Walking the Southern Ridges, gradually

The Southern Ridges is a lovely feature to have in the NUS backyard and I use it for the LSM1103 Biodiversity classes from NUS to Bukit Chandu over the Gap. That is a short walk of about 4km and I’ve encouraged students to walk to Harbour Front on their own, which is 8.5km away.

Last June, Catherine Chua at the University Health Centre had her staff ask me about introducing a nature element into walks for wellness, Having experienced my old MacRitchie – Bukit Timah briskwalk, she wanted to inject a nature element into their series of NUS Walks.

Since their target is the deskbound and mostly immobile office worker, I’ve suggested we try a series of walks over an increasing distance, which the Southern Ridges provide. It will be chance for camaraderie, sustainability, wellness, nature and some spatial awareness. And we have already have a few volunteers walk leaders on board from the Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES), Department of Biological Sciences (DBS), Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) and Ridge View Residential College (RVRC).

We need to recruit ambassadors to the programme, and top of the list is former Infantry Officer Seah Kar Heng who hikes all over the country, and NUS President Tan Chor Chuan who is regularly seen at Bukit Timah.

We will begin with the ~2km walk in campus next year and take it from there, slow and steady. Beyond the Southern Ridges, I am looking forward to returning to MacRitchie for the brisk walk to Bukit Timah one day, with the company of some fit NUS walkers!

Southern Ridges  gradual distances

Less agitation from late night screens with f.lux, and newly updated too!

Computer screens apparently are designed to look like the sun and that is out of sync at the strange times at which many of us are still working. I’ve been using f.lux at least since 2011 to automatically make my Mac’s display warm at night and limit the blues. I tried it to help me sleep better as I am typically up well after midnight.

NewImageThere have been some tweaks I have wished for in passing and today I learnt that f.lux for Mac issued an update which includes:

  1. Dim on disable It’s always been painful to disable f.lux for a color check or late-night design work, so we’ve provided a new option that dims your screen (a lot) when you disable. Check out the “Options” menu for this feature.
  2. Backwards alarm clock – “How much sleep will I get if I go to bed now?” Ha-ha, sweet!
  3. Faster transition to daylight instead – because we are so impatient to get going and our Macs need to keep up! Also, night-time and early morning transitions are longer – this used to be a little too abrupt for me, nice fix!

Like their URL says, just justgetflux!

Speaking up for animals – NUS PEACE AGM on Wed 26 Aug 2015: 6.00pm @ LT32

NUS PEACE is a student interest group which I have been staff advisor of since they got organised in 2006/7. This student interest group caters to all animal related projects, programmes and issues in NUS through the main committee.

I am also really proud that NUS PEACE coordinates three project groups:

  • NUS Cat Cafe manages, rescues, sterilises and rehomes cats on campus; conducts feline therapy sessions and cat welfare workshops.
  • Paw Friends coordinates fortnightly undergraduate volunteering at animal shelters where students bathe and walk dogs, clean shelters and prepare food for our furry friends.
  • Therapy Dog Programme facilitates animal-assisted, stress-relief therapy sessions for NUS students by Therapy Dogs Singapore, just before the final exams on Reading Week.
NUS PEACE 2015 AGM Poster

This Wednesday (26 Aug 2015: 6.00pm – 8.00pm @ LT32) NUS PEACE reviews their programs of the past year including the fund-raiser for the Himalayan Mutt Project, will report on their finances and conduct nominations and general elections and for the positions of President, Vice President, Publicity Director, Logistics Director, Cat Cafe & Therapy Dogs committee members.

If you would like to contribute to animal welfare, PEACE is the appropriate avenue for NUS students. Email them at nus.peace@gmail.com and jin them at the AGM on Wed 26 Aug 2015: 6.00 – 8.00 pm at LT32.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve celebrates wildlife with a “Wow Wild West!” festival over four weekends

“Wow Wild West!”, is a mini-festival celebrating the wildlife of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. These activities are geared towards the general public, especially families with children with a casual interest in nature, and who are keen on getting an introduction to local biodiversity.

