Raising a fist at the 6th extinction – the NJC Green Symposium

Naturalist Yong Ding Li dropped in on me at NUS a few weeks ago to invite me to speak to his students at National Junior College. We agreed that the students would profit from an exposure to stories about biodiversity in Singapore. So I have a gig later at NJC’s Green Symposium to deliver one of my talks.

For almost a decade, my talks have emphasised the neglected marine environments of Singapore (mostly devoid of any protection), the issues therein. Certainly “Marine Life in Singapore” remains to be a key topic in talks for the International Coastal Cleanup.

More recently, terrestrial and freshwater fauna and ecosystems have returned to the spotlight due to the efforts of my research students. Highly suitable as this year is the International Year of the Forest.

Well, the pictures and stories will make an impression and the core messages are the same. One hopes some of it is lasting and will make a difference. In this business, naturally, you have to be an optimist. What else do you call people who persist in raising a fist against the sixth extinction?

I have company – Richard Corlett, also from the NUS Biodiversity Crew will speak about climate change and the day after features Wong Tuan Wah who speaks about NParks‘ conservation work in Singapore and then Shawn Lum who explains the role of the NGO in conservation, specifically the Nature Society (Singapore).

It will be an awakening for the students, for sure. Biodiversity, ecology and conservation are mostly sidelined at the junior college (=high school) level, so this symposium will play a large part in awakening exposure and providing food for thought. Sessions like these are not scripted as part of a school’s KPI but come about through the efforts of naturalists like Ding Li who have persisted to pursue their passion.

Earlier tonight, I had another reminder of such people out there when I bumped into an exhausted-looking friend who teaches biology in one of our JCs. She had a hard day at work but brightened up when she told me to keep a lookout for some of her students. She says to expect some passionate souls heading our way.

We’ll be ready.

Off to the Blood bank

I’m a regular donor priding myself in donating whole blood four times each year.

Since December, however, the flu has come and returned a couple of times. Maybe it was simply a reaction to the lack of sleep but I had to be safe and fit.

I’ve finally clocked two symptom-free weeks so am I’m off to the blood bank for my long overdue 104th donation. There is an hour more before the blood bank closes – I logged in to the appointment booking system at HSA and there isn’t much a of a queue.

It’ll be a timely donation since since the blood bank’s blood group ‘O’ stocks are low. it’ll be nice to do something useful today!

Donorweb — Your blood is replaceable...a life is NOT !

A minty kick in the butt

In the past couple of weeks, with sleep a luxury, I have had to reach out for my Original Source Mint and Tea Tree Shower. I have used this for many moons (animal-testing free) and use it sparingly – usually when I am radiating heat after a long, hot ride.

This time both body shower and shampoo were activated to give me a boost not just in the mornings but after returning home late and exhausted. I’ve needed to stretch the day into the early mornings and an invigorating shower has made all the difference. Well, I just about kept my head in the game.

When my twittering friend Chew Lin asked for minty suggestions this morning, I reminded her about Original Source, which I get from Cold Storage. Immediately she salivated over the webpage offerings and went one further, pointing me to their extra-strong XXX:

Original Source XXX

They write, “In case of emergency, look no further than our XXX black mint body wash – the ultimate instant eye-opener.” Woo-hoo – the regular stuff is already a boost, imagine this! But really, sleep is good and I’m planning to get more of it in the near future and not require a XXX dose. Meanwhile Chew Lin must be shopping…

Where did Carolina go?

Carolina is an exchange student in my LSM1303 Animal Behaviour course. Last week, I talked about visiting Kuala Selangor to see fireflies during the lecture on courtship lecture and Carolina laughed. Now I know why!

Carolina Martina Catharina Kamps reports that a person on a bus one night in Selangor (or perhaps elsewhere) said that “all the fireflies were extinct by pollution”.

