Thursday, February 28, 2008

2008 Year of the Frog

2008 is the Year of the Frog and today seems to be the day of the amphibian for me. Budak sent me this video which he asked people to "watch and cringe" but all I could think about was - that was probably shot in a tank. While the video doesn't quite suit the message, the message itself is fantastic.

Amphibians are important because they serve as an indicator for the health of our ecosystems. They are like canaries in the coal mine, warning us of danger ahead of us. That also means that they are the first to die. Unfortunately, it would seem that humans are oblivious to the warning signs of frogs going extinct! 50% of 6,000 described amphibian species are threatened with extinction and 165 species have possibly already gone extinct. But knowing humans and our socially preconditioned instincts to favour mega faunas, please don't let these poor amphibians sacrificed for naught. In case we forget the story of the boiling frogs, here's a reminder:

They may be slimy and have cute pink long swirly tongues but they may be just as important or more important than your panda or polar bears! They might even be the next cure for HIV! They may just be your natural solution to putting an end to mosquito infestations. In India, there were reports of pesticides meant to kill mosquitoes resultantly killing the mosquitoes natural predator - frogs - instead!

This monkey doesn't knows a lot about amphibians but there is a new amphibian addition to the NUS Department of Biological Science heading up a new lab on Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation who specializes precisely on amphibians (and reptiles)! If you want to know more about the endangerment of frogs and other amphibians, do attend David Bickford's talk on "Where are all the frogs". The talk will be held on 9 March 2008, 12pm at the Singapore zoo. More details at Habitatnews.

Related reads:
Amphibian Ark
"Where are all the frogs?", Talk by David Bickford
"Frog Peptides Block HIV in Lab Study", ScienceDaily, 30 Sept 2005
"Army of frogs to combat killer mosquitoes", The Times, 22 June 2007

Read full article here

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reflections of California 2005

3 years ago in 2005, I embarked on a learning journey to Santa Barbara, California for a 6 months stint of student exchange program at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

It changed my life.

Learning about biogeography on the santa barbara mission hills

Yes yes, all exchange students say that but my time at one of the birthplace of environmentalism really spurred me towards environmental action. It taught me a lot about grassroots action, environmental politics of one of the hothouse of global decision making and most of all, the amazing and foreign ecosystem and biodiversity of California. This tropical monkey was involved with comparatively radical groups whom I would gladly call activist. (I would be hard-pressed to be able to truly call anybody in Singapore an activist.) There, I learnt from peers of Garrett Hardin, amazing anthropologists, environmental planners, retirees, ground practitioners and more. I worked with people passionate about transport, learned about chaparral habitats at nature reserves, camped at national parks, swam in a natural lake at freezing conditions and climbed a tree for the first time in my life. I saw my first deer, my first bear, my first cougar, my first whale, my first raccoon, my first possum, my first turkey vulture, my first oreo cookie cow and more! I hugged my first redwood giant. I felt like John Muir when he wrote about the sequoias.

"...Sequoias, kings of their race, growing close together like grass in a meadow, poised their brave domes and spires in the sky, three hundred feet above the ferns and lilies that enameled the ground; towering serene through the long centuries, preaching God's forestry fresh from heaven." - John Muir

Images of Sedgwick

I learnt about sustainable agriculture, organic foods and met Dr Lai Chiu Nan who told me I would be of no help to the cause since I am no farmer. I met Vandana Shiva who scoffed at the fact that I am from Singapore, land of importers and with little care of farmers with none of our own to bring the message closer to home. These and many other reasons led to my current Masters research on the factors influencing environmental behaviour of farmers.

Images from zaca lake retreat

When I first returned from UCSB, I wrote a piece for my NUS Department's website on my reflection of SEP experience. Today, as I was going through my defunct photoblog, I came across the images of these wonderful memories. Inspired, I decide to bring these photos to light again. Perhaps as a reminder to myself of my energy and inspiration I got. I was so driven when I returned, idealistic. Perhaps jaded now and some recharging is needed. This is why people to go retreat! I have thought of doing a similar retreat in Singapore as I had in US but somehow I find the community here not too keen on getting in touch with the airy fairy side of conservation. We had world class speakers and on topics so wide-ranging it was out of this world. Vegan food throughout the whole weekend and camping under the starlight and late winter cold. What wonder. We sang we danced and had fun. I haven't felt so much creative energy in years. Perhaps that's what others would called airy fairy hippie like behaviour but that's what I called recharging!

Alas tis the wonders of blogging. Helps to record down images and memories that may have been otherwise forgotten.

Read full article here

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Starwars inspired

The reddotbeachbum found the above along the shore at Pulau Ubin during a little exploration session with this monkey and a duck.

While the beach bum lets his imagination run wild imagining it to be starwar's battleships or darth vader's personal jet, the duck and monkey tries to figure out what animal it might be. Since this is part of an animal's vertebrate, it couldn't be an invertebrate! Some guesses include:

a) a very (very very) big fish
b) a dog
c) a wild boar
d) a humongous civet cat
e) a tapir! (we wish)

Any zoologist or naturalist would like to hazard a guess or deduce an answer for us?

Read full article here

Monday, February 18, 2008

Saga seed on a beach

Found saga seeds on a rocky beach at Pulau Ubin last Saturday. The little red hearts caught me by surprise. Looking around, we finally found the tree 2 meters from the shore. Its crown just above us on the beach. Couldn't resist taking a photo. After some color edits, makes a superb wallpaper. I didn't do a very good job of capturing the heart which eats away at me every so often.

In mandarin, saga seeds are referred to as xiang si dou (相思豆) which means to mutually think or miss each other. Often used as a momento of love between couples. Childhood past time includes collecting these seeds during weekend trips to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. A few still sits on my dresser at home. A large specimen stands tall in the grounds of the St Andrew Cathedral downtown.

An insurmountable divide between the lovelorn hearts

According to this seemingly lovesick monkey's handy guide to wayside trees of Singapore by Prof Wee YC, Saga (Adenanthera pavonina) is native to Singapore and "the region".

"The fruits attract attention as the red seeds, littering the ground below are collected by children and made into beads or as playthings. the fruits are green pods, swollen along regular intervals where the seeds are. With maturity the pods turn brown, becoming coiled then black as the pods split open to liberate the red seeds."

Read full article here

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

EcoFriends Award 2008

Today I got a call asking me to nominate someone for the NEA EcoFriends Award 2008. I thought I could do a better job by helping to spread the word.

Recognition often equates appreciation. Know someone who's been working hard for the environment? Nominate them today!

Read full article here

Friday, February 01, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 30-31 Jan

I'm beginning to be tired of the multitudes of reproductions of daily green actions from my twitter to the blog. This prevents me from writing original essays so I will try to compile the Daily Green Actions from now on.

  • first i stop doing lights out last night and then i slept with my aircon on. i am this close to giving up. i want to yell i give up. angst!!
  • im this close to never ever doing a single green action in my life again. apparently it offends people that im environmental. RAWR!
  • im fed up with people making sarcastic comments about about me being environmental. "oh you're so environmental so you should do this"
  • i skipped school today and im skipping lights out as well. no will power whatsoever. sorry for being a disappointment
  • reading the feedbacks from the seashore blogging workshop and eating leftover pizzas from NHC meeting. let nothing to waste! hehe
  • Looking at the slides from the Sustainable Food Lab would give you a better understanding of my research

Read full article here