Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Greetings

Send Midnight Monkey Monitor Holiday E-Cards to your friends and family

Dear Monkey Readers,

Here's wishing everybody a happy yuletide season and a great 2009 ahead. What a year 2008 has been. Do read on if you're interested in my little holiday update for all of you.

Thank you for supporting the leafmonkey's inconsistent rambling over the year(s). Many apologies for not working hard at creating regular content on this blog. If you're wondering what I've been up to, I've been somewhat regularly updating my research blog. So for now, I'm contemplating my career upon graduation, publication and writing my thesis, in that (somewhat warped) order of priority. Nonetheless, I've been collecting an arsenal of things to share on this blog, just waiting for a moment of inspiration to unleash it!

Of course, as usual, to save unnecessary paper use, I've designed my own christmas ecards to share the holiday season with friends and family. Feel free to use them to send to your own friends and family. Last year's series is also available for use and is tied in with Buy Nothing Christmas.

2008 has been a very eventful year but yet time flies and already it's December and soon, 2009. I do hope that the coming year will be one that is fruitful, peaceful and with more positive action around the world and in our own backyard. In 2009, I will be finishing my last semester in my Masters at NUS. Time has slipped out of my hands before I know it, it's time to graduate! Guess it's my new year resolution to work harder in 2009 to be the change I want to see in the world. I will work harder with my research, with the leafmonkey workshop and of course in my own daily green actions.

Thank you all who have taught me, shared their wisdom with me, helped me, worked with me, collaborated on projects, learned with me, laughed with me and just given me friendship and support in 2008. Here's wishing 2009 to be a great year ahead for all of us, for the environment, for the other 99% of the planet and for the world. Thank you again. What would I do without all of you? :)

Lots of love, laughter, hugs and kisses; always,

Read full article here

Friday, November 28, 2008

Singapore Waters

Nature Society (Singapore) Marine Conservation Group recently produced a 11minute slideshow video on youtube that includes historical photos as well as current images of our shores and its marine life. Quite an enlightening overview from past to present. And as stated in the video, all photographs were shot in Singapore so if you haven't got a chance to visit our many offshore islands yet, this is a good opportunity. There are also colorful images of flora and fauna from our corals, mangroves and shores! Of course, we definitely can't travel back in time so even for monkeys like me, it was refreshing and enlightening. The video is based on the 2003 NSS publications of the same title, "Singapore Waters: Unveiling our seas". I'd say it's definitely worth the 10 minutes 39 seconds of your time.

We could definitely do with more of these videos of our local marine (and terrestrial) life! Last year, WildFilms also produced a 10 minute video sampler. We need more, more, more!

Related Reads:
"Singapore Waters now on YouTube", Wild Shores Blog, 28 Nov 08

Read full article here

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Climate change events

Nothing to do with the events but I always wanted to post this photo for what I think of when I hear the words "climate change" - coast, energy and activism.

Within the short span of a day, received notifications about two events with regards to climate change. The first is a climate change essay competition and another is a lecture on climate change issues that almost sounds like a reference for the essay competition! What a coincidence *beam*

1) Climate Change Essay Competition

Theme: Climate Change: Implications for Singapore

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that anthropogenic climate change is now unequivocal, citing evidence from rising global average sea levels, global average air and ocean temperatures and widespread melting of snow and ice. In response to the IPCC scientific consensus on climate change, Singapore released its National Climate Change Strategy in late Feb 2008 to address various aspects of climate change from vulnerability, adaptation, mitigation and competency building to international participation. At the same time, the government announced the formation of an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development to formulate a clear, national framework and strategy for Singapore’s sustainable development in the context of emerging global and domestic challenges, especially if the current international negotiations on climate change culminate in a post-2012 agreement that results in a carbon constrained world.

As a small island state, Singapore faces several domestic constraints including limited natural resources, geographical constraints which prevent the effective deployment of renewable energy, and an open economy that relies heavily on fossil fuels. Given these domestic challenges and that international negotiations on climate change are still evolving, what are the implications for Singapore’s economy, governance and society?

NUS Office of Environmental Sustainability and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy cordially invite you to take part in our climate change essay competition. We are seeking essays that:

a. Critically assess and provide insights to Singapore’s climate change policy.

b. Provide innovative solutions that address both the global climate challenge and the country’s domestic concerns.

All students studying at Singapore’s tertiary institutions (universities and polytechnics) are eligible to apply for the competition.

All essays should not exceed 2000 words (excluding tables, charts and references) and should be accompanied by a 200 word abstract (included in word count). Each essay can have up to 3 authors. Essays should observe 1.5 spacing and Times New Roman font size 12. Normal academic standards regarding footnotes, references, etc. apply.

1st prize: cash prize of S$1000 and certificate
2nd prize: cash prize of S$500 and certificate
3RD prize: cash prize of $300 and certificate

The top 3 winners of the competition will present at the National Sustainability Conference 2009 on 20, 21 and 22 February, which is hosted by NUS President (Designate), Professor Tan Chorh Chuan. Essays will be judged by two professors from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

The deadline for submission is 16 January 2009. Send a softcopy addressed to Mr Loo Deliang at Please provide authors’ names, institution of study, email addresses and contact details.