Four weekends will feature a series of wildlife talks, guided walks, workshops and other activities surrounding a different animal theme:

@ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension, Visitor Centre, 60 Kranji Way #01-00, Singapore 739453

Online registration is required for the guided walks and children’s workshops.


Thanks to Ivan Kwan for the information.

NUS PEACE Welcome Tea – the annual gathering for NUS students interested in animal welfare

NUS PEACE fosters the love and respect that all animals deserve through education, advocacy and action, by connecting with others in the community who care. They are also a platform for anyone interested in starting new programmes.

NUS PEACE includes three project groups:

  • CatCafe (taking care of campus cats)
  • Paw Friends (volunteers at local animal shelters)
  • Therapy Dogs Programme (coordinating therapy dog visits to campus before exams)

Otterman Holt, 2015/16: eight undergraduate research students – six honours and two UROPS

I am supervising eight undergraduate research students this year. Six are in their honours years and two in UROPS. In the shadows is an MSc Zoology student and thus far, two MSc Science Communication students.

While these undergraduate projects are part of their academic training, the projects will, as always, address issues of local conservation relevance, which we use for action on the ground and share with the public through public seminars and talks at An Evening of Biodiversity or the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium and other meetings.

Some of my former students will thankfully come into play as mentors to the current cohort who build on existing lines of inquiry. We hope to make further progress this year:

  1. Claudine Tham – Distribution of frogs in a secondary forest (NParks proposed)
  2. Tan See Yi – Population status of the mangrove horseshoe crab at Mandai mangrove and mudflat
  3. Sarah Wee – The status of the small-clawed otter at Pulau Ubin, Singapore
  4. Diana Afiqah Binte Mohamed Juwahir – The vertebrate fauna of two impacted forest sites in Singapore
  5. Amanda Soh – Application of a pre-emptive strategy to reduce human-macaque conflict at a park in Singapore
  6. Tan Jia Xiu – Application of a pre-emptive strategy to reduce human-macaque conflict at a park in Singapore
  7. Max Khoo (4MC UROPS) – The ecology of smooth-coated otters in the Singapore River (Bishan Park and Marina Reservoir)
  8. Nicole Siew (8MC UROPS) – The freshwater fauna at two impacted primary forest patches in Singapore

I was glad to get everyone in a room this morning in Week 1 and we have identified proposed topics. But really, we just getting started. – to get these projects on the road, we will meet weekly this month to review the following:

  1. Research proposal (with project timeline): two rounds.
  2. Literature review: two rounds.
  3. Field Log, Field report and Protocols.
  4. Consultation with mentors.
  5. Consultation with and approval of relevant NParks managers.
  6. Application for NParks permits (Week 2).
  7. First aid certification (by September).
  8. Issue of personal first aid kits (Week 2).
  9. Project Risk Assessment approval: two rounds.
  10. IACUC approval (“use of animals for biodiversity/field study”): two rounds.
  11. Emergency scenarios responsiveness.

Oh boy!

Otterman Holt 2015 16

Kick off the Jubilee weekend with a mangrove cleanup!

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Lim Chu Kang mangrove is a precious patch of forest west of Sungei Buloh along the western Johor Straits. I got to know the mangrove there intimately as I worked alone there on many nights as an honours student 25 years ago. One nights, I followed a gap in the canopy to see that the inland patch of Lim Chu Kang mangrove had been cleared to make way for a fish farm – it was heart wrenching! Eventually, the remaining patch I had watched over nervously for so many years was integrated into NParks’ Sungei Buloh Master Plan.

We still keep an eye on the site, and the sheer amount of rubbish washing ashore onto the beach and mangrove demanded action – so for almost a decade, I descend on the site with friends and the group of about 50 of us usually manage to clear some three-quarters of a ton of trash from the site. See Germaine Leng’s report from 2014 – it is a lovely way to celebrate National Day!

We hit the beach this year on Friday 7th August 2015 and will end by 10.30am. It will be a lovely way to kick off the Jubilee Weekend, so join us for a morning of camaraderie in celebration of National Day!