The Borg's Hideout

Revival April 11, 2011

Filed under: 2 of 2 — The Borg @ 1:01 pm

It’s been a really long while since the Borg has stepped foot in the mangrove after months of busy preparation of SYF. After this longterm separation, we really yearn for the times spent with otterman and nature… Hopefully, we will be able to sink into mud soon:)

Borg 2/2




ICCS December 4, 2010

Filed under: 1 of 2,2 of 2,Field Trips — The Borg @ 4:29 am


ICCS, if you are wondering, is the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and yes, Otterman is the boss! We were really excited to get to the muddy part and also cleanup our buddy, the mangrove:) However, personally, I didn’t think there would be much to clear. From the 3 mangroves we frequently visited, the rubbish were minimal. Yet, from otterman’s previous briefing with the site buddies and volunteers, we realised the extent of damage caused by our negligence and inconsideration.  But for all we know, the rubbish may have been cleared frequently since the 3 mangroves were quite an attraction or we were just not observant enough to detect the clear plastic sheets and brown ropes camouflaged amongst the roots.

Despite 9 months with the mangroves, we haven’t been to the muddy areas and had no need for booties. Borg 1 volunteered to help me get a pair and happily, we took the newly bought pair and showed it to Otterman. Unexpectedly, Otterman laughed heartily, took the pair of ‘booties’ and showed it to the others. We then realised that our ‘booties’ weren’t exactly the type for mud, because it wasn’t meant to be dirtied! Instead, it was more suitable for going to the movies. Oh man! Worst of all, I was wearing my school shoes and I didn’t want to get them dirtied or my mum would kill me. Thus, we couldn’t go deep into the mud.😦

Despite the embarassing start, both of us were excited to see Pandan mangrove. We took a trash bag (which had pictures on it) and trudged into the new terrain. We saw many familiar plants and immediately took notice of flowering and fruiting. We also saw new plants which we did not recognise, back to the guidebook! However, our wows soon became woahs as we shifted our sight to the muddy ground. When standing, we already caught sight of loads of bottles, plastic wrappers and straws. Imagine what we saw when we squatted down. We spent most of our time squatting because with every step we took, we had to squat to pick up rubbish. Thus, it was easier to remain waddling through the mangrove. Much of the rubbish especially sheets of plastic wrappers were wedged underneath layers of mud amongst the roots and we were told not to take them out so as to prevent possible damage to the plant. They had been there far too long and the plants had to stay artificial forever. That’s the extent of damage 1 plastic wrapper can cause to the plants.

People think that the world is at their disposal but hidding rubbish amongst the bushes is just a temporary and selfish way of getting rid of the rubbish. But it won’t be hidden forever, because the consequence of damaging the mangroves and killing our biodiversity will soon be far too obvious to be left unnoticed.

At the end of the back straining day, we managed to collect piles and piles of rubbish, 堆积如山 as I would say it in chinese. But deep down, all the volunteers knew that much of what would make another mountain of rubbish lay inside the mangroves. Furthermore, we did not clear the entire span of Pandan mangrove. However, we did our best and the borg felt really satisfied. After the cleanup, both of us used our Borg brains to collate the number of the different types of rubbish collected from all the data sheets.

It was an experience we will never forget and we will definitely drag other borg along next year.


June Hols Lessons October 23, 2010

Filed under: 2 of 2 — The Borg @ 10:09 am

From the desk of Otterman

Be careful with information that is not proven yet.

Our project has many unknowns. We do not have flowering records for many plants. Being a pioneering project, the results were not well substantiated. We could not be sure of our own data as it can only be confirmed after years of research. Thus, we had to be careful when analysing our data. No flowering records and no records of flowering are two distinct records. During the report writing sessions, we found ourselves facing this issue and to prevent confusion, we had to explicitly tell our readers of this difference. Details are as important as the main ideas of the report. The tiniest bit of detail can make a world of a difference and cause chaos and confusion if not explicitly clarified.

Otterman and the Borg came up with a brilliant way to record our results, in a calendar. We are going to represent flowering records with circles and put them in the different months which is the x-axis of our table. The y-axis is the mangrove species. It makes our results comprehensive and it is easy to gather information from it. We will upload it (maybe the whole report) when we have gone through thoroughly to make sure the report is spot free.

