ICCS at Ubin Day 2015: working together to promote solutions!

13 & 14 June 2015 (Saturday and Sunday) – ICCS joined forces with the Civet Awareness Team for a combined NUS Toddycats booth on Ubin Day this year! It was an exciting weekend filled with activities all over the island, from guided nature walks to coastal and terrestrial cleanups, to kayaking sessions. ICCS was certainly delighted to present a booth at the exhibition area.

ICCS featured specimens from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum to introduce Singapore’s marine life and posters about marine trash and entanglement on our shores and w everyday solutions.

Manning the booth were passionate and hardworking volunteers who reached out to many visitors over the two day – well done on an excellent job!
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We were up bright and early on the 1st day, and set up by 7.30am, with hardworking ICCS volunteers all prepared for a day of outreach.

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Left: We shielded the dry specimens from the bright sunlight. UV rays from the sun can damage and discolour the feathers of these bird specimens.
Right: Joleen Chan, ICCS’ Tanah Merah Zone Captain talks about the Knobby Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus).

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Iris Ng shares about Horseshoe crabs (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda and Tachypleus gigas) with young visitors to the booth.

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Left: View of the booth from the side
Right: Sean Goh and Matt Wong – our new volunteers, helped to engage members of the public with an interactive marine life and trash game.

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The booth was very popular with the public! Our volunteers were kept busy throughout the two days, engaging visitors with interesting stories and lessons.

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Left: John introducing a visitor mangrove creatures of Singapore.
Right: Jerome sharing about the Stonefish (Synanceia sp.)

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Left: Yiyong gets ready his story about the Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Right: Juin Bin talks about the Dugong (Dugong Dugon)

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There was also great excitement at the terrestrial and avian corner. Specimens of mammals, reptiles and bird found on Ubin drew many curious visitors, whom our volunteers intrigued with fascinating stories.

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Left: Joys and Joleen hold up posters, raising awareness about the Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus),and the cruelty behind the Kopi Luwak Industry. Visit Project Luwak to find out more about this.
Right: Chee Keon and Leng Leng, both ready to share their stories about Bats in Singapore (Order: Chiroptera)!

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Ubin Day 2 began with a heavy shower, but we were right back into action the second it stopped!

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Left: Our first visitor of the day arrived before we even finished setting up the booth. Our volunteer Max didn’t even have time to put down his bag!
Right: John gets these young visitors to guess where in Singapore marine life and marine trash can be found.

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Left: Keen, our youngest volunteer for the day amazing visitors with his knowledge on local biodiversity
Right: Lots of thanks to Erin who dropped by to help us manage the booth when manpower was running low!

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Left: Our last visitor to the booth on Sunday before we packed up.
Right: Travis gets him to listen for the sounds of the ocean through the Baler volute (Melo melo).

These outreach efforts are an extremely important opportunity to reach out to members of the public and raise awareness about local ecological issues. The specimens play an essential role and by talking about the unique characteristic adaptations traits they have, as well as what makes each species so special, we hope to encourage a greater appreciation for our fauna. The engagement stimulates thoughts about solutions and encourages people to begin with the small things everyday Singaporeans can do, to play a part in preserving and conserving biodiversity.

Our next gig is at the Festival of Biodiversity 2015 on 27 & 28 June 2015! Join us to learn more about the rich biodiversity in our beautiful red dot!

See more at the Ubin Day Facebook page.

The trash-lined beaches of Pulau Ubin [Teo Kah Ming reports]

The Ubin Zone Captains Team conducted two recces in May and June as part of preparations for ICC Singapore 2013!

Recce of Pulau Ubin Recce (11 May 2013)

This was the first recce Sean and I did together of Pulau Ubin. We cycled to visit Ketam Beach, Noordin Beach and Sungei Ubin.

At Ketam Beach, the tide was low (less than 1.0 m) and revealed a good thick line of trash along Ketam Beach 1, 2 and 3. There will be an ample amount of work for participants to do!

Ketam beach is an excellent site for organisations who want an easy terrain to work on but wish to have plenty to do. Lots of small-sized fragments are concentrated along the strand line. The site lacks a nearby shelter or toilet.