2) British High Commission : Distinguished Visitors Lecture
Date: 10 December 2008, Wednesday
Time: 4.30-6.30pm
Venue: Eden Hall, 28 Nassim Road, Singapore

RSVP by return of email (evelyn dot gui at fco dot gov dot uk) by 4 December 2008

Dr Kala Vairavamoorthy, University of Birmingham
on "Global Climate Change & Its Impact on Urban Water Management"

Dr Kalanithi Vairavamoorthy has a PhD in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering and an MSc in Environmental Engineering, both from Imperial College, University of London. His first degree is in Civil Engineering, from King's College London. He is also a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (UK). He is currently Chair of Water Engineering at the University of Birmingham, UK and also holds a Chair appointment at UNESCO-IHE, and at the Technical University of Delft in the Water Management Group. In addition, Professor Vairavamoorthy is the Scientific Director of SWITCH, an EU Integrated Project for Sustainable Urban Water Management, worth €25 million. SWITCH is one of the largest EU research projects in the area of water, involving a consortium of 32 international partners with 40 PhD studies, 10 study sites and 9 demonstration cities.

Dr Martin Todd, University College London
on "Predicting the Impacts of Climate Change: What are the Uncertainties?"

Dr Martin Todd has been a Lecturer in the Department of Geography at University College London (UCL) since 2000. Prior to this, he lectured at St John's College, Oxford after a 4-year stint as Post-Doctoral Research Scientist at Bristol University, where he obtained his PhD in 1993. Recent research activities include QUEST (Quantifying the Earth System) project - a collaboration between several UK institutions on climate change and its impacts, as well as the EU WERRD (Water & Ecosystem Resources in Regional Development) programme, studying impacts on several river basins of the world. Dr Todd has also participated in a UK biodiversity conservation project 'Darwin Initiative', and a climate modelling research which looked at major dust storms over Chad, Africa.

Read full article here

Friday, November 21, 2008

Upcoming The Leafmonkey Workshop Events

After the success of the last workshop on echinoderms, there are now 3 more workshops planned for the coming months. What more, now you can sign up for all 3 workshops via 1 easy form. All interested are welcome to join us! Remember, pre-registration is a must :) Read Workshops FAQ.

5 Dec 2008 . 7pm - 10pm
The Easy (Not Hard) Cnidarians Workshop

9 Jan 2009 . 7pm - 10pm
The Hard (Not Soft) Cnidarians Workshop

6 Feb 2009 . 7pm - 10pm
The Fishy Workshop


We now also have our very own mailing list where you can sign up to receive updates and announcements via email. Originally I intended it to be for the midnight monkey monitor but there really isn't much I can share. Now, I really have things to share with every one and hopefully every one remotely interested would subscribe to the mailing list. TLW is expanding. We are not just going to be doing workshops but there is more in the works. Stay informed, subscribe to the list! To do so, you can either visit our google group or simply enter your email in the sign up box on the right sidebar of this blog.

You can still join our Facebook Page as a fan to receive updates on upcoming workshops and events!

Read full article here

Monday, November 03, 2008

Toddycats at NUS Animal Welfare Exhibition

The toddycats are hard at work at the NUS central library. Not exactly the best time to grab the attention of exam-focused undergrads but the toddycats are not deterred! Soon we started getting people's attention with our famous dugong baby and pangy the pangolin, Hamsa's baby. Even the contract cleaner uncle wasn't spared! *grin*

Read full article here

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Upcoming Workshops by The Leafmonkey Workshop

The Leafmonkey Workshop (TLW), my latest "job" and project is essentially an effort at filling in the gap in the local nature community by providing "capacity building" for nature guides and volunteers. As such, we have organized an series of upcoming monthly workshops that hope to provide further content training as well as how to effectively share these information with ordinary people. All interested are welcome to join us! Remember, pre-registration is a must :) Read Workshops FAQ

7 Nov 2008 . 7pm - 9.30pm
The "Star-Studded" Echinoderm Workshop

5 Dec 2008 . 7pm - 9.30pm
The Easy (Not Hard) Cnidarians Workshop

Best of all, remember to join our Facebook Page as a fan to receive updates on upcoming workshops and events!

Read full article here

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lake Titicaca

A little animaniac video to give you an idea where I am. Thanks to Ivan for the link!

I would like to blog more but internet connection is sketchy in my hotel room at Lake Titicaca so I have to sit at my room door which is superbly embarrassing. That's actually where I am right now, writing this. To add to it, I suffered from pretty bad altitude sickness yesterday and missed the first day of introductions. Lake titicaca is at 3,800m above sea level and this monkey is still a tropical equatorial lowland monkey after all. It wasn't so bad at the Himalayas but I got a jab from the medics to stop the nausea after I puked. Having sinusitis blocked nose doesn't help since I have difficulty drawing in the already thin air into my lungs. Nonetheless, this morning the possibly jetlagged monkey woke up at 5am, caught the sunrise and feel a lot better. Birds singing, fishes swarming the surface of the lake and lil boats on the lake with fishermen waiting for catch really made my day! I was so inspired I even wrote the speech that Singapore delegates supposed to give on Sunday. Can't wait for the day to really start.

View of sunrise over lake titicaca from my hotel room.

View of lake titicaca from my room in the day time

Read full article here

Monday, September 29, 2008

En route Peru

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

The holiday is over and work is starting. I will try to blog daily about the APEC Youth Camp in Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru. Representing Singapore is Deliang and myself. Deliang is from the NUS Campus Sustainability Committee. First met him while working on the Green Carnival. He was with the NUSSU SAVE and now he's a staff working full time on environmental education and other climate change projects on campus. What a great job! :)

Singapore will be hosting APEC in 2009 and this is indeed a good time to be representing Singapore. I'm honored to be part of this process. Until then... Hasta la vista en Peru!

Update @ 9:06am +8GMT 30 Sep
I am currently at New York JFK Airport waiting for my flight to Peru.

Read full article here

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Going to Peru 1-6 Oct

Reed boats Harboured at Floating Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru by Pet_r

Last friday I got a phone call out of the blue from the National Youth Council. They would like to nominate me to go to Peru to attend an APEC Youth Camp from 1 to 6 October and asked if I was interested. Despite the logistical nightmare of managing going to Japan and then Peru, I decided to agree because as so many has said, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The camp is on sustainable development and water issues, attended by youths from various APEC economies. What more, next year, Singapore is hosting APEC and I will get a chance to organize an equivalent event i Singapore which r0x0r mah b0x0rs!

