Talk at ITE Eco Conference 2011 – biodiversity and impact

I’ll be giving a 15-minute talk at the inaugural annual ITE Eco Conference 2011 (EC2011) organised by The Institute of Technical Education at ITE College West campus on 8th July 2011. They expect ‘about 300 ITE staff, 50 green ambassadors under the NEA’s Environment Education Advisor network and the community.’

I was suggested (by Eugene Tay?) to inject some biodiversity into the sessions. I’m finally meeting the conference organiser for a chat tomorrow – after teaching, exam markings and a two bouts of the flu had me postpone the meet a few times since April!

The organisers required a blurb for the programme so I provided the description below. The story line is working itself out in my head and I’ll let it cook at the back of my mind. Next month I’ll write out a list of points and flesh it out on Keynote, thrimerim it down for an estimated 14-minute delivery. A slight buffer is always helpful in a symposia setting with multiple speakers in case I need to shorten the timing to realign the progamme.

It’s never easy, there is always some stress involved in providing a talk. I’m always aghast when the time for the talk comes – that empty-looking calendar would have since filled up.

So I try to keep my focus to certain areas and not volunteer too much variation in topics to avoid having to start from scratch. Still, even with a bundle of good stories at the core, I have to adapt to each audience, context and add new content.

Last minute changes are always relevant and conducted with heightened senses, adding a nice touch. At a recent session at NJC, I opportunistically PhotoBoothed their teacher (Yong Ding Li) who had walked in to sit next to me while we waited my turn. I inserted his face into the slide about wild boar distribution, which was based on a paper he co-authored. It was a tough crowd that day but at least I sensed his students murmuring when the slide appeared.

Full-time teaching means I concentrate on the sizeable number of undergrads (about 700 per academic year) in my various modules. That leaves no time for public talks. Even though I’d like to do something meaningful for Earth Day, that is in the middle of a very busy period. So, I usually take on public talks during the inter-semester period when I have time to breathe.

Although care and awareness about wildlife in Singapore has improved considerably, there is still much to do, even to establish the basics. So I try to do a few talks each year.

The next few talks will see me focus on marine life as preparations for the International Coastal Cleanup is getting started.

Title: Biodiversity in Singapore: Hidden treasures and the influence of the urban citizen.

Synopsis: Singapore is a high-density city-state with some wild secrets – in our forests are leopard cats, pangolins, mousedeer, civets, wild boar and bats while our shores and seas are home to otters, crocodiles, turtles, dugongs and dolphins! Even the esteemed naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, was drawn to our shores and filmed in our mangroves! The well-connected naturalist community has enjoyed many exciting observations of wildlife and over the years have also witnessed the impact of man on a variety of scales.

We are in the midst of the sixth extinction and more than half of earth’s human population now live in cities. An awareness of local wildlife and ecology must motivate our commitment to the 3R’s and inspire critical technological innovations. This urgent need to better manage resources and protect biodiversity will hold lessons for other cities and ensure this planet will continue to be hospitable to mankind.

Smooth otter carcass at West Coast Park, today

A young, male smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) carcass was retrieved today from the periphery of West Coast Park. The carcass of the freshly-killed animal was discovered by NParks staff in the morning and I was alerted by Benjamin Lee in the afternoon and headed out the door in minutes.

The otter was quickly collected, preserved and stored in the Department of Biological Science’s Life Sciences Lab 7 in NUS. After some additional work, Kelvin Lim and I will transfer the specimen over to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research where it will be stored.

I was sad to see the killed otter lying there at West Coast Park, not yet stiff. Still, I got to work and finished the wet preservation so the specimen will be used for public education in future.

Thanks are due to a number of people in NParks and NUS who helped ensure the specimens was retrieved and preserved for education and research.

Smooth-coated otter carcass at 33 Harbour Dr, Singapore 117606, 19 May 2011-1.jpg

Smooth-coated otter carcass at 33 Harbour Dr, Singapore 117606, 19 May 2011; sent from my iPhone

Location of carcass in West Coast Park, off Harbour Drive

Smooth-coated otter carcass location, 19 May 2011-2-2.jpg

Smooth-coated otter sightings in Singapore - Google Maps-3-1.jpg

Dissection and immersion of the Smooth-coated otter carcass
Photo by Thanh Son Nguyen
Smooth-coated otter carcass 19 May 2011.png

RIP young otter, hope you’re in happy hunting grounds now.

From twitter:

3 hours ago [actually 2.33pm] – Benjamin Lee (NParks) alerted me about an otter carcass spotted this morning. Hoping to recover it now. Raffles Museum has freezer space.

3 hours ago – Smooth-coated Otter carcass been cooking in this blazing sun all morning so will be quite ripe. Ulp.

3 hours ago – Just picked up trash bags and gloves from Kelvin Lim at the Raffles Museum. He did not pass me clothes peg for my nose.

2 hours ago – Smooth otter carcass at West Coast Park, today (this picture on posterous)

2 hours ago – Rats, museum freezer full of Christmas Island material. I’ll dissect back at the department immediately.

2 hours ago – Poor otter, carcass not stiff. Into five trash bags and a canvas bag, his warm body bouncing against me as I walk out. Dept pickup on way.

2 hours ago – Walking shook off the fever I was sleeping off before Benjamin called. All drenched now so Kelvin bringing t-shirt + dissection kit.

29 minutes ago – Smooth-coated otter dissection completed, all preserved; thank goodness for our washing area! Spine, and rib broken, likely roadkill.

This post was originally just a photo I had posted via Posterous. It was updated with these details. Ria Tan (who had also alerted me about the report of the poor otter) highlighted this on Facebook and will list it in WildSingapore News.

MARUAH survey on the polling experience in GE2011:

Abridged version of Hong Siew Kum's email (see full version on their webpage):

MARUAH ( is conducting an election watch project. A key component of this project is to validate that the polling process is indeed conducted in a free and fair manner, with voters feeling secure that their votes are secret.

We are asking all voters to complete an online survey on their experience in the polling stations. The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete and you can complete the survey on your smartphone immediately after voting!

To participate, please do this:

  1. Read the survey form before going to vote, so that you will know what to look out for in the polling station. You can find the survey form at:
  2. Complete the survey on Polling Day itself. 

We will only consider responses submitted after 8.05am on Polling Day, 07 May 2011 (polling starts at 8am). The survey will be closed sometime after 07 May 2011: 2359.

We hope to achieve a reasonable number of responses for this survey. Please persuade at least 10 people around you (family, relatives, friends or colleagues) to do this survey and to persuade others to participate as well. 

With this ripple effect, we will be able to have the data to tell Singaporeans how the polling process has been conducted.
So please vote — and then do the survey.

Siew Kum Hong
Vice President, MARUAH