The trash that was lining along Ketam Beach 1

Trash along Ketam Beach 1

Trash that was washed up on the shore of Ketam Beach 3

Trash that was washed up on the shore of Ketam Beach 3

Next, we climbed the slopes on our bikes towards Noordin Beach – and found it closed due to erosion of the shoreline! We’ll check again in August.


Out third site Sungei Ubin is a mere ten minutes’ walk from jetty. The site is generally easy to handle but there are rocky spots within the site.

There is lots of plastic trash here! An the scene reminded us that public education is never done! And to think of our habits as an individual.


Rockier shore at Sungei Ubin

The rockier shore of Sungei Ubin

It’s always a joy to conduct the ICCS recces and visit our shorelines. We were further rewarded while cycling, by the sight of a hornbill twice! Thanks to NParks and researchers, this once locally extinct bird in Singapore has made a comeback and is doing well in Pulau Ubin.


Chek Jawa Recce (26 Jun 2013)

After the skies were cleared of haze, Rachael Li and I recce-ed the coasts at Chek Jawa.

The tide was close to 0.0 m when we started and we headed to Chek Jawa North which requires a very low tide to enter. As usual, the site was strewn with trash.

Blue drums found along CJ North.

Blue drums found along CJ North.

Tyres are common sight along the shores at CJ North.

Tyres are common sight along the shores at CJ North.

Amongst the trash art CJ North were bulky items like tyres and drums. This site is difficult and we ail need a bunch of fit and adventurous people to tackle this site. This year, the afternoon tide would be more suitable for participants to do cleanup here as it remains low enough for at least two hours.

Further up north in CJ North 2 is a site that is full of trash

Further up north at CJ North 2 is a site that is full of trash

Comparatively, CJ Central sites are cleaner than CJ North. Oscar, one of our veteran Organisers, commented that the CJ Central site she used to work at has become cleaner over the years, so her group has decided to tackle a more challenging site! There still is trash though but less of challenge finally!’

CJ Central 2

CJ Central 2

CJ Central 4

Finally at CJ South, we saw that the vegetation has grown dense, covering the small trails we use to access the beach. The trash volume remains high.



Now that I have loked all the sites, I am looking forward to the ICCS Workshop and Organiser’s Recce where I will prepare Organisers for the cleanup on 21st September 2013!

Auntie Oscar’s Field Experience Tips for Chek Jawa Coastal Cleanups – perfected over a decade of TLC Part 2

Following the previous blogpost on the useful tools, Auntie Oscar continues to share her invaluable experience with some practical field tips for a messy mangrove cleanup:

Bags Area  – Centralize bags together so that volunteers do not have to carry them while working. Appoint a volunteer (usually the data recorder) to look after the bags.

Get a Pole –  In every cleanup we can always find a strong pole or branch for our weighing.  The spare hook here allows us to hoist up the weight using the pole instead of sheer muscle man so girls can do the job too!

Losing your Sole – Classic example of a good shoe ruined by the mangrove. Usually volunteers with inappropriate shoes will be tasked as data recorder and sit near the dry area to guard our bags and monitor time.

Large Tire – [Operation Tire] took about 40 mins to extract as it is buried in compact sand. After some loosening, the tire resurfaced and adds onto our collection of treasure.

Buried Barrel – It took 6 people to dig for 30 mins for the barrel to surface. Hence tools are essential such as a foldable shovel.  We yell for [Operation Barrel] as a code to rally nearby volunteers to support. 😉

Marine Life – This large crab attacked us as he escaped from the barrel we dug up. We are happy for the feisty creature and set it free after a photo record.

Entwine – The tussle ends of large marine rope are often found wrapped around mangrove roots. Volunteers can wriggle free some parts but eventually cutting tools such a handsaw would be needed in this instance.

Silent Killer – It is amazing to see how plastics can choke up the mangrove tree roots as the tides comes in and goes out daily, the plastics find their way to wrap themselves tightly, suffocating the roots.