In order to attend, I had to write a 1500 words essay on water issues and so I wrote about where Singapore can take its next step in water management and building a "water culture". If you're interested, you can read my essay here.

So on 29 September, I will be flying direct from Narita Airport to Lima, Peru. Less connections, less fuel consumed or so I console myself. The camp venue is at lake titicaca in Peru which borders Bolivia. It is supposed to be an example of well managed water resource in the country. Pictures of it reminds me of a surreal version of a "coastal" indo-china up in the mountains 4000m above sea level. If I have internet connection in Puno, Lima, I will update the blogs with happenings at the camp.

Read full article here

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Help needed to identify the sea monster

Could somebody familiar with these maritime industrial monstrosities out at sea please help to identify what this might be? So what is this yellow monster used for? We know it's not a dredger. And it seems to be transported somewhere (to Sembawang or Pasir Gudang perhaps)? Or was it something you use at sea? So many questions, hardly any answers at all. Would some wise maritime guru please advice?

This photo was taken from Pulau Ubin on Saturday 6 Sep 2008.

For scale, we have a tiny (in comparison) container ship on the left of the monster.

And for further scale comparison, this is how a human (that speck of dust over there) compares to a container ship!

Read full article here

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monkey on ST Digital Life

"Enjoy Tech the Eco Way"
Be a techie and still save the earth; THAM YUEN-C gets tips from two greenies
Straits Times Digital Life
20 Aug 08

Read the full article here.

A few days ago, Ria emailed me saying that Digital Life is interested in doing an article about how to be "green" with tech-related lifestyle. I thought that apart from talking about the usual "save electricity, reduce carbon footprint" spiel, I can talk more about what we have been using technology for in terms of "eco social media". I just want to clarify that my quote was edited and "advocating conservation and environmentalism" can be fun too! Here are some fun things that didn't manage to get fitted into the tiny newspaper column!

1. Reduce your carbon footprint
Well the most basic of being "green" is to reduce your carbon footprint. That's the buzzword in this globalized world these days. How can we do that? Switch off your gadgets, blah blah blah. But how about less gadget upgrading? It just wasn't possible to include this in press as all their advertisers would be quite upset. Honestly I've resisted upgrading my phone for the last 5 years. And trust me, it takes a lot of effort! Resist resist. resist the iphone. resist a pda phone. resisted the nokia n-series with GPS! It's not easy but it's healthier. When they say I have a long list of gadgets, I meant I travel with all of those (except PC) perpetually. Not forgetting peripherals! How do I make sure I don't die from overexposure to electromagnetic frequencies?

2. Get away from your computer more often!
Go out and be with nature more. If you have followed my "lights out" project, I really tried doing that. Lights out is not just about switching things off but reacquainting yourself with life away from gadgets. I don't sit in the dark. I go out and be with nature, be with family, friends and people instead of sitting in the dark! Savor the sweet scent of tembusu as it blooms in the dark. Listen to the hooting of the resident owl beside my office. Chat with friends! Read a book at a library. You get the idea! Very fun one. Confirm, guarantee plus chop!

3. Offset your carbon footprint.

If you cannot reduce your carbon footprint, offset with something more meaningful! I've mentioned this in the article but the idea is that since you are using the gadgets already, use it for something meaningful that will help to do something that will offset the gadget's consumption footprint! There are of course so many ways to do it. :) But please don't just try to buy your way out of this. I think there are many more meaningful and actual tangible ways we can do it. Sometimes we do it without even knowing. For example, by clicking or passing on a message in facebook re: environment, like telling your friend about the I want to go Cyrene Reef facebook group, you are doing something indirectly for the environment!

4. Be self-reflexive!
Interestingly, in a recent AAG Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group mailing list, an academic pointed out to the group that if all of us are studying about environmental issues, what are we doing ourselves to offset or reduce the carbon footprint of our own research's travel? We jet around the world to do fieldwork but think of the fuel consumption! It's really important to be reflexive and it was just great to hear that from professors :)

5. Make the most of what you have!
If you read the full article, Hang Chong said something really true too. With gadgets comprising of more tools these days, you can have a universal machine that does everything. But as long as something works, it's good enough too! I constantly catch myself saying to others, "can use can liao lah!". For example, I have a very old nokia phone that doesn't even have a built in camera! But it has GPRS and I can surf twitter on it! I bring my laptop almost everywhere and can use it to skype and call people even when I forgot to bring my phone! Yes it's heavy but one laptop means less gadgets!

6. Embrace the concept of Sharing.

Recently I am in need of a 3G phone to use in Japan when I visit in September. But instead of succumbing to the temptation of buying a new iphone, I decided to crowdsource for a phone to borrow. I posted on twitter and facebook asking if anybody has a spare 3G phone to lend me and voila! Reply within the day. This is great! Playing with gadgets without increasing the footprint. Sharing also includes ride-sharing, carpooling, etc. And the good part? You get to make more friends and appreciate your existing friends more :)

7. Engage your friends!
I must say that I really have a lot of friend "advocating conservation and environmentalism. The so-called "spending a lot of my time online is for spreading the message" include, for example, writing this blog post! Or posting a link on facebook, or chatting with people about it! Actually devising ways to "harness" social media for environment is challenging and fun. But the best is really engaging people. Starting conversations and getting discussions going on twitter when I saw otters was more fun than just the satisfaction of knowing the "message was passed". I enjoy reading the replies from twitter followers whenever I talk about what green things I have (or have not!) been doing.

