What else my research student does on her field trip – Fung Tze Kwan’s Good Friday post from Pulau Ubin

Fung Tze Kwan is an MSc student with the Department of Biological Sciences working on the diet, home range and ecological role of the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) in Singapore. Right now she is visiting Pulau Ubin on weekly basis accompanied by volunteer field assistants for research work.

For an idea of what she typically does, see also “Oh Shit! YAY!” By Hazelina Yeo. That Simple., 14 Apr 2014.

Civet poop girl discovers her first ever double-pile of civet poop in Pulau Ubin!
20140418 FTK Pulau Ubin

The field assistants are exposed to more than just the research activity, as a variety of experiences crop up which we cannot script. The public are curious when they see specific action in our forests and coastlines and these interruptions are a great chance for public education and a chance to learn about their perspectives.

And that makes the student researchers better able to explain their work!

Field researchers sometimes have to provide directions and suggestions to a lost visitor, but at other times, they have to butt in to correct inappropriate behaviour. Our natural areas are not vast, thriving swathes of land. They need tender loving care, especially now when they face a much higher pressure from visitorship. Simple explanations are enough for most, but for anything more serious, they know to call NParks to take action.

Tze Kwan is quite communicative which is great for a supervisor. She penned this below from the Pulau Ubin Jetty while waiting for her bum boat ride back to Changi. It illustrates some of the natural education a student experiences during field work: invaluable!

If you want to learn more, visit the projects’ Facebook page.

“Fieldwork on a public holiday is an eye-opener. The crowd is one thing, but the other is the irresponsibility visitors display in terms of safety and respect for nature.

While giving the safety briefing to my field assistant at the front counter, I was interrupted to answer enquiries about suitable trails for kids to cycle, probably because we were with bicycles and cycling helmets.

Whilst surveying Chek Jawa, I saw a guy going off the boardwalk to pick a rock. So I walked up to him and his friends, telling them that they should not go off the boardwalk or take anything. The group looked stunned then asked, “Cannot take anything ah?” Yes, and he placed back the rock.

Halfway it started raining, and I saw a ~10 yr kid speed down a gravel steep slope, and next I heard a crash! His palm and elbow were bleeding with dirt all over the wounds but Dad said ‘never mind one la’. Still I went over and took out my First Aid Kit, only the second time I am using it.

Mum was anxious so I let her do the cleaning with saline water, gauze and bandage. Mum was grateful, saying they were so lucky. Then Mum threw the used saline tube on the ground!!!! I involuntarily “Eh!-ed” her and she said, “sorry sorry” and picked it up.

The Boy asked if I was a nurse LOL, so I told him no, but next time must brake and don’t speed down a slope like this! He nodded.

Just as I thought I could continue my fieldwork, I discovered my left brake was not working! So Hiu Fung and I spent some time figuring it out and fixing it. We did it!

And off we went!

From Chek Jawa, along Balai Quarry and towards Beberek Hut at Jalan Mamam, I was horrified to see obvious first timers on Ubin ignoring signs and speeding down the long downslope, putting themselves and other visitors in danger.

The fieldwork ended on a high note with 23 poop samples. Along the way, visitors would ask me what I was doing and that inevitably leads to Kopi Luwak and a chance for public education!

With the day’s work completed, we happily cycled back to the jetty. Then I saw a group of three jumping and trying to pull a bamboo plant. I stopped to ask what they are doing. The boys said “plucking for fun” while the girl kept looking at my research pass. I just said please respect nature and enjoy it. They looked guilty.

Now here I am, queuing to take the bumboat back to Changi Village after an eventful and happening day. Not forgetting that I met Germaine & Pearlynn and thanks to Hiu Fung for being an awesome help!”

– Fung Tze Kwan, 18 Apr 2014 (Good Friday)

FTK on Pualu Ubin  Hazelina Yeo

Thanks to Wong Hiu Fung and Hazelina Yeo for the photos.

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