11 May 2010

Been to Cyrene: Sea Star Paradise!

A baby Pentaceraster
Baby Pentaceraster photographed by Sean at Cyrene Reef
Sean is an 18 year old student who volunteers with Teamseagrass. He is also a volunteer guide as part of a school-based project. He describes himself as an "avid photographer, nature wanderer, activist against illegal wildlife trade and the consumption of threatened species such as sharks." This young volunteer recently found the first baby Pentaceraster sea star in Singapore!

Sean recounts his experience with Cyrene in an interview for this blog.

1) Why did you want to go to Cyrene?
Well honestly the first time I actually got to know about Cyrene was when I was invited to join the facebook group "I want to go to Cyrene Reef!", and from then on whenever I asked relevant people about it they always gushed passionately about how they wanted to go (for people who hadn't been there before) or how (insanely) awesome it was (for people who had). The real turning point was when Kok Sheng (a fellow volunteer) was arranging some knobblies (seastar) for a group pic (he put them back) at Semakau, and I was being all excited and he told me "wait till you go Cyrene, you don't even have to arrange them, they're literally everywhere!". That's when I started wanting to go real bad :P

2) What did you expect, and what did you actually experience?
I expected the image Kok Sheng put into my head - a seagrass bed sprawling with knobbly sea stars and other cool organisms - and that was exactly what i experienced :D

I've been to Cyrene Reef and TeamSeagrass buttons
I've been to Cyrene Reef and TeamSeagrass buttons which Sean carries proudly
3) Tell us your special encounters, stories, etc?
My first and only trip was with Teamseagrass, and after we were done with monitoring we had some time left to look around. We were stalking a pistol shrimp when i noticed a little Pentaceraster mammilatus, about the size of a pinky sitting right next to it. That was apparently the first sighting of a juvenile Pentaceraster so i guess that was pretty special, especially since i had read up on the star for a project but not actually seen it before.

4) Tell us your thoughts and feelings about Cyrene?
It's really as amazing as everyone makes it out to be, clear waters (relative to singapore standard), teeming with life. Where else will I face the same level of difficulty with seagrass monitoring? :P

There's really so much to see and so little time. makes me feel kind of numbed whenever I visit other shores now (don't worry, i still love you Semakau, Chek Jawa and Sentosa!)

It is also a testament to how nature can possibly coexist with humans, being surrounded by heavy technology and shipping routes. Being rather pristine due to relatively less human impact, it would be a terrible shame if anything happens to Cyrene before people even know of the beautiful things that reside within it.

5) What are your hopes and wishes for Cyrene?
I hope that people will come to learn of the treasures on our shores, Cyrene being a prime example. Just a few years ago I had no idea these awesome organisms were here, they always seemed so far away in books and documentaries on other countries. Now I'm amazed, active on the shore and enjoying it, and I hope that others can have the same experience (at least until the amazed part).

Read more about Sean's nature adventures on his blog: Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden.

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