Remember, it's not just about the environment. It's really about the people.

Read full article here

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Geographers and their (cyber)space

Geographers and their (cyber)space
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

A new blog is born! Geographers and their (cyber)space ( is a product of persistence and a tad of prodding from Kenneth Pinto and his wonderful efforts at CIT with the new NUS Blogs. Yes, if you are from NUS, you can actually get your own blog (academic related of course) hosted on

To quote the blog's about page:
"This site aims to feature the research, publication, presentations, seminars, modules, fieldwork and other news of, on and by the postgraduates in the NUS Department of Geography. Hopefully in the near and eventual future, the site will be able to include the work by other researchers and faculty in the department as well."
So far I have managed to "recruit" 2 other contributors. Looking forward to a productive time on this blog.

Meanwhile, this leafmonkey has been listed on the links for GE2221, Nature and Society IVLE page! So if any students are reading this, Hello!

wild shores of singapore
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Speaking of new blogs, Ria of WildSingapore has a new blog (! Looking very snazzy and elegant a the same time. From HTML to RSS and XML all in the span of one year. Congrags to Ria for moving on the a new level of expertise in blog/web designing in our ever evolving technoworld! She's definitely surpassed mediocre me. Kudos!

Read full article here

Media Socialists at the Social Media Breakfast

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

[blogging LIVE!] The media socialists are here! This is the 3rd social media breakfast hosted at the ACM!

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

They even serve pink drinks for the green monkey.

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

And of course animal friends are here too! Lest animals feel that I forget them.

[Afterthoughts] There was supposed to be an agenda regarding bloggers and marketing but somehow that didn't come to pass. We managed to get a free tour of the vietnam exhibition at ACM and the little red books on display from Chairman Mao's post-cultural revolution era fervor. At points I wonder if I'm no different from the propaganda which calls for "learned youths to be one with the proletariat farmers". Isn't that what I advocate too? haha oops.

Back to the breakfast. I definitely don't recommend it for the unsociable monkeys out there. We were too busy just socializing with ourselves. Going as far as to skype with kevin (theoryisthereason) and giving him a spin of the venue before my battery died. I met a very interesting girl, emily and a TODAY reporter, alicia who turns out to be a recent CNM graduate with mutual friends. On top of that, I finally met uniquefrequency in person and saw some other twitter followers of mine. Somehow, I'm often greeted with "ohhh you the environmentalist". Well I definitely show more diversity than that on twitter! It was interesting none the less. Lots of cam-whoring going on as you can see. Well I did talk a lil bit about social media and its use for the environment, after all that is my specialty. Seriously milling about a journal article on that but currently constipated.

It was kind of sad that the agenda didn't take off. I was getting a little obnoxious with my constant asking of "so what happened to the agenda". Alas, ignored. As should be of course. As kenneth (acroamatic) mentioned, I'm not too good with PR :P There is only so far a monkey will go to be polite and politically correct. But one of the reason why I went was to check out this local social media scene and also to support NHB's valiant effort at hosting the event! It was a big move from a government stat board. In fact, Walter (coolinsights) announced that there will be a new position open in his department called social media marketer! That would be most awesome. In his word, probably the first of its kind in Singapore.

Read full article here

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Starry Starry National Day

I saw stars all weekend. Knobbly sea stars that is!

Blythe adopted a star and named it Star! Photo by Budak

For IYOR 2008 Singapore's launch at the Botany Center this friday and saturday, I was coordinating the booth for Be a Star: Adopt a Star. 100 stars from Cyrene Reef were up for adoption! No, you don't get to bring the star home but the star trackers will keep you updated every time they spot your star on Cyrene Reef! In fact, they will even email you the updates on your star and there will be individual blog posts up on their site - one for each named star! There's a patrick (as in spongebob's friend), dutchie, little strange and lots more! 25 in total were adopted and named :) The money goes to funding the Reef Celebration event as well the as the publishing of a Blue Plan by the International Year of the Reef committee. The money does not go to NHC or Star Trackers or me(!) but to the IYOR and Marine Rountable. We were lucky to collect a total of $1267 in donations for these stars.

Star Trackers @ IYOR 08
Sijie [right] of Star Trackers with a young adopter, Nurul, naming her star! Photo by Chee Kong. Thanks for all your hard work Sijie and Chee Kong!

Really special thanks to the star trackers for doing so much for the event as well as for the studies of the stars! Although the money donated does not go to the star tracker but they pledge to do all the hard work to ensure that all adopters continue to have a relationship with their adopted star. It is such a great program. They should most definitely consider making this a permanent part of their program.

Hantu Bloggers adopted Bibi! Photo by Budak

Did you know that each of these knobblies are actually unique? You can tell them apart by the configuration of their chocolate chips (the knobs on their surface)! It's kind of like our fingerprints and the markings on whale sharks and tail flutes for whales. It's all really cool!

The irony about having a seastar as a best friend for a sponge is that, sea stars eat sponges! *grin* These are just some trivia I learnt while having to "sell" these sea stars. I didn't know anything before but after explaining for 2 days how baby sea stars come into being and all other sea star trivia, I now know that there is no such thing as a starfish! A starfish is not a fish. It's a star! Thus we call them sea stars.

Staff from Surbana (the development company!) adopted a star too! Photo by Budak

It was also very exciting that I got my niece and nephew to visit me at the IYOR event! It was the first time they got to see me at work. They also love the nudibranch and coloring all kinds of rainbow colors on the nudis. Of course my niece's strong resemblance to her aunt also caused certain commotion. It was good to share one's work with family.

