Keeping an Eye on Our Marine Flora and Fauna

Challenge follows a biodiversity officer to find out how he keeps an eye on our marine flora and fauna.

Collin Tong digs his hands into the wet sand at the Tanah Merah shore. Sweat drips from his nose and seawater touches the cuffs of his long sleeves, but he doesn’t stop until he pulls out a small bunch of seagrass. The Biodiversity Manager is collecting a sample of a rare species of seagrass, which the Singapore Botanic Garden’s Herbarium does not have a specimen of yet.

Collin also plots the locations of the seagrass patches with a GPS device, while his teammate takes pictures of the plants.

Getting his hands dirty is all in a day’s work for the 34-year-old officer from the Coastal and Marine branch of the National Biodiversity Centre. Once or twice a month, Collin and his colleagues survey and monitor the wildlife at various low-lying marine habitats during low tides.

Information collected during the surveys helps Collin and his team to keep track of Singapore’s marine biodiversity. They will then advise companies and public agencies planning developments along coastal areas on protecting the marine life in those places.

Collin’s interest in marine life started when his father took him, then a child, to Changi Beach to fish.

I saw lala (clams), shrimps and schools of swimming catfishes… [They were] very fascinating!
During his teens, Collin spent much of his free time near the sea, even befriending the fishermen who frequented the jetty at East Coast Park. When he was 19, he learnt diving so that he could see corals. Fortunately for him now, diving to check on corals is also part of his work, which may explain why this easygoing officer is not going anywhere after nine years in the job.
The Sea Is His Oyster - From left to right: Sea Star, Clownfish and Jellyfish - by Colin Tong

After Collin became a father in January, however, he has gone on fewer dives (which are often on weekends) in order to look after his twin daughters.

He plans to take them to Changi Beach when they are older.“I hope they will still get to see the marine life we see today.”

    Jul 24, 2013
    Tay Qiao Wei
    Norman Ng
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