Data transfer complete. Borg 2/2


June Hols Part II

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Borg @ 9:59 am

During the stressful period of writing the report, Otterman invited us to do sorting of specimens and relax our eyes of words and green! We did sorting with friends of Otterman and the lab helpers of Lab 7.







June Hols Part I

Filed under: 2 of 2 — The Borg @ 9:44 am

It’s been a while since we posted. Borg 1 and I have been cramming for our End of year Examinations. Our blog posts are rather lagged but we will try to catch up ASAP. However, we have to follow up chronogically and have to surpress our excitement for recent events till the next posts.

After many months of collection of data and discussion with Otterman, we can finally start on the actual writing of the SMP report. We have a 2 week attachment at NUS to complete our report due in July so NUS Lab 7 was virtually our home for 2 weeks. Personally, I found myself excited for each new morn during this attachment. Otterman made SMP really enjoyable and the report writing was also challenging and mind stimulating. On the first day, we were taught how to set-up the Mac computer. Otterman left us to figure it out at first and stepped in when we were stuck. He failed us for presentation as the wires were in a mess and we took a long time with additional help from him. OOPS! I only know how to wire myself and not other machines! We were then introduced to Morgany who was a lab helper. She was really friendly and for the next few days, we saw her everyday to get the keys to the computer room.

Otterman introduced us to the canteens on campus. There was the Science canteen (nearest to us), the Engineering canteen, the Business canteen, Arts and many others. For the first few meals, we went to the Science canteen as we were unsure of the campus. After that, we decided to explore the food in other faculties. All in all, we went to Science, Engineering and Arts canteens. Personally, I found Science faculty better as there was a variety but the food at Arts was nice:)

Otterman went through with us the Scientific method and also how he carried out research with his honours students. He said that SMP with Secondary 3 students required a different approach from research projects with the Honours Student. I think that the abandon stage of his plan was the most intense period of SMP for us because we had to solve problems ourselves. We had to re-think our method and also collect data ourselves. We faced little flowering in mangroves and anomolous data. Issues were all over the place and Otterman was nowhere to be found. However, at the end of the day, we were placed in good stead. We found ourselves internalising the project and we had to crack our heads to solve the problems. Facing adversities without reliance on Otterman made us both independent learners.

Otterman also went through the writing up of our Method for the report. Our method consisted of 3 components. The field observations, the blog and flickr records for local data and Science journals for regional data. He introduced us to the concept of citizen science which was essentially getting the public to participate in our data collection. A prominent example of citizen science at work is in bird sightings. However, citizen science only works if the public is aware and interested to get photos and share it with the scientists or the world in the case of blogs. For plants, it may be more difficult as there is generally a lesser appreciation of plants as compared to animals and birds. Even before SMP, I treated plants around me with indifference. Trees were generalised with green leaves and occasional flowers and nothing else. Special characteristics for each species escaped our periphery.

Otterman then made our lives a little harder by throwing at us the most basic question of all. What is the importance of flowering in mangrove plants. In other words, what is the importance of the project? We were stumped. S T U M P E D. All I could come up with was the detection of anomalies in weather patterns. However, there was a more important reason. It was for Otterman to know and for the Borg to find out.

To Be continued by Borg 2/2

In Otterman's handwriting


PRP! Closer to home (relative to SBWR) September 3, 2010

Filed under: 2 of 2,Field Trips — The Borg @ 3:43 pm

We commenced our project at another site, Sungei Tampines in Pasir ris Park.

Sungei Tampines Mangrove

 We have been visiting SBWR and Pulau Ubin (short stint) for the past months. Our chosen sites, namely SBWR and PRP were picked because they were geographically distinct and were accessible for us. Most importantly, they had boardwalks as transects and so were safe for the Borg to tread on. Otterman really cares about the Borg’s safetyJ

The Borg stayed under the Macdonald umbrella until Otterman’s arrival. We were then tested on our map reading skills. Otterman just loves to spring pop quizzes on us. Additionally, we hadn’t done our homework prior so we were a little lost as to how we can get to Sungei Tampines from White Sands Shopping Centre. We went all the way to the MRT station to take a look at the map and after much discussion and many hints, we were finally on the right track. We used the sun to navigate which was a first for me.

After reaching, I realized that I had passed by the entrance of the boardwalk numerous times before but I had never explored it. I was really thrilled to find that such great biodiversity had always been so near me and also rather ashamed that I had not discovered this previously.