If you are interested in adopting a sea star as well, we are considering offering the possibility of adoption even after this event. Originally it was for this event only but because of requests from public, we may consider extending it. Please leave a comment if you would consider adopting and support the idea of us offering adoption online. If you want to know more about the adoption, where the money goes to and what you receive, read the full article.

To explain a little more about what the adoption is about, I'm reproducing the little "speech" I gave during the launch to introduce the program. After hearing the "speech", we got a queue at the booth to adopt! The next 15 minutes, we got 8 stars adopted! It was amazing. I must have said something right... so here goes!

"One of the special activities at IYOR 2008 Singapore’s launch is the “Be a star: adopt a Star” program. 100 unique stars living on Singapore’s Cyrene Reef off our southern shores are up for adoption. Each knobbly sea star is a uniquely Singapore star. Every individual has a unique number and arrangement of knobs on it which works like our finger print. While you may not be able to bring these sea stars home, you could be helping to conserve its home through supporting the marine conservation efforts here at our home.

The Knobbly Sea Star is listed as a locally endangered animal in Singapore’s Red Data Book as many of its habitats here are rapidly disappearing. Cyrene Reef is one of the last remaining marine habitats for the Knobbly Sea Star. This habitat may be the only sustainable population of knobbly sea stars left in Singapore today.

We hope that through adopting and naming these Knobbly sea stars, more Singaporeans will come to care for our shores. Hopefully these sea stars will no longer be mere statistics in our books. This is also an excellent opportunity for Singaporeans like you and me to share our hopes and wishes for these stars as well as Singapore’s reefs.

Thus to help us kick off this activity as well as to launch International Year of the Reef 2008, we would like to invite Professor Tommy KohChou Loke Ming, up on stage again, to name the first star for Singapore. Professor KohChou please."

Unfortunately Prof Tommy Koh couldn't make it. But it's ok, one prof for another prof!

Cyrene Star Adopters also receive a Star Kit containing:
- A limited video CD by ASEAN waters (while stocks last)
- A NatureWatch magazine featuring IYOR (while stocks last)
- An eco-friendly bag (while stocks last)
- A Reef Celebration badge (while stock last)
- A Reef Celebration sticker
- A Southern Shores guidesheet
- A Singapore Shores information sheet
- An electronic (paper free!) adoption pack which includes
(1) an adoption certificate with biodata of your adopted star,
(2) a photo of you and the star you named as well as,
(3) information on Cyrene Reef and Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus) sent to your designated email. Whenever the star is spotted in the wild again, updates will also be emailed to them as well as updated on the Star Trackers blog.

Read full article here

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sharing session with science teachers

About a month or so ago, a very nice rep from the publishers Marshall Cavendish contacted the leafmonkey via this blog. They asked if I would talk to a group of science teachers about how science is applicable in our daily lives. The publisher gave me a list of science textbook content that I may be able to apply to my presentation since my talk is suppose to correspond and complement the syllabus. The talk's objective is to help science teachers, give them ideas on how to make class more interesting. I think. The talk before mine is by a forensic pathologist! How cool. I've been overdosing myself on CSI in Cameron since one of the only channels we get is AXN.

Anywho, I got ideas from various friends (mainly Ria, thanks! the whole first section is courtesy of Ria's creative juices) and finally decided to try to do everything - as greedy as I usually am.

I organized my talk in 3 parts - learning about nature (using interesting analogies from daily lives), learning from nature (how we can find nature in daily life - ripped from the talk I give the biomimicry class) and finally, living together with nature. The last part is so huge but I've decided to talk about how our daily life affects the environment and specifically, a debut of my freshly experienced research data. Seeing as how I just arrived back from the field highlands less than 12 hours ago, this is really fresh off the oven.

Right after finishing my slides a few minutes ago, I suddenly got gripped with fear. After all, these are science teachers that I will be speaking with. What more, there will be ONE HUNDRED (100) of them! *gulp* I will be talking about biological functions when I've never ever taken biology (except for a general biology module) and last time I studied science was at 16! I will be sure to disclaim in the beginning that what I speak is from field experience, from guiding... and of course, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. We're all about sharing and exchanging right?

Having said that, do share and comment on my slides. Let me know what you think and if you can think of more interesting analogies, do share. If you're wondering at the lack of text from the 3rd section of my talk, it's because no time to really flesh it out. I've included it in the notes but I doubt slideshare allows people to access that. Sorry, download not available. Apologies and thanks to the people (and animal friends) whose photos I rippedused.

And yes, I recycled slide template. ack. Meanwhile, I shall try to make an attempt to take photos and blog my experience after the talk. Hopefully I'm not too smashed by the end of the day from lack of sleep!

Read full article here

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Away for the crunch

Dear Readers,

As many of you may know, I am in the midst of my Master Candidature and I am desperately in need of time off to focus on my research. I may still post as and when but for now, it's off to work hard on my vegetables. If you want to know more, you can read my research blog. Meantime, I will be writing less here for the next 4 months till mid August when I return from my field work.

Until then, keep an eye and ear out and be that voice for nature :)

Update on 31 Jul 08: I'm back! For good. For now... I miss Cameron Highlands already :(

Read full article here

Monday, July 21, 2008

New target for the next Earth Hour?

I finally visited the KLCC-Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur for the first time yesterday. The brightly lit building lights up the entire skyline of KL. Then it suddenly hit me that the twins will probably be the best target for the next Earth Hour. Wonder if anybody in Malaysia would try to achieve that?

Read full article here

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Greetings from Cameron Highlands

2 weeks into my research in Cameron Highlands on food production amidst rising fuel prices and concern about food shortage. This is really a very critical time when fertilizer cost are rising and food production costs are rising. At the same time, there are also lots of reports in the Malaysian media about illegal clearing of forests for farms and landslides resulting from leaking pipes that farmers use to source for water from the forests to their farms, kilometers away. The leaking pipes led to the weakening of slopes, resulting in landslides and the further polluting of drinking water sources for whole towns.

