. The activities can help us be aware of the serious consequence of the rubbish pollution for the coast by looking out to the coast.”

The kids from German European School of Singapore

And we are not alone. there were other volunteers working with us to clean the coast. Some of our volunteers think this activity is particularly meaningful for kids like these. One volunteer said, “ I think this activity is especially helpful to the children for encouraging them to protect the coast and environment. The main duty of adults, I think, it is organizing the activity”

We found all kind of rubbish.

Here, we even found such big monsters!

Life is being threatened!

A sick bird

Our volunteers are also worried about the pollutions: “There is a lot of daily life rubbish. The creature in the ocean must have a very hard life. The problem might be very serious cause a lot of rubbish has been embed in the underground very deeply. There might be a lot of rubbish that we didn’t get.”

The whole activity end around 10:00 am . Despite the short during, we have made a great job. our Earth link volunteers managed to clean up around 100m of coastline and collect 45kg of trashes. While for the whole Singapore, the length of coastline cleaned is 1520m and the weight of trashes collected is 4109kg.

After our work,no more trashes!

Background Information: About Kallang Basin

Kallang Basin is selected to be one target of the events because of its economic, social and environment benefits। According to Chou L।M, The Singapore River and the Kallang Basin “form an important catchment covering one-fifth of Singapore's total land area। These waterways served important functions in the economic development of the country. The intense and varied uses however contributed to the gross pollution of the rivers.” He suggested the cleaning system of these area shall be implemented. Besides, National Environment Agency etc also have the following plans:

Kallang Basin is going to be a linear garden of the Garden at Marina Center is links the cultural core at the Esplanade Theaters to Kallang Basin.

In 2004, the Public Utilities Board publicly announced plans to construct a new downtown reservoir. It will turn Marina Bay and the Kallang Basin into a confined freshwater reservoir with limited access to marine transportation to regulate the water quality.

This event would promote the protection of Kallang Basin and thus help reach the above goal।

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Welcome trip 07/08: Pulau Ubin (by Alan)

It was the early hours of 18th August 2007, but I had to wake up earlier to get myself prepared for the day that was ahead. All I could remember now was the cool morning that had almost hypnotized me to sleep. It was unlike any other weekend. The major difference was that I was detached from my bed.

There was a mass gathered at the steps just outside of the Chinese Heritage Centre of NTU. It was not open on that day, so I guessed it must be the crowd that I was going to spend my Saturday with.
I have passed by that building they named Chinese Heritage Centre definitely more than once; however, it cannot understand how come it seems more than usually unfamiliar. I couldn’t resist the chance to roam around, despite most of the areas being closed.

It was one of the more landmark buildings in NTU, with its unique ancient Chinese architectural style. There was an opening right in the middle of the main hall ceiling. That opening was consistently visible throughout most of the floors. I have heard before that it had a practical usage, which is to illuminate the building naturally.

Upon reaching Changi Ferry Point Terminal, everyone did a last round of checks. The bumboats service could only ferry a maximum of 12 people per ride excluding the ‘captain’. Due to our large numbers, we were divided equally onto 3 different bumboats. It was a spectacular sight, looking at how 3 boats tag along one another and ferried us over to the shores not far away, Pulau Ubin.

The Pulau Ubin pier was just a short distance walk from the only bustling town center. The scene that greets the visitors, are the scene from olden Singapore. It was a scene where older generation lived to talk about it and many of the younger generation can only see from photos. It was a scene of a struggling new town called Singapore, being ‘preserved’ on Ubin.

The ‘preservation’ was apparent. The vast difference between the main island and its sister island. There seemed to be no town planning at all, where only a small road leads from the pier to the town plaza. However, it is undeniable the charms that this sleepy little town brings, a breather for those running in the rat race.

We headed towards the ‘Green House’ which is located along the only road leading to the town center of Ubin. It is there where we met the Nature Guides that would be giving us a trail around the sights and scent that Ubin has to offer. We headed over to the information kiosk to begin our trail briefing.
At the kiosk we were roughly briefed about what we were expecting. Everyone was all ears about what we were about to do. The name of the trail was known as the Sensory Trail. To not only see, but feel and smell as well, providing an all-round experience.

The Sensory Trail was adopted by Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped and Singapore America School. That was officially launched on 15th April 2000 by America Ambassador to Singapore the Honorable Steven J. Green.

Just a few steps away from the information kiosk, the trail had a brief prelude. Along the way to the beginning of the Sensory Trail, there were already plants along the road side which was valuable and can only be found on Ubin. We were also learning about plants which kill trees because of their symbiotic nature. A slow death for the trees, drawing parallel to cancer patients, everyone sympathized.

Along the Trail, we were exposed to many different types of species of plants. Most of which were naturally found on Ubin and some re-introduced. One of plants that are on the Trail is the common plant known to most Singaporean, pandan. As the guides explained, on about the Trail and plants, I couldn’t stop basking in the refreshing scent of pandan.

There was also a Secret Garden located along the Trail. The Secret Garden hosts a variety of chef’s familiars. There were curry leaves, pepper plant, etc. The whole garden was packed with other edible plants as well. Not to mention even a plant for oral anesthetic purpose. Everyone was resisted the temptation to take a bit of the garden into their hands and admired the plants in that natural glory under the supervision of the guides.

Alas, as the saying goes, the good rarely lasts long. As we were continuing to explore the Secret Garden, the skies bode ill omen, big black clouds. The rain started to pour and dampen not only the plants and trees, but our trail. We had to make our way back to the ‘Green House’ as soon as possible to avoid any wet weather complications such as thunders and lightings.

Back at the ‘Green House’, we contemplated the next step, LUNCH. There were a number of restaurants at the town center; however, we wondered if there was any one that could house our large numbers. Some of us accompanied the Muslim friends to the halal outlets located further away from the town center. Everyone was recharged after the meal. Firstly, the rain had stopped and secondly, everyone was ready to continue to enjoy the sights and plants that Ubin had to offer.

Other than learning about the plants that grow on Ubin, we also had a chance to know a bit more about Singapore history. For example, there was the Gelam tree, which once populated a particular place in Singapore. Due to the abundance that place was later on known as Kampong Glam. The bark of the tree was used by the Bugis and Malays to caulk the seams of boats, while the timber was used to replace rotted hull planks and doubled as firewood. The fruit was dried, ground, and used as a type of black pepper.

The Trail ended roughly around the later part of the afternoon however, it didn’t end there. The organizers prepared a photo hunt around Ubin for everyone that attended. So the rule of the game is to take photographs of the various places around a certain area in Ubin. The places where clued by only a photograph distinct to that place. The clue was only helpful when the distinct feature was recognized easily, in many a times; we were just hoping to bump into other groups who already found the spots.
The photo hunt ended nicely. Most of the teams got the spots however, in each competition a winner has to be decided. The winners proved that winning was indeed a title nothing more. The spoils of the victory were shared amongst not only the winning team but to every other group as well.

The day was drawing close. Everyone gathered at the pier for the finale photo session. SAY CHEESE