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How did you first get involved in working for nature in Singapore?
Hmm working for nature huh? I 've never thought about using "working" to describe my experiences with nature, which includes volunteering, etc. Guess I consider myself pretty lucky to have nature-loving parents, whom im grateful for starting out my little life close to nature. No, I dont mean I was born in the zoo or forest or on the beach! hahaha My parents always brought me out on "mini" fieldtrips or what is known as family outings to the zoo, birdpark, botanic gardens, reservoir parks, etc. As a little kid, I wasn't that knowledgable about animals or plants or nature in general but I think I was quite appreciative of these outings because according to my mom, I always look forward to the weekend outings especially to the zoo (not to forget all the scrapbooks ive with bad drawings of all kinds of creepy-crawlies & 4-legged creatures).
I developed a fondness for places with lots of trees & greenery (NOT golfcourses) and an exceptional liking to all creatures big & small. Be it a tiny-mini ant to a huge furry polar bear, I've to get my hands on them. Somehow I've learnt that this affinity of mine is not very acceptable and appropiate in many cases (especially if you are the animal im trying to hold or hug). Despite being bitten on the nose by a very fierce dog (I was pacifying him to come out from under the table so I can pet him), I'm very glad I did not develop any phobia or hatred for animals.
Ok got to go faster. Helped out at SPCA for a while back in secondary school, until the place didn't really need volunteers. Uni life has been rather boring for me in the first year as I didn't know much about volunteering activities in NUS such as those organised by Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, I didnt know the right people who knew all these.
Alas nature finally kicked me in the a** to get cracking when I started helping out at the Reef Ecology Lab (now it's Marine Bio Lab), all thanks to A/P Hugh Tan's assignment which prompted me to investigate some marine bio related stuff and got hooked up with Karenne Tun. I was helping out with her project then on Bioremediation in Raffles Marina and was very very amazed by the biodiversity of marine life there.
As an "animal" person, this was the time I got interested in marine bio. Then came nature guiding, diving, underwater guiding (for expedition trainings) & helping out in projects at mangroves, beaches and Southern islands. Not forgetting my primary love (i.e. forest & terrestrial), I count myself lucky to be one of the last participants roped in for Expedition Curupira (land-based project in Sabah, Sepilok, for a population survey of primates) in 2003.
Having known more people of the same kind (many are in the blog too!), I got involved in more volunteering opportunities. Be it on land, in sea or halfway in-between, I'm simply happy "working" for nature this way.
What do you get out of working for nature?
Hmm it's simple actually. I just feel happy. Being able to enjoy it with people who do, as well as showing those who dont, that a leaf is not just a leaf and mud is not just mud allows me to engage more with nature.
The more visits and exploration, the more I get to love nature, all the more I will want to protect it (from the bad people out there).
What is your approach/personal motto in your work?
Love what you believe in and believe in what you love.
No matter how hard people try to reason that there's nothing in singapore waters (NOT true, see the Coral Reefs of Singapore) or that there are no more pangolins here, doesn't mean we should ignore and not treasure what we have now.
I do stand by the starfish story that every little bit counts.
What are some of your current projects?
For work, I'm in the process of completing the Bioremediation project mentioned earlier. Biodiversity of marine life in Raffles Marina has been surveyed & local organisms with potential remediating properties (e.g. filter feeders such as mussels can accumulate certain heavy metals hence removing them from the water) has been identified & tested for their efficiency in cleaning up polluted marina waters. Ultimately, we want to see if this can be applicable in a large scale & be useful as part of managing the marina.
Occasional volunteering as nature guide or LIT-trainer. Leisure visits at the zoo & reserves around Singapore & casual attempts at photography.
Dionne is 23 and and she is currently a Research Assistant at the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) working on Bioremediation project (see above), based in the Marine Bio Lab, NUS with the National University of Singapore (NUS). She volunteers as the Public Talk coordinator for Blue Water Volunteers (SIF-YEP Alumni for Marine Conservation)
More on how YOU can make a difference too...
these blog entries were first uploaded on MoBlog Singapore! Celebrate Singapore NDP 04
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