The Kent Ridge walkabout in fiery red – the LSM1103 briefing and recce

An annual event for me is the TA briefing and preparation for LSM1103 Biodiversity. The module objectives are clearly explained so TAs know th reason behind every thing we do, an how we maximise efficiency. Once they are on board, the complicated module runs well. Since it’s usually close to National Day like this year, I wear red – otherwise an anathema for field biologists!

Happy National Day!
2014 08 08 12 00 54

Once the module briefing was over, it was a quick refresher through the Kent Ridge practical which serves as an orientation to participation and science and sensitisation to the environment. Then the walk to pick out the plants and discuss ideas about how to facilitate the session.

We moved the TAs quickly through the sites in a bus, while they eyeballed the route to familiarise themselves not just with the flora, but the landscape and facilities, in case of emergencies. We usually have storms to contend with and will tack the weather radar on an iPad from the safety vehicle, ready to activate everyone to take cover! It has happened a couple of times in the past, but we’ll hope for a pleasant day.

Battle of Pasir Panjang  LSM1103 Kent Ridge Walking Routes  Google Maps 1

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TAs will avoid crossing the pedestrian-risky Gap junction so our LSM1103 students will miss seeing the Kent Ridge plaque, except from a distance. But they will be in campus for at least three years, so we’ll let them look for it themselves!

A short while later, FTTA Xu Weiting hopped out of the van to report on the roosting bat colony – only one individual today! The palm tree is encountered amidst the very built-up Science Park Drive, which we walk quickly through. Most of it is a construction site and the roost is an oasis tot he TA, who will pause to chat about the relationship between bats and the forest. Most of the bats have left this roost since the construction began, so we were happy one had persisted.

One bat, will sustain us!
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Looking for the sole bat
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Heading to Kent Ridge Park at the end of Science Park Drive
2014 08 08 15 42 20 HDR

I dropped Weiting and the TAs off at what used to be a lawn at the end of the road! Now a road leads to Normanton Park, AYE and Portsdown, and a sidepath links the marginalised pedestrian to Kent Ridge Park. I was surpsied by this just last week as I toured some “Nature as Practise” conference participants around the ridge. I sure was surprised by the new connection and nearly ended up in Porstdown!

This van driver, however, was one of our regulars, a local who knows our route well. So I could left the driver at the Gap for him to meet the TAs at Kent Ridge Park while I went to pack the National Day Coastal Cleanup supplies. Weiting and the TAs continued on foot to the Reflections of Bukit Chandu where the practical ends. From there, we will bus students back to NUS over the next two Fridays.

It is a large class, but with a good operational procedure, an enthusiastic bunch of TAs (just look at that self below!) and the remnant greenery of the ridge, our 250+ undergrads WILL have an interesting time – in fact, we’ll make them tell us all about it after with an essay which the TAs will scrutinise!

Canopy walk to Reflections at Bukit Chandu
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TA group selfie!2014 08 08 16 58 34

What it looks like when the practicals get started!
2013 09 13 15 42 staking the pineapple

Don’t give talks on Week 0 – there is module prep!

We are scrambling to get things in order for the start of semester – almost immediately, in first few weeks of semester, some 250 first year students in LSM1103 Biodiversity will head out from Kent Ridge to Bukit Chandu, and 150 (so far) second years will cross over to Pulau Ubin for LSM2251 Ecology, and the Environment.

We need to sort out logistics, transport, safety, student group allocation and introductions, preparation of the TAs and students. We like to randomise student allocations, get them to know each other a little, have the first lecture well coordinated with the practical briefing and what the TAs will say. It will work but we can be relaxed. And it’s best phylogeny updates are all sorted out – the books can’t keep up these days.

It’s really not the time for giving talks.

Yet when the department coordinators asked early in the year, I said, “sure!” unthinkingly. Well, last year’s session was interesting – and these days the diversity of biologists in the department do struggle to understand each other. It is a wide discipline which includes chemists and physicists. The fragments from my undergraduate biology barely help me cope, but its enough for an inking of what our undergrads wrestle with before specialising in environmental biology.

Since it’s just 15 minutes, I thought what harm, and threw “Negelcted Tropical Species” as a title in the bag. It is pretty much what some 50 students and I have been doing this past decade. They want my slides by noon tomorrow but I am the third last speaker in the midst of session 4.

So I’ll think about it tomorrow night – random thoughts will stitch together subconsciously by morning and I will hammer something out at 7am. My students have been agonising over a variety of public talks these past few weeks for NUS, Science Centre Singapore, Nature Society (Singapore), Jane Goodall Singapore and NParks, so they know what its like.

For now, though, its back to module preparations and the National Day Mangrove Cleanup.

Marcus Chua talks about leopard cats at NSS on 1st Aug 2014

Really glad to see yet another one of the Otterman Holt contribute a public talk – this one of a series hosted by the Nature Society (Singapore), following Xu Weiting (common palm civets) and Meryl Theng (smooth-coated otters). Marcus is well practised and full of information from his MSc work, so look forward to a very interesting night by Catboy!

Click for details of this public talk

Talk Leopard Cats in Singapore  Surprising Discoveries in Our Forest But Here to Stay

Marcus Chua with Otterman and Rudolf Meier, two of his thesis supervisors
at the NUS Life Sciences convocation, 10 Jul 2014
2014 07 10 Marcus Chua graduation

Remove that “App of the Day is a feature of Pet Match” spam – check web extensions

I began seeing spam at the bottom of webpages yesterday on Safari, including my WordPress blog:

Contact Us » Save Our Street Dogs-2

A quick search of the phrase “App of the Day is a feature of Pet Match” led me to forums and after jumping though a few links, I read this remark by erkme73 on

“Folks, it’s not [AdBlockPLus]. ABP is blocking a rogue extension from communicating with – and you’re seeing the text alternative. “

George Garside on elaborated,

“Apparently This is spam, introduced by an extension, through AdBlock is not the cause! AdBlock blocks the injected ad, so the extension inserts the text equivalent.

Disabling AdBlock will remove the text, because it allows the original injection to take place, and will decrease page load time as the secondary text injection is no longer required.

Enable AdBlock so that the text is shown, then disable other extensions that you have enabled, until the text is no longer inserted.”

So I searched my very few extensions and found a link on Awesome Screenshot.


I turned that off and, peace reigned again, once more. And thanks AdBlock for blocking that spam code!

Users are fingering a variety of extensions which cause this effect for them, in the links above. It must have been inserted during auto-updates of trusted extensions, which now carry the code. It’s an epidemic!