Kuala Selangor, Selangor, Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Google Maps

Here is her story, originally in Dutch, translated by Google Translate and some paragraphing thrown in so it does not seem so breathless:

“…finally we went looking for a bus. Because, as we had heard so, there were nearby fireflies. You could by a bus, about 2 hours outside KL to a resort with a boat you could sail through the jungle and then everywhere would see fireflies light up.

Well of course it sounded great so we have checked just after the bus driver, leap around the bus.

Now I would not be myself if it went well. So to cut a long story (slightly) shorter, we were in the wrong bus. The rest of the bus was laughing at us and they had every time we asked said it was still lotssss further.

We were always so nervous because it was getting dark, we sat in a jungle in the middle of nowhere and the bus driver drove off and then on the wrong side of the road. Well turned out, he did go towards the site of the fireflies, but we were still there and need a taxi that would not go so late, and almost all the fireflies were extinct by pollution (which we all had invented with Jackson, our savior that appealed to a random guy who seemed to speak Chinese dialect [Cantonese, I am told]).

So finally we jumped off the bus at the last and only bus back to civilization gone. That stopped in a village now, where we were running a shop and had bought some bread (we were almost dead now because everyone was hungry, tired and had to go to the toilet) but, and I do not know how it was, it was very pleasant.

It was really one of the best outings. Nice games played in the bus and my fellow passengers to get to know. When we finally got home super delicious dinner meal and then to bed.”

The original in Dutch looks like this:

WaarBenJij.Nu | Caroline gaat studeren in Singapore

Natalie graphs her life

Natalie, a marine biolost (in prep.), is graphing her life with numbers she grabs off facebook, her dive computer and anything else that strikes her. See graphingmylife.blogspot.com.

natalie - Emails by Semesters
How fun is this? And a great early warning for newbie TAs in certain modules.

Lekowala pointed me to a blog just now and it struck such a familiar note. I used to make simple comparisons in school, before I encountered statistical tools. I’d compare reading rates by authors, genre and page lengths when we maintained reading lists in Sec 2, compare popular music selections between friends from different backgrounds, speeds and inter-station timings of underground and overhead MRT trains when it first opened and of course, cycling stats.

These days we are surrounded by even more data and Natalie is only doing a better job at all this, she is doing that rare thing as well, blogging.

I regularly encounter undergrads who restrict all mention of biostats to the confines of their module. Natalie’s exertions point to a way to tease the conversation into daily life. They’ll certainly find it fun to use data they are already generating and make comparisons. I’ll buzz their lecturer with this.

If we enhance conversational stats and hence literacy, it will help reduce numberophobia in biology students and facilitate their discovery of numbers in their environment when they tackle their ecology projects.

What was it Darwin wrote? “I have deeply regretted that I did not proceed far enough at least to understand something of the great leading principles of mathematics, for men thus endowed seem to have an extra sense.”

Just numbers first, equations later.

Enable Google Labs feature to make “reply all” your default in GMail

Often in email exchanges with several people, my students or the collaborator will email me alone and not everyone. Then I have to do the honours of re-inserting the rest before I respond to the comment or forward it on. These are obviously comments which are relevant or would be of interest to the rest.

When this happens when everyone knows each other and are ‘liking’ each other’s comment on facebook the same day about that same subject, I sure do feel like cussin’.

So I try to remember to ask when we are face to face to weed out irritating habits. Sometimes though, I get the response “I didn’t realise,” or “I accidentally clicked reply instead of reply all”. Then it dawned on me that their default on gmail is “reply” and “not reply all”.

So if you are highly collaborative or are rarely ever on long lists of emails on the CC list of people you don’t want to talk to, then enable a feature within Google Labs, called “Default ‘Reply to all'” by a certain Mark K. Thanks dude!

Mailplane for sivasothi@gmail.com

Mailplane for sivasothi@gmail.com

Google Labs is full of lovely stuff – a favourite of mine is “Send & Archive” by a certain by Pal T.

Thanks, Pal! 🙂