Nov 26, 2007

Our shores: living classrooms

What a lovely surprise today! A school outing on Changi!
It was Grace and Dionne from CreativeKids with a group from RI.
Grace and Dionne run shore workshops and are excellent at introducing not only the shores, but also how to treat the shores with respect. Before they headed out for the shore, the students were asked to examine the debris on the shores and think about the impact of rubbish on marine life.

Then they went out to gently explore the shores.

As always, Changi seldom disappoints.
They found two seahorses! The one above was a smaller one I found later on. Changi's gorgeous seagrass meadows are excellent homes for these harmless fishes (yes, seahorses are fishes) that sadly are often overcollected.

Other fishes seen included filefishes, butterflyfishes, scorpionfishes, flatfishes. And this large Lined eeltail catfish (Plotosus lineatus).
Alas, the poor creature looked like it had been injured.Perhaps by an abandoned fishing line? Grace and Dionne had the boys pull out and remove many of the lines found on the shores. That's good!

For some reason, today I came across a few squids and cuttlefishes. Even though it was daylight.The tiny Pygmy squid on the left doesn't get any bigger than this. While this little Bottletail squid is often half buried in the sand. It was startled out of hiding, turned a bright orange and still had sand over its large eyes.

Rushing out with the tide was this large cuttlefish.I only managed a blurry photo of it before it zoomed away into deeper water.

There were also lots of echinoderms today! Sand stars and sand dollars were here and there.And tiny tiny Thorny sea cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis) nestled among the seagrasses and seaweeds. Half buried were the less commonly seen Warty sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps). What a delight to see these animals, which we hadn't seen for a long while especially since the big flood early this year which wiped out many animals on Chek Jawa. Kok Sheng is doing a study of the recovery at Chek Jawa and just announced the first sighting of the Common sea star (Archaster typicus) there since the flood!

There was also this unknown sea cucumber which we've also been seeing a lot of at Chek Jawa.The underside has long rows and is less boring than the sand-coloured upperside.

There were also many Pencil sea urchins (Prionocidaris bispinosus). While there were MANY big White sea urchins (Salmacis sp.) But the Black sea urchins (Temnopleurus sp.) were not seen.

Everywhere among the seagrasses and seaweeds were these little spirals of eggs. What could they be? Probably slugs! The slug lovers would hope so. Perhaps on our next trip they would have hatched and we would see lots of slugs (which we didn't today).

It was also heartening to see lots of large Carpet anemones. The one above is a Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni), distinguished by the fringe of long-short tentacles on the border of the disk.

There were also lots of tiny carpet anemones, which Dr Daphne earlier taught us may be the Tapetum carpet anemone (Stichodactyla tapetum) and not baby carpet anemones! And the seagrass was dotted with Swimming anemones (Boloceroides mcmurrichi), which really do swim.

The long sausage like thing may be mistaken for a sea cucumber, but is actually a sea anemone that somehow unearthed itself. On the right is a photo of what it looks like when its buried.

All too soon, the tide turned and it was time for all of us to go home. I found out that this trip was part of a camp where the students learnt more about the biodiversity of our shores, and also some of the threats to them and how they can make a difference to conserve them.

Nature outings teach more than facts. They naturally result in empathy and a more caring attitude.

Our shores are amazing living classrooms. There is so much to explore and learn! All for free.

The only thing that is needed is to treat the shores with respect.

Our mainland shores like Changi and Labrador are particularly precious because they are are easier for students to access. The shores in the North (like Changi) are very different from those in the South (like Labrador). With these two shores, students can get an introduction to a good range of tropical shores.

Here are some old photos of students on Labrador...

You can just see the excitement and wonder that our shores inspire. If only for this reason, we should treasure and preserve our mainland shores.

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