My module lesson schedule for AY2011/2 Sem 1

My life is over from Lessons will begin on Thursday, 11th August 2011. It’s why I’m rushing coastal cleanup preparations now.


  • 10am – 12pm @ LT34 – Lecture, LSM2251 Ecology and the Enviroment
  • 2pm – 6pm @ LS Lab 7 – Practical, LSM2251 Ecology and the Enviroment (even weeks)


  • 4pm – 6pm @ LT32 – Lecture, LSM1103 Biodiversity


  • 10am – 12pm @ LT20 – Lecture, LSM3261 Life Form and Function
  • 2pm – 6pm @ LS Lab 7 – Practical, LSM3261 Life Form and Function (odd weeks)


  • 2pm – 6pm @ LS Lab 7 – Practical, LSM1103 Biodiversity (even/odd)

There’s TA training, lab and lecture preparations, research projects, ICCS and what not, but things are becoming manageable. Musn’t sacrifice too many cycling trips this academic year; well, we’ll see.

Wednesday looks ideal for research student consultation and field trips but it rarely works out that easily. I’ll have to wait to see their class and field schedules before deciding. Ten studies are already confirmed and I am at least glad more than half the students have worked with me before.

Above all, I am determined to prevent myself from falling ill yet again at the end of this semester!

The Sea Anemone Public Lecture tomorrow – Tue 21 Jun 2011: 7.00pm @ NUS LT23

We’re lucky to have Daphne Fautin speaking to us tomorrow. She’s a great scholar and instructor and is here to conduct a workshop in addition to field work and has been discovering more new species on our shores and mangroves.

We’ve shifted her talk to 7pm and secured LT23 (across the road from the Science Canteen) so that the public can hear her.

To register, just go to: Admission is free and all are welcome.

I posted up an advert on Habitatnews webpage last week, fresh with a new picture of Daphne in Mandai Besar mangrove.


Adrian Loo & Kakis @ Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day 2011

Four years ago, Adrian Loo thought he’d participate in fund-raising for the Assisi Hospice by having his kids bake cookies with him and hawk the results with their cherubic faces.

The cookies did sell out but Adrian had also extended the call to his sister and biology kakis and we responded with alacrity. Thus began an annual operation to help raise funds.

Motivation to help the hospice is easy as “staff and volunteers of Assisi Hospice have been helping people in Singapore facing death to live life with dignity and to the fullest, for over 20 years” [see this link].

Our modus operandi is to collect and sell item donations from friends, having exhausted our personal haul in the first year and struggled with baked sales. This turns out to also be helpful to the donors as they de-clutter! Goods and clothing which are languishing unused and slowly degrading are recycled to new owners while still in decent condition (we don’t take junk). Donors usually reflect on the relatively new items they pull out of storage, and hopefully that encourages less impetuous purchasing in future!

The critical issue of storage of donated items is solved with the provision of Adrian’s study for the 1-2 months leading up to the event, during which it slowly fills with treasures.

We took a break of sorts this year since a few of us were struggling to cope with life during the critical periods od advertisement and recruitment. So I was quite pleased that we could still make a contribution and see off most items to new owners. We appeared to have less space than last year, so we simply went to the pavement across from us and set up shop there.

The 2010 pile of stuff

The 2011 pile

Our Pasar Malam extended across the road this year

The day is peppered with visitors who throng the fair not only for bargains but also to get henna paintings, buy fruit, plants and knick-knacks, play games etc. and savour the lots and lots of lovely food amidst a carnival atmosphere.

We stand for eight hours during the event but take a break or two to wander off, soak in the sights and grab some of the wonderful food. Inevitably we will bump into friends each year and amongst the many I met this year was university classmate Maureen Chan who was running a stall in the air-conditioned hall up the hill!

Uni classmates from 1987: myself, Maureen Chan and Kok Min Yee;
Amy Choong missed the photo.

All sizes | 36Assisi_Hospice_CFD-19jun2011 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Two sorts of people come to the fair – charity-driven individuals and bargain hunters. The former are more likely to plonk down cash for food to support the effort by indulging in simple pleasures. They do engage in some retail therapy and bargain buys and tend to be relaxed about purchasing, as all their coupons go to a worthy cause. They enjoy the interaction with friendly strangers who could well be their friends if our paths had crossed elsewhere. That puts a smile on everyone faces.

