Urban Tropical Ecology: first day
by Tom Schultz -- February 24th, 2016
Amazing day, great beginning to the course. We started at 10am in the hotel lobby and caught the bus/MRT to Gardens by the Bay. The students loved the botanical gardens and were able to walk on the SkyWalk among the SuperTrees (architetchural trees). We saw stalagmites, petrified wood (beautiful), and a giant lion statue carved out of the golden nanmoo wood (Dan’s favorite). We then walked along the water to have lunch at the food court, and then down to the Marina Barrage gallery describing how the giant computer-controlled damn controls water levels in Singapore River. The damn is able to open during flooding to allow water out at low tide, and has giant pumps (4) that are able to pump water out of the river reservoir during flooding at high tide. The gallery has a great display about the history of water in Singapore and a working model of the barrage/dam. The green roof on top of the Marina Barrage offers some spectacular views of the city skyline in one direction, and the huge cargo ships in the bay in the other. From there we caught our charter bus to Changi Village to catch ‘bum’ boats over to Palau Ubin (“Granite Island”) the last undeveloped island in Singapore. I wished we had more time to explore this rustic island, it felt like we traveled back to the 1950’s. We took maxi cabs to the other side of the island and hiked to the Chek Jawa sand flats. Dan has been coming here for years and was anxious to see how the sand flats have recovered from an oil spill 4 years ago. The tide was still a little high but we were able to wade out to the flats where we saw lots of carpet anemones (12-24in diameter), sand dollars, and tube worms (Mesochaetopterus and Chaetopterus). We also saw a few peacock anemones, a starfish, and caught a horseshoe crab. It was a good day on the flats. According to Dan, they are on the road to recovery but change is afoot and these flats will likely never fully recover to their previous state without serious conservation efforts. He told stories of seeing patches with >20,000 starfish per square meter in the past! After wading in the flats, we returned to Changi Village for dinner at the food courts and the students worked in teams of 3 to find their way back to the hotel for a well-deserved nights sleep.