The three of us then commenced our adventures on the boardwalk. We found numerous Bruiguiera cylindrica and Rhizophora mucronata. There was an exceptional amount of Schyphiphora hydrophyllacea and more than usual Ceriops tagal. We did not have these numbers at SBWR. We were introduced to the Thespesia populnea which was also flowering. It was not easy to differentiate the Thespesia populnea from the Talipariti tiliaceaus (Sea hibiscus).

Soon after, we reached Sungei Tampines (river) and had a rest. We saw a really beautiful Sonneratia (unsure if it is Sonneratia caseolaris or Sonneratia alba) flowering. Rhizophora mucronata had many flowers and propagules too.

Otterman also shared with us about the water bodies in Singapore and some physics behind the currents in the river. We were then tasked to map out PRP identify occurrences of flowering and fruiting on it. It was really tedious for the Borg and soon, our backs were aching because of overarching. The trees were tall, the boardwalk was near the trees, and we were short. Thus, we yearned for a masseuse.

We did a terrible job of the map but we still managed a rough sketch. We came back really tired and finally, Otterman said to pack up. Not that we did not enjoy the trip but we really wanted to go home and rest. I really wonder how Otterman stays so fit! Cycling? We had a rather brief discussion on our project for a possible extension- an updated Guidebook to the mangroves in Singapore, revised from the 2001 version by Peter K.L. Ng and N. Sivasothi. Wow! Doesn’t that mean the Borg get to publish a book? A real first! But all the ideas were tentative.

On the way back, with the Borg on legs, and Otterman on bike, we passed by a mangrove patch on the beach, located at the mouth of the river to the sea. We saw even prettier Thespesia populnea and their fruits too!

Soon, we walked back to White sands. This must be the most tiring field trip so far. But it was really enjoyable to learn and see so many new things. Otterman then treated us to a mud pie from Coffee Club as we talked about Sci-fi.

Data transfer complete. Borg 2 of 2


Pulau Ubin : 20th March August 27, 2010

Filed under: 2 of 2,Field Trips — The Borg @ 1:51 pm

Today was a special day:) We would be going to Pulau Ubin for further exposure. Otterman wants us to know about places other than the two sites we have chosen for our report to be based on. I was really excited as I would be able to see the idyllic rural island for the first time! On the other hand, Borg 1 was not as excited because she had been there before.

We reached the jetty really early but we could not find Otterman. We then took the ferry to the island by ourselves. It was more like a bumper boat and much less advanced than the ones the Borg usually use. Ours can go on land and on sea. After reaching, we sat at the coffeeshop to await the Otterman’s arrival. The weather was not in our favour but the dark clouds did nothing to dampen our spirits.

Through the phone, Otterman told us to rent our own bikes. At those words, Borg 1 and I squealed in delight. It was so exciting to be able to conduct a fieldtrip on 2 wheels! Besides renting a bike, we cloaked ourselves with a poncho but it restricted our movement by a fair bit.

Soon, Otterman arrived and with his bike and we took off to look for his students who were also on the island. The ride was really cooling, with the air racing through our hair. Otterman rode really fast! We found it really difficult to catch up with him. But we had a great time exercising. Along the way, we took many photos and identified some flowering in familiar plants.

We managed to find Otterman’s students after a while and they were on a bird-sighting trip. We learnt a fair bit about birds but their names escape me. We managed to catch sight of a couple of big blue birds and some small yellow birds. I was labelled blind by Borg 1 because I was not able to spot the tiny bird amongst the branches. At first, it really was camouflaged amongst the branches and it was so small. After 15 minutes of staring and squinting, I finally caught sight of it. Phew. I really thought I was going blind!

We then cycled to the west side of the island as there was a mangrove located there. Along the way, we found our biking skills improve immensely as we made sharp turns and rode through narrow pathways. We soon arrived at our site and Otterman put us on task to identify the species of mangrove plants found there. We managed to find around 13-15 and we even saw the Ceriops zippeliana, not commonly found in mainland Singapore. It was also our first time seeing the Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea. Its flowers were so pretty:) We also learnt to differentiate the Rhizophora mucronata and Rhizophora apiculata. The Rhizophora mucronata had much bigger and broader leaves than the latter and its flowers were different. The fruits and propagules made us get both of them confused as they looked similar.

After recording data and getting sufficient photos, it was time to go. We had a really new experience today and I really hope to come back again some day! Otterman cycled us back to the jetty and we headed off.

By Borg 2 of 2. Data transfer complete.