Meanwhile, I'm learning more than ever in the field on how our food is produced, farmers' concerns and the reality of our consumption. But how real is consumer sovereignty and how do we see our ecological footprint in actual spaces? Why is there such a dearth of information on the consumer side of the equation? I continue my search for answers here for the next 32 days.

Read full article here

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Errata in Straits Times, 21 Jun 08

On 18 June 2008, I published on this blog the email interview I had with a reporter from Straits Times who wanted to feature some "green champions". Today, the article appeared and I am sad to say that there are some serious errata in the small section about me. The writer actually emailed me the draft on Thursday night but I was on my way at 2am to Kuala Lumpur to do vegetable delivery with a farmer. Thus, I did not see the draft nor had the opportunity to send in corrections until it was already published in today's newspaper.

Here's what was published on 21 June 2008 in Life!

Ms November Tan, 26, winner of the Bayer Young Environmentalist Award and HSBC National Youth Achievement Award

Ms November Tan began her love affair with nature when she was a child. She went for hikes with her parents and learnt about the environment she lives in.

Now 26, she is a nature guide on Pulau Ubin, taking groups around the island and teaching them about environmental conservation. She also trains new guides, and authors a blog about the island and its history.

The environmental warrior in her also initiated Toddycats Engage, a group of over 100 volunteers from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, which provides feedback to various government agencies and organisations on environmental issues.

'Every time I hear somebody come up to me saying that they felt inspired to do something for the environment, even if it's as simple as to stop using straws, I feel a sense of fulfilment.'


First of all, Toddycats Engage only has about 10-20 members and was defunct after 4 meetings. Yes, Toddycats had over 100 volunteersToddycats has only 35 volunteers and 20 alumni today. Toddycats Engage was just a small project within the entire volunteer group! Apologies to all Toddycats for this. I am deeply embarrassed by this.

If you read my original interview, I by no means implied this at all! I do not know where he got his information from. Furthermore, Toddycats Engage was a project from 2005 - 3 years ago! There is no mention of anything I do after 2005 which is even more disappointing! Thus, I also have to apologize to the Naked Hermit Crabs for this.

Finally, the Bayer award was called "Bayer Young Environmental Envoy" and not "Bayer Young Environmentalist". Again, sorry to the BYEE Alumni as well. Furthermore it's the HSBC / NYAA Youth Environment (Merit) Award.

I seem to have done no right to any of my groups. I'm sorry. :( Sorry for the melodrama. I was rather upset when I wrote this. Thanks for all the comments!

See my original email interview responses.

Read full article here

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Interview with Straits Times

Few days ago, an email came by the mountain express to the monkey in the highlands. A reporter from straits times wanted to do a feature on "Green Champions" to appear possibly this Saturday.

Here is our email interview after the break. Warning: Pardon my long windedness at times!

(1) What do you to to conserve the environment?

I started volunteering actively for the NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research volunteers (Toddycats!). Then I started as a Pedal Ubin ( guide and because of that I got in touch with my personal family heritage and history on Pulau Ubin and started a blog Pulau Ubin Stories ( that documents that stories and history of the island. I also was the project manager for the Hopea Sangal Education Program ( I was awarded the Bayer Youth Environmental Envoy 2004 for these works. Then in 2005 I got selected to represent Singapore in the Bayer Eco-Minds Awards. I am also a member of the NEA Young Environmental Envoy and I started working on exhibitions and public outreach with Toddycats. I started an initiative called Toddycats Engage which tried to generate constructive feedback and comments to various agencies and organizations about various environmental issues. In 2006 I was doing my thesis on Chek Jawa and I got to know many of the other key members of the conservation community and started working very closely with them. I volunteered as a Ubin Npark volunteer and joined the Naked Hermit Crabs in 2007. I became a shore guide on top of an Ubin guide. In 2008 I started The Leafmonkey Workshop ( to conduct training sessions for nature guides as well as to introduce various technology for more effective environmental awareness. I am also an active blogger and try to do environmental outreach through my blog and was highlighted by as being a Blog of Note last year. ( You can read more about this on my blog.

I focus mainly on outreach and awareness projects as well as "capacity building". I also give talks to share my personal experience in volunteering and greening personal lifestyles. I work very closely with most of the environmental groups in Singapore. I also work with the student environmental groups in NUS as well as the campus sustainability committee. I believe in networking resources for more effective conservation efforts.

(2) Why are you doing this (motivation)?

"A passion for the environment". When I was in my first year of university, I saw a poster that asked "Do you have a passion for the environment?" and I thought, yeah I did! And that's how I ended up joining the Toddycats.

(3) When did you start doing this, and how did it all start?

Prior to the Toddycats, I already started being very interested in JC (1998-1999) during a talk by the vice president of Nature Society (Singapore), Shawn Lum. Back then I was inspired to try to initiate mangrove restoration projects and I also joined NSS as a volunteer but nothing really took root until 2003 when I entered NUS. How? When I saw the poster.

But the love for nature began as a child as my parents brought us for hikes in the forest and romp at botanic gardens on weekends. My love for plants and animals had long manifested since I was young.

(4) How long have you been doing this, and have you won any awards thus far?

I would say that I have been doing this since December 2003 and never stopped. awards mentioned above.

After the Bayer Eco Mind, I got the HSBC NYAA Award and several NUS Student Achivement Awards

(5) What would you say are your key achievements in this area of environmental work (anything you're particularly proud of)?

it's a work in progress. I'm a perfectionist, I constantly feel that I haven't done enough. But key achievements are generally highlighted above. I do a lot of miscellaneous stuff that I haven't mentioned. I am quite proud of the fact I got highlighted by as a sort of pseudo international recognition. It helped spread the word more and that made me very encouraged to continue my work.