Bargain hunters are a tougher crowd but represent a significant proportion of customers and they examine items the others miss. These buyers are hard negotiators and target rock-bottom bargains. And close examination of donated items will reveal mild flaws which they zoom in on. Thus we’ve often learnt to let items go for a fraction of their value. Experience has shown us if we hold out for that decent price, that never materialises and we’d be saddled with a lot of items at the close of sales. An unwanted item, regardless of its original value, is junk. There is a lesson in there about materialism!

So while we are trying to earn money for the Assisi Hospice, we are also interested in recycling. And we have learnt to deal with the heartbreaking prices. Yesterday, for example, the price of a woman’s winter jacket with just a few stains, had no takers. The price spiraled down to all of five dollars. I thought of my student on exchange in Montreal last semester who trudged into the snow for a field trip without a winter jacket and clutched my head! Eventually one of us felt the $5 tag was too low, and picked it up for $10.

Purchasing from your own store is tagged a sucker buy and is heralded with great amusement from the rest as we are all supposed to de-clutter. But some buys are too good to resist. Appreciative of the value and utility, we justify the purchases by offering a higher cost than the going rate.

Sales are surprisingly brisk with clothes and bags – our best buys might get us $10 for bags and $5 for clothes at start of sales. After a couple of hours, what we have left goes for a few dollars. Books and trinkets rake in $2 at their peak which tapers down eventually to a few cents.

Assisi Hospice CFD - all items 5 for a $1

A critical thing about sales is having someone engage the potential customer in the exploration. The interaction drive sales and it is critical to have manpower who attend to the various sections.

The books don’t move until
the Rambling Librarian manages the store!

Aunty-killer Kok Min Yee and his moustache,
hands down champion salesman

Assis Hospice Charity Fair star - Kok Min Yee

We used to plot about more effective ways in which we sell the merhandise but soon learnt to simply be thankful that we even found the time to recruit items, come together to plan and execute the operation. So we focus on enjoying the fellowship of the process.

The nuns whom Adrian took instruction from originally were not expecting us to solve the hospice’s financial needs, merely to make a contribution. And they were delighted by our process.

Persisting with a project annually instead a one-off wonder means greater efficiency so planning is kept down to a minimum. Adrian keeps an eye on the target and this being our fourth year, everyone knows what works and how to help effectively during delivery, packing and unloading. With many hands, this is manageable. And each year, some of us take more or less active roles depending on crises. At gatherings though, we just cook and eat!

On the way home after this year’s second gathering before the event, I was thinking it was great that we had taken time to meet without the need of a death to draw us together. All thanks to the nuns, staff and volunteers at the Assisi Hospice. And maybe next year we’ll finally take a group photo!

Relaxing with iced-sour plums at the end of sales.

Adrian Loo & Kakis, Booth No. C13 – Adrian Loo, Natalie Loo, Jonathan Harold Hendricks, Kok Min Yee, Kok Oi Yee, Angeline Tay, Jennifer Kee, Adrian Lim, Amy Choong, Thomas O’Dell, Ivan Chew, Jessica Chak, Anand Sundarambalan, Lee Su Yin, Airani S & N. Sivasothi.

Year 1 – 2008

  • “Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day,” by N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks, 18 May 2008. blog post
  • “5 loaves and some cookies…bags and coffee,” by Adrian Loo. Lekowala, 19 May 2008. blog post

Year 2 – 2009

Year 3 – 2010

  • “Preparatory meeting” photos by N. Sivasothi – link
  • “More stuff this year at our stall for the Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day,” by N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks, 28 May 2010 – blog post
  • “Assisi Charity Fun Day, Sat 29 May 2010: send me your high-grade clutter or help me sell!” by N. Sivasothi. Otterman speaks, 26 May 2010. – blog post
  • Photos by Kenneth Pinto – Flickr photo album
  • Photos by Walter Lim – Flickr photo album

Year 4 – 2011

The Haji Lane cat

I hardly get out to town so when I was early for the launch of Veggie Thursday at Cafe Le Caire last Thursday, I walked down Haji Lane for a bit. tokyobike caught my eye and I chatted with the proprietors for a bit and I would later post a note about the shop on Cycling in Singapore.

Haji Lane -  tokyobike

On the wall further ahead, a lovely wall painting indicating the whereabouts of a bar called Piedra Negra. It’s interior has Spanish and Mexican art decor and does look interesting.