Sorting Area and workflow:  In muddy mangroves such as at Chek Jawa Central Sites, it could get a little difficult to record and pick up marine trash at the same time. Hence I have created the following workflow:

  • S1:safely briefing & group forming
  • S2: gathering of trash (no recording)
  • S3: bring all trash to Sorting Area
  • S4: sort out types of trash
  • S5: count trash collectively (data recording)
  • S6: packing & weighing (data recording)
  • S7: move  trash to trash disposal point.
  • S8: take group photo

That ends my field experience tips for a cleanup at mangrove sites. If you have any other questions, do chat with auntie Oscar: askauntieoscar@hotmail.com

– Auntie Oscar

Chek Jawa Warriors in ICCS!!

Pulau Ubin was unusually active on the morning of Saturday, 17 Sep 2011 – some cheery people were streaming in at considerable volume onto the sleepy island as early as 7.00am.

They were participants of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, they were eager to get to work. With great anticipation, these ICCS participants gathered at the jetty and sorted themselves out.

Bumboat trip to Ubin

Participants gathering at Ubin Jetty

The ICCS volunteers tackling the trash at Chek Jawa this year were veterans Oscar & Friends (led by Oscar Ng Hwee Leng) and Sukyo Mahikari (led by Patrick Sng). It also included newer groups such as NPCC HQ (led by Neo Zhu Lin), Blacks Rugby Women’s Football club (led by Christabelle Lim Mee) and SAF Transport Hub East (led by Winnie Seaw Swee Yew).

They hit the shores and started work cheerily. Getting stuck in the mud did not dampen their spirits and all were in good humour.

Cleanup starts! SAF Participants hard at work

Extricating our 'victim'!

Finally, the collected and categorised trash was weighed and dragged out of the shore. Everyone was beaming from satisfaction! The haul of trash from all of Chek Jawa South was a total of 963 kg!

Trash collected on all of Pulau Ubin weighed almost 3,500 kg!!

Plastic bags, plastic beverage bottles and food wrappers/containers were the top three trash items found – 4,818 plastic bags, 3,753 plastic bottles and 2,465 food wrappers. Other ‘noteworthy’ trash include straws, disposable utensils and styrofoam pieces.

SAF Weighing Team having fun!

Undaunted Sukyo Warriors carrying their trash out!

Various groups did their debriefing with their hard-earned data ensuring that the participants gained an important awareness on how our daily lives impact the environment and how to reduce it.

NPCC HQ Debrief

Everyone was safe and sound and accomplished from the day’s efforts – see you again next year! 🙂

Outward Bound Singapore’s first ICCS cleanup – report on Stomp’s Youthphoria

OBS conducted their inaugural ICCS’ efforts At Pulau Ubin with their alumni volunteers last Saturday, 3rd September 2011. Volunteers stayed overnight for a comprehensive programme which involved briefings, discussion, review and sharing before heading out to five beaches in western Ubin.

STOMP was along for the day and featured their efforts on the YouthPhoria page (click for the link):

Youthphoria - OBS@ICCS

You can view the photos on Facebook here.

Congratulations on completing a comprehensive ICCS programme, OBS!

Recce of Ubin’s western beaches with Outward Bound Singapore

Outward Bound Singapore which occupies the western half of Pulau Ubin in north-western Singapore, has been providing “outdoor education and adventure learning programmes to help people realise their full potential” since 1967 (link). I am one of the quarter-million alumni as I did a five-day stint with them back in 1982.

Chua Li Shan, the Deputy Head of Outward Bound Youth/Programmes & Development contacted me on 10th June 2011, and we decided I’d profit from a visit of their beaches and a discussion. So I headed out to “sunny Pulau Ubin” on 21st June and visited their six beaches by boat along with another ICCS Otter, Jessica Ker.

Hiking Activity 20.02 km | RunKeeper

The OBS beaches:

  1. Kekek Beach (1.4191° North, 103.9545° East)
  2. Shopping Centre Beach (1.4238° North, 103.9448° East)
  3. Indiana Beach (1.4199° North, 103.9277° East)
  4. Hill 31 Beach (1.4181° North, 103.9297° East)
  5. Camp 2 Beach (1.4155° North, 103.9357° East)
  6. Machor Beach (1.4127° North, 103.9406° East)

Their trash load is generally low but requires regular work. Besides the beaches, we examined a few mangrove sites which could be adopted in a more mature phase of the programme in future., and we discussed sites in Pulau Ketam which has a high load.