(6) Do you find this cause fulfilling? Why?

Absolutely. Every time I hear somebody come up to me saying that they felt inspired to do something for the environment, even if it's as simple as to stop using straws, I feel a sense of fulfillment.

(7) Are there any difficulties which you've faced along the road (eg sacrifices, juggling pursuit of work/education and env cause, ridicule from others)?

(8) How did you surmount these difficulties?
Not giving up. Talking to others, exchanging notes, encouraging each other, knowing that we made a different, hearing little encouragements from people we guide or people who felt inspired by us always always helps gives me enough burst of energy to last quite a while. Discouraging comments dampens the spirit but small lil encouragements go a long long way. This is why we try to advocate giving constructive feedback and positive comments whenever possible. Too little good news out there that people forget that there are actually a lot of positive things out there. And people doing good work need a lil pat on the back to affirm their work and to give them motivations to continue on with their work. A deserving compliment goes a long way. People tend to only complain about negative things and forget to give praise to the things they like about the things around them. Only when it's gone then they complain. To preempt that, we need to remind people of the positive things there to show that they are very much appreciated.

(9) Is there any person/people who has/have been a constant source of support, or perhaps someone who has inspired you?

Ria Tan.

N. Sivasothi

They are my mentor and friend. Definitely inspired me countless time. I work closely with both of them.

(10) Do you have any message you'd like to send to readers/the general public?

Everyone makes a difference. Every little action counts. Each thing you do goes a long way. Remember to appreciate the good thing around you. Explore - get to know your backyard, get to know Singapore and all the wildplaces you never thought exist in Singapore. Express - be a voice for nature, share with others what you saw. Act - volunteer, go one step further and put words to action.

Read full article here

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Volunteer Opportunities

Monkey says: "Dear Readers, This is a call for volunteers for my ongoing Masters research project. Cheers, November"

Volunteers are needed to help out in an ongoing academic research project on the impact of Singapore’s food consumption on the environment in Malaysia. This is done through understanding why and how farmers decide whether or not to adopt sustainable agricultural practices – whether through government legislation, consumer demand or other environmental factors.

There are two different components of the research that requires volunteers:

1) Consumer Survey in Singapore
Update @ 8 May: Still urgently in need of volunteers!
A maximum of 50 volunteers are needed to conduct surveys with consumers in Singapore at supermarkets and wet markets. Each volunteer needs to survey a minimum of 20 respondents at their own time and schedule. The survey can be conducted anytime between May to October 2008. Briefing and training will be conducted for all volunteers. Volunteers are most welcomed in assisting with the compiling of these data. Please indicate when signing up!

2) Field assistants in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
No more vacancies. Thank you for all your interests.
Farm observations and interviews with farmers in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia will be conducted from June to August 2008. Volunteers get the opportunity to be involved with a university-level research project and get first hand experience doing fieldwork as well as getting to know more about how farms operate. Get to know where your food comes from. Volunteers are required to conduct farm observations and conduct rapid environmental assessment of the farms. Training will be provided. Volunteers do not have to stay for the full duration of the fieldwork. Preferably, you are able to stay for a minimum of 1 to 2 weeks at any time. Schedules are negotiable. Accommodation will be provided.

If you are interested or would like more details, please feel free to email

Read full article here

Monday, May 19, 2008

No Winners for May 08 Cyrene Contest

Dear Cyrene Fans,

The deadlines for the "Let's go to Cyrene Reef" Blogging Contest is now closed. Unfortunately, not a single one of you mad-about-cyrene folks submitted an entry. There are only limited trips each month and only on certain months of the year. If you miss your chance now, you may not get another chance!

Many of you have written asking if you really must write something. Well, it's hard for us to decide who to give the seats to if we do not have something to gauge by. If you cannot afford the cost of the boat ride then perhaps you should just mention this to us. No time to write something or don't have a blog? Well there is always Facebook Notes or even just take a video of yourself on a webcam and tell us in person why you want to go to Cyrene. The possibilities and endless.

Perhaps the amount of time was too short or the dates not suitable for you? Well, not to worry. There is yet another chance in June.

Date: 23 Jun (Mon)
Time: 0700-1000

Now you have one month to prepare for your submission. The earlier you do it the better chance you have! In fact, if you're the only submission to the contest, the chances of you winning is even higher.

So what are you waiting for? Apply for leave, write your post, and email it to !

For contest details, read the rules here.

Read full article here

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

“Let’s go to Cyrene Reef” blogging contest

"Want to go to Cyrene Reef? Now is your chance!

In conjunction with the "I want to go Cyrene Reef" Facebook Group, the Naked Hermit Crabs ( will be organizing several working trips to Cyrene Reef in the coming months and 2 lucky persons will get a chance to join us on these trips.

All you need to do is to write a blog post on why you want to go to Cyrene Reef and the 2 best essays each month will be given the opportunity to join the trips to Cyrene.

Be warned that going to Cyrene Reef is no easy feat. There is no jetty and amphibious landing is required. That means that you will actually get your feet (and legs!) wet. The walk is long and may be strenuous to some. The boat to Cyrene cost $800 per trip and can only take up to 14 persons each time. Space is precious and highly coveted. The subsidized cost for each passenger is $46/pax. If you think you deserve to visit Cyrene free of charge, convince us! Let us know how you would like to contribute to Cyrene and we might just sponsor your trip for free.