Haji Lane - Piedran Negra

Singapore Actually features many of the other shops which pepper the lane.

My fondest memory of the lane, though, lay across the road from tokyobike. Behind the window of an air-conditioned shop, a well-fed cat studied the growing evening activity on the road with great interest and mewed at the many passerbys who stopped to say hello. I’d have loved to get know him better but it was time to head back to the launch. Interesting place, Haji Lane, and all the better with that resident cat.

Haji Lane Cat

Sun 19 Jun 2011: 10am – 5pm – Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day 2011 @ Thomson Road

Assisi Hospice has been caring for the critically ill, the dying and the poor, and their purpose is to enable their patients to live their final days with dignity, with their pain and suffering managed, and to know that they are loved and cared for despite their illness.

Their care does not include only medical and nursing services but also psychosocial and emotional support for our patients and their families.”

The funfair today organised by volunteer effort is a critical part of their annual fundraising activities. My kakis and I, led by our Catholic member, Adrian Loo akak Lekowala , are in our fourth year of setting up a stall of pre-loved items for sale.

It’ll be a hard day’s work of sales and we look forward to little breaks when we’ll examine the other offerings down the row of stalls and inevitably chomp on the delectable offerings!

A picnic table for the LSM1103 Changi Beach Practical

LSM1103 Biodiversity can be a tough course for both students and staff as it covers microbes, botany and zoology in just 13 weeks over 50 hours comprised of 26 hours of lectures and 24 hours of field and lab work.

I have the zoology gig and have the pleasure of introducing students to major animal groups. They learn a little about their biology and learn to identify differentiate groups. And during lectures and their practicals in the field and lab, we try to initiate discussions.

The course content is never static, as there is always something to update and tweak. Invariably I am up the whole night before a lecture, working on my material. Often, this is softened by the company of Mr Bats the cat.

Yes, I can’t use Barnes (or Ruppert, Fox and Barnes) anymore!

It’s not just lecture material that gets tweaked. This month, we are on a hunt for portable tables!

During LSM1103 Biodiversity Changi Beach Practicals, various groups of students are immersed in the sea to take their turn at the beach seine. This allows them to discover the greater diversity of marine fauna otherwise hidden by the tide.

The excited students examine the organisms, discuss the identities and species biology, before TAs return the lot back to the littoral zone.

Each group also shares their (relatively) rare finds with others at the base station further upshore. This is always a crowded session over a bunch of small tanks and often we are also battling time as all this is done, including travel time from and to campus, in less than four hours.

So we figured, a couple of portable tables would solve the problem by creating space around the tanks, enhance visibility of the sea creatures and facilitate the TA’s job of introducing students to these marine organisms.

We were alerted about the existence of portable tables at the Giant in Vivocity by Cai Hongxia. So Weiting, the Full-Time TA currently in charge of LSM1103, made a mental note to check it out on her next galavanting session. She came back to say the table she examined folds into a case ,but is quite heavy. Well, since we do use a trolley to get our gear to the beach, that might still be manageable.

Well, this was merely the first candidate, and it’s apparently a little unsteady. We’ll be on the lookout for others. Holler if you see something suitable, jiggle the top to see if its stable and send us photos with the specs as well!

LSM1103 picnic table?
Galavanting Weiting halts long enough to measure a candidate table!

Picnic table

Portable picnic table
Candidate table no. 2

The Changi Beach cat who observed our practicals in 2007.
He’s here as comment-bait.

ACRES World’s Saddest Dolphin campaign has gone international with Avaaz

ACRES has run the “Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins” campaign in hope of restoring the freedom of 25 wild-caught dolphins meant for captivity at Resort Worlds Singapore. As far as I am concerned, this plan to bring dolphins for display is a direct challenge our dignity as a nation. Are we really going down this road of having dolphins jump through hoops?

It has also been tiring to hear very old and worn arguments from the 80’s and 90’s surface about the research and conservation benefits of having dolphins in captivity. The myriad of ills which the ocean faces will not be aided by any of this.

Thankfully, we have ACRES to take the lead in organising a coherent and dedicated campaign to address this through the Saddest Dolphins campaign

About an hour ago, the local campaign received a boost through the international civic organization Avaaz, who have appealed for the voice of their members and the international community to support the campaign.