Over the course of the recce, I was heartened to hear that Li Shan had already initiated mini-cleanups in the past couple of years with staff and students groups. Interested in both the year-round cleanups and the ICCS procedure, Li Shan had already examined the information on our webpage and had gone though the powerpoints as well. And I was able to chip in with suggestions about integrating environmental education in existing efforts – the coastal cleanup effort is already embedded as a component in their programmes so this makes implementation easier.

OBS staff are very much into raising environmental awareness and character building of the youth through their programmes. They also believe in small-scale implementation and growing projects with time. They already adopt a “leave no trace” component which they will enhance in future and obviously operational safety is excellent.

We share their outdoor education goals of character building, environmental awareness, sensitivity to surrounding, active citizenry so we are delighted to be working together and its easy to synergise.

Next up – they will try out a prototype programme this Saturday with a school group and I will head back to Pulau Ubin in August to conduct a workshop for OBS instructors.

I told Li Shan, this has been in the works a long time through the suggestions of Grace Lim, Robert Teo and Ria Tan. All of them have been encouraging various aspects of biodiversity awareness with OBS over the years and I’d visited OBS as a result for discussions and site visits. I’m glad its now time for us to chip in comprehensively to this worthy mission.

South-western Pulau Ubin
Tanjung Tajam, the western tip of Pulau Ubin

“Many innocent animals are being killed by the litter we throw into the sea” – LCP Hannah Cheuk from Hua Yi Red Cross @ Pulau Ubin

LCP Hannah Cheuk Jia Yun of Hua Yi’s Red Cross Unit writes:

18 Sep 2010 – I had fun taking part in the coastal cleanup activity at Pulau Ubin. We rode the bus for an hour from Jurong , alighting at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal to hop into a num boat for Pulau Ubin.

We joined the Commonwealth Red Cross Unit already at work along the Pulau Ubin Village Beach. We collected the litter, organised it into groups (e.g. plastic, glass) and record what we collected. As we worked, I recognised four of my former primary school mates, amongst the Commonwealth Secondary Red Cross Unit.

Later, we played bonding games. There were 2 groups-Alpha and Bravo and I was in Bravo. I managed to remember all the names that were in my group. We had to create a cheer too. Coincidentally, both groups were using the same cheer, but Alpha won. We gathered for this group picture at the beach:

Huayi Red Cross @ Ubin

We were very tired but we had a lot of fun. By clearing litter along the coastline, we helped prevent innocent animals living nearby from being killed by plastic. Many innocent animals are being killed by the litter we throw into the sea. I’m glad that I could help in some way. The data that we recorded, will be analyzed and will help to bring positive impact to the environment.

I felt that this activity is very meaningful and we had at least contributed something. This is the first time that I had experienced these things and I would like to participate more of these activities in the future.”

The wonderful spirit of the Independents @ Sungei Ubin

18 Sep 2010 – Every year, the bulk of the cleanup volunteers participate through organised groups. Some individuals, however, hear about the cleanup and sign up independently – the coordinators call them “The Independents,” to reflect their determined spirit which sees them step forward to participate without prompting and they are all a joy to work with at all the sites they turn up at.

ICCS Sg Ubin walkin

This year, about 30 Independents were allocated Sungei Ubin, where I act as Site Captain. This site requires volunteers to report to Pulau Ubin at 7.30am on a Saturday morning. With some volunteers staying in western Singapore and wet mornings for the past two days, I confess I was expecting some “no-shows.” However, everyone turned up – and the ones staying further were either on time or earlier than I was!

This sign of commitment was heartening for me to experience on an early Saturday morning!

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With a quick briefing about procedure and safety, everyone started working and soon began pulling out the fishing nets which were deeply embedded in the mud or entangled around trees.

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Barely half an hour into the cleanup, the Independents had accumulated a large load of fish/kelong nets, tires and metal meshes. This group of participants also did not falter at removing large items such as oil drums. Their spirit was wonderful to behold!