But first of all, convince us that you deserve one of the coveted spots on the boat to Cyrene. This is what you need to do:

1) WRITE (or any other forms of creative expression) about Cyrene Reef and/or why you want to go to Cyrene Reef. If you wish to have your trip fully subsidized, remember to convince us in your submission.
2) PUBLISH your masterpiece on any means of publication online
3) SUBMIT your entry to us at
4) Remember to include in your email:
a. Name
b. Email
c. Contact Number
d. Website URL of where we can view your submission
e. Whether you available on 23 May 2008, 6am
f. Please indicate if you are above 21 years of age, are able bodied, fit and used to being outdoors, e.g., you have hiked, biked, done long nature walks.

Winners will be decided loosely based on the following criteria:
1) Creativity
2) Persuasiveness
3) Contribution to Cyrene Reef
4) Audience size
5) Ability to actually attend the trip!

For those who worry that they cannot write well, feel free to convince us by how you can contribute / help / act for Cyrene Reef.

Submissions are now open for the trip to Cyrene on 23 May 2008. If you think you can wake up at the wee hours of the morning at 6am, join us! Write in now!

Closing date: 18 May 2008, Sunday, 2359hrs
Winners will be announced on 19 May 2008, Monday, 1500hrs

Read full article here

Monday, May 12, 2008

TICE Eco Camp and May Day Dugong Ambassador

Monkey has been busy. Despite having to grade papers, complete my independent study module essay, organize a end of semester grad party and coordinating a million things, I found time to give a talk at the TICE Eco Camp last Saturday, 10 May 2008.

It was a busy day for me. I finished the slides at 5am, arrive at the presentation at 9.30am, finished the talk at 11am, walked to the National Youth Environment Forum at 11.30am, left at 2.15pm for the talk on History of Singapore at National Museum of Singapore then back to NYEF at 4.30pm for the round up. Finally rounded the day with a nice wholesome dinner at Food for Thought, my absolute favourite restaurant for now. Nothing beats supporting a social enterprise.

On Sunday, mother surprised me with a sighting of this rambling leafmonkey on Lianhe Zaobao. Apparently the news article of the May Day Dugong Ambassador outreach at Chek Jawa finally came out!

Excerpt on Naked Hermit Crab and me.

The full article. Click for full size.

Well today has been full of surprises. When I went to interview somebody for the religion project today, turned out that the person attended the TICE eco camp and I realized that I forgot to talk more about the groups I am involved in (NHC and Toddycats). Ah well, we had a nice chat about that. In fact I saw many familiar faces at the talk - Gaytri from NHC and Yi Han from SAVE. I heard many SAVE members were there that day. Hope I managed to actually share some new ideas with everybody. I know how tiring it is to hear the same thing all the time.

A few hours ago, I returned home to find several comments on my blog from participants who attended my talk. Thank you all so much for the encouraging comments! I really appreciate it. One of the participants blogged about the camp and was very insightful. That is something we all need to be - being critical. Do ask me any question you want and give me any and all brutal feedback to help me improve. Thank you!

Read full article here

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Greening our lives

Giving a talk at the TICE eco camp later today and just finished the slides! It's been a hectic week but I'm glad I completed all my work. I'm no good to anyone if I can't finish my work.

The theme of the camp is recycling but I thought I'll offer a more holistic overview to recycling and "greening" out lifestyles in general. It sounds cliche to be talking about the 3Rs but I guess it has certain value in it. At least for beginners, it's a start!

Read full article here

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Magical Wonderland Cyrene

Truth be told, I'm a shore newbie. But after today's Cyrene baptism, I am proud to say that I've seen all manners of marine organism now.

As the sun rose over Cyrene, a new chapter of my life dawned. If my life was a book, the chapter would probably read "happy and exciting days". I've never seen so much, experienced so much, done so much all in 3 hours. Wearing my knees out was a mere pittance of a price to pay for such rich an experience.

I was tasked to walk around the perimeter of Cyrene today to map the outline of the patch reef. Along the way, I saw a stingray, possibly an eel and a dozen octopi that did not hesitate squirting in the water to warn the blind monkey that's about to step on their toes. I saw mushroom corals, giant boulder corals and all manner of color and size of soft corals bigger than my entirety. Meanwhile, a monkey was heard squealing and squeaking all the way from Bukom to Jurong Island.

I would never forget my first encounter with the stingray.

Monkey walk walk walk walk walk walk listening to the tiny beeps of her GPS receiver.

Suddenly, a flash of blue on the corner of her left eye.

"EEEEEEEEEEEK" squealed the Monkey

"EEEEEEEEEEEK" squeaked the stingray

Both ran off in opposite direction like headless chicken only to bump into yet more scarily big animals on the edge of the sea.

Sneaky reef crabs with threatening red eyes snapped away at my feet as Monkey leapt from rock to coral rubble. Eels and fishes dart away from the impending monkey foot of death. Nonetheless...

Perhaps it's because I had so many firsts on Cyrene in one morning that it's forever going down as the magical wonderland in my book.

Photos of Cyrene can be seen here.

Cyrene Carnival: Edition 3

This is yet another call for submission for Cyrene Blogging Carnival. The 3rd edition was supposed to be due last week but due to lack of submission, I was unable to find the time to hunt for blog posts floating out there.

Please do write about Cyrene and leave the link in my blog post or visit our Facebook Group "I want to go Cyrene Reef" and leave your blog post in the discussion boards.

Even if you have never been to Cyrene, do write about why you would like to go and you never know when you might get an invite from us to join us on our working trips!

Read full article here

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Next time you eat Sharks Fin, think of Sherman

Courtesy of the Sherman's Lagoon comics strip, thanks to Otterman for the alert!

If you do a search for dried sharks fin on you will find tons of listing from peru, mexico, united kingdom, sri lanka and even, yes, Singapore.

There is even an ongoing petition to to stop the distribution of sharks fin.

Related news:

Read full article here