The goal of this global web movement is “to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere,” and the petition to Resorts World Sentosa states:

“We call on you to release all the wild dolphins from captivity, stop your practice of buying dolphins caught in the wild, and support global efforts to end the hunting and capturing of wild dolphins.”

Avaaz hopes to collect 500,000 signatures from around the world and deliver the petition to Resorts World and the media. It is heartening to watch signatures from around the world lend their support to this campaign.

Avaaz - Save the Saddest Dolphins 

Click to view current status.

Adrian Loo has blogged about this too.

RIP Daryl Karns, old friend

It is with great sadness that I was informed of the passing of Professor Daryl Karns of Hanover College, by his good friend and colleague, Harold Voris at the Field Museum of Natural History.

In 2001, I recruited naturalists to be eyes and hands for Daryl Karns, Harold Voris and Bruce Jayne who spent a summer in Singapore studying our aquatic snakes. The enthusiastic group was called the RMBR Snakehunters and project was highlighted in The Straits Times.

Daryl did a lot of work at Pasir Ris Park radio-tracking snakes and gave a public talk at the Ang Mo Kio Public Library on 4th April 2001 towards the end of his stay which was hosted by the Nature Society (Singapore).

Darul KArs-Pasir Ris Park 2001 [Harold Voris]
Click for pdf

It was such a delight to me that our paths had crossed. I enjoyed our time together and was struck by his humility, interest, camaraderie and respect for the volunteers, a true gentleman scientist, who contributed to my understanding of science and the world.

Chim Chee Kong, one of the snakehunters who would go on to study aquatic snakes for his MSc subsequently, emailed me this CNAH obituary this morning. I am posting this up here to share the sad news with the many enthusiastic RMBR Snakehunters who had the opoprtunity to work this fine gentleman.

Condolences may be sent by email to his family at morgan0109 (hotmail) or by post to:
Dr. Pam Middleton and family,
P.O. Box 83
Hanover, IN 47243

And you can share your memory of him at his obituary page here.

The Center for North American Herpetology
Lawrence, Kansas
8 June 2011


Dr. Daryl Karns, well-known herpetologist and Professor of Biology at Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana, died at the age of 61 of a sudden heart attack on the morning of 7 June 2011 near his home in Madison. Daryl was an active and vibrant teacher. Since his arrival at Hanover in 1984, Daryl was a dedicated faculty member who brought his passion for research into the classroom. He will be remembered not only as an outstanding teacher and colleague, but also for his wide-ranging research and contributions to the Rivers Institute where he was associate director. His record of service to the Hanover College campus community was significant; he will be greatly missed.

Daryl received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin, his Master’s Degree from the University of Kansas, and his Doctorate from the University of Minnesota; his teaching areas at Hanover covered evolution, ecology, and zoology.

Daryl earned The Hanover College Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activity, a new award first given this year to a member of the faculty in recognition of sustained scholarly or creative achievement.

Memorial contributions can be sent to the Hanover College Foundation for Student Travel or Research Development. Contributions can be sent to the Department of Biology, Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana 47243.

Update, 15 June 2011 from Harold Voris:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The memorial services for Daryl Karns were held outside at “The Point” on the campus of Hanover College last Sunday. The natural beauty of this sunny afternoon on a grassy knoll overlooking the great Ohio River was breathtaking. The tributes to Daryl were equally amazing.

The President of the College announced that the College was recognizing Daryl’s myriad contributions by naming the natural history trails adjacent to the campus after Daryl. A very appropriate tribute I think. I am attaching a pdf of the new trail map, so you can see it. Also, below is a link to a really nice story that appeared in the local newspaper regarding Daryl’s many contributions.

I know that we will all miss him in the coming years.

Harold K. Voris, Ph.D., Curator Emeritus, Department of Zoology, Field Museum of Natural History

“A snake came to my water-trough. On a hot, hot, day…”

Always, this D H Lawrence poem, “Snake” we learnt about in Secondary two, runs through my head, when I see an old friend like this equatorial spiting cobra

“A snake came to my water-trough.
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.”

“… but even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.”

Go on, read the poem, and see how the poet deal with inner demons when contemplating the snake.

I came to a halt, circled round to enjoy the snake’s beauty of motion and colour, and regretted that we had disturbed it on its sojourn.

Photo by Marcus Chua.