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The Independents paid attention to details like cutting open tires to remove the sand inside. And the girls helped with moving the accumulated trash to the Trash Collection Point at the end of the cleanup, even though they were exhausted by then.

ICCS2010 Sg Ubin

In just 90 minutes, 30 independents had cleared about 450kg of trash from the site. – a huge load for such a small group, reflecting the effort each one of them put in!

It was truly great working with this bunch of energetic participants and I was energised by the experience – well done, everyone and good job!

Zhang Dongrong
Site Captain, Sungei Ubin
ICCS Ubin West Zone

From Student Participant to Volunteer Site Captain

Data cards? Checked. Gloves? Checked. Transport arrangements? Checked.  I was going through my checklist, determined not to make a fool out of myself in front of 30 ICCS volunteers from the European Union and NUS University Scholars Programme the next morning.

Having volunteered with Toddycats (nature and environment volunteers with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS) at Pandan and Lim Chu Kang Mangroves, and with Nature Society Singapore at Kranji Mudflats, I was now roped in to take on a larger role in one of Singapore’s largest environmental conservation programmes – International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

It was not just about picking up marine trash anymore. It was about taking the driver’s seat (ok maybe not that of an 80-seater coach); organizing, communicating and executing. The cleanup site (Pulau Ubin Ketam Beach 3) was recced about a week before to ensure that every possible glitch could be avoided.

But of course plans are seldom carried out seamlessly. I was greeted with an enthusiastic bunch of participants and everything went smoothly until a minor hiccup during the briefing at our cleanup site. I did not brief the participants adequately enough to hold their attention for long (or they were just too excited to start the cleanup!). Fortunately, Siva’s (ICCS coordinator) timely interjections made my first experience as site captain a great one.

‘Oops..did I miss something out?’

Everyone went home with bright smiles on their faces knowing that they did something for their environment. And you know it is a decent first job done when you receive an email from one of the volunteers after the cleanup saying ‘Thanks so much for babysitting us, and for being such a great site captain! :)’.


Trina Chua
Site Captain, Ketam Beach 3
ICCS Ubin West Zone

Pulau Ubin – 2.8 tonnes of trash removed but there’s more!

altogether now!...1, 2, heave!!!!!

altogether now!...1, 2, heave!!!!!

About 325 people, schoolkids and adults, got up really early today to head for Pulau Ubin for their part in the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2009.

It was a glorious morning with clear skies and they got to work immediately picking, pulling, tugging, cutting, digging, sweating, huffing, puffing, heaving, hauling, carrying and pushing the trash. This was followed by counting, classifying and weighing the trash items recovered from the approximately 475m of shore covered.

The groups that battled on Chek Jawa were :-

  1. Australian International School @ Noordin Beach
  2. CHIJ St Nicholas @ CJ Central 2 – results link
  3. Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority @CJ Central 3 – results link
  4. Pei Hwa Secondary School NPCC cadets @CJ Central 4 – results link
  5. Advantest (Singapore) Pte Ltd @ CJ South 4 – results link
  6. Girl Guides of Hougang Sec & Changkat Changi Sec @ CJ South 5 – results link
  7. Gemalto Pte Ltd @ CJ South 6 – results link
  8. Land Transport Authority @ CJ South 7 – results link
  9. Independant signups @ CJ South 9 – results link;

The total weight of the items collected= 2.786 tonnes.

This is a very large amount of trash – however it is only a small fraction of the total amount still remaining at Chek Jawa and Noordin which we will tackle in the years to come.

Pulau Ubin’s high trash load was either deposited there in the past and present, or floats in with the tide. As with last year, many fish nets and large plastic drums were seen on the shore but the groups only managed to remove some of them.

See the detailed results from the day’s work at Pulau Ubin and other sites in Singapore at coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/results/2009/.

Photos are also online, see pictures by James Koh, pictures by K C Au-Yeong

More news after the second phase of the International Coastal Cleanup on 19 Sept 2009 – this date is the actual date of the global community’s data collecting exercise.