13 August 2010

Hard at work on Cyrene

Two teams of researchers were at Cyrene early this morning to learn more about this amazing submerged reef.
We land in time for another glorious dawn!

On the boat trip out, everyone is already getting ready to work! On the left, Janette is briefing her team on her plans to study Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). While on the right, Collin is setting up for his regular fish survey on Cyrene.
Here's the teams after another safe arrival on Cyrene. We are still a little sleepy.
As it was still rather dark, the teams had a little look around at Cyrene before starting on their work. On the horizon, the lights of the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, and huge container ship passing by.
What a glorious sunrise we had over the seagrass meadows on Cyrene, with the Pasir Panjang Container terminals on the horizon.
As the sun rises, the teams head off to their respective sites to get their work started. Meanwhile, I am off to look for fish traps. The tide is still high but I can see that there is still some bleaching going on at the reef edge. On the horizon, the industrial installations on Jurong Island.
Alas, I find four more fish traps laid out on the reef. I released the fishes and animals in the traps and dealt with the traps. It was messy and tiring work and I got really grubby in the process.
Among the fishes found in the traps were two rabbitfishes (Family Siganidae) and one Peacock sole (Pardachirus pavoninus). One trap also had 5 swimming crabs (Family Portunidae) but not the edible kind. One of the fish traps was empty. I didn't manage to get to the reef edge or walk right to the end of Cyrene, but in the short walk I did, I didn't see any driftnets.
As I finish off with the fish traps, I head on to see what the rest are up to. Way in the distance, Janette's team is hard at work, with the enormous industrial installations on Jurong Island on the horizon.
Meanwhile, Collin's team is busy gently gathering the fish in a deep pool on Cyrene.
It's hard work seining for the fishes and the guys get really wet in the deep pool.
Collin's work involves surveying the fish diversity and tagging the Alligator pipefishes (Syngnathoides biaculeatus) that are found in the pool. By regularly monitoring the tagged fishes, we can learn more about the health of these fishes and of Cyrene. Of course, lots of other fishes are also found in the pool, such as Razorfishes (Family Centriscidae), filefishes (Family Monacanthidae), rabbitfishes (Family Siganidae). And even some squids (Family Loliginidae) and a tiny Pygmy squid (Idiosepius sp.).
Soon Collin's team are done and we walk slowly back to the departure point. Along the way, we have a look at some of the marinelife on Cyrene. As usual, there are lots and lots of Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus).
It's pointless to attempt to photograph all the adult Knobbly sea stars on Cyrene as there are so many of them. So instead, I try to document all the baby Knobblies that I see. Today I saw 11.
Janette's team is still hard at work!
Among the issues that Janette's team is looking at is how fast a Common sea star can turn over. This is believed to be a measure of their health. There are a LOT of these sea stars on Cyrene!
Today I noticed large stretches of the seagrasses were affected by clumps of hairy stuff. I suspect the stuff is some kind of Cyanobacteria. Oh dear, I wonder if it will affect the growth of the seagrasses on Cyrene?
Here's a closer look at the hairy stuff with sneaky underwater cam.
A bloom of this hairy stuff usually means that we will see more seahares that eat them. And indeed, we did see one of these. I'm not sure if it's the Hairy sea hare (Bursatella leachi) or the Furry sea hare (Stylocheilus sp.). But I'm glad to see these slugs as they will keep the growth of the hairy stuff in check so that these don't overwhelm the seagrasses on Cyrene.
Collin's team found this strange creature that is covered in the hairy stuff. I looks like some kind of Spider crab (Superfamily Majoidea)! Only the pair of tiny pincers were not covered in hairy stuff, but it was hard to photograph its underside.
Another interesting sight today were several Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) small and large in the seagrass meadows. These anemones are more usually found near the reefy parts on our other shores. As usual, these anemones had anemone shrimps.
Today I saw a moon snail (Family Naticidae) that I've not seen before. It has a white body, a bright orange shell with a maroon 'door' or operculum.
As we reach the departure point on this hot hot day, the guys cool off in the clear cool waters of Cyrene!In the distance, a whole flock of egrets and herons are foraging on the shore.
I try to take some underwater photos of the seagrasses in the incoming tide. Here's a photo of the rare Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium) which is quite abundant on Cyrene. Unlike on most of our other shores, the water remains clear on Cyrene even in the incoming tide!
While Janette's team keeps working even as the water rises.
But we have to leave eventually!
As I take the first dinghy ride out, the tide is really coming in!
Well, everyone got back safely, thanks to Alex and Jumari!

More about Cyrene on the Cyrene Reef Exposed blog.

What a great way to end the last of the morning low tide trips to our Southern submerged reefs. In September, the tides turn to evening and during the changeover, the tidal predictions tend to be a little off. We won't see the submerged reefs again until November!

Tomorrow, I'm off for the long awaited field trip with the Guides of Singapore shores workshop!

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