Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Mangrove Madness (Part 2)

I know I said tomorrow. I got distracted. And tired.
So, anyway...
Day 4
Fully recharged from my previous work, I came back to the mangroves! Well, almost...
We got rained in...
I met Rick at his lab at NUS and we set off for Kranji, praying for good weather. Of course, as the image shows above, we didn't get what we wanted. We stayed around at Kranji for a good hour, seeing if the rain would abate. Unfortunately, it didn't and we went back to Rick's lab.

Once back at the lab, Rick taught me how to use the total station. The total station, using trigonometry and a little bit of magic (It's really complicated math) is able to determine the elevation of a point very far away. Despite how complicated it sounds, the operating system of the total station is actually pretty easy and straightforward to use. The main trick is getting the tripod to be totally level. That takes about 5-10 minutes of trial and error.

That's me adjusting the tripod to make it totally level. It's more fun that it looks!
Once that's done with, you have to calibrate it with a pre-set benchmark. The rest is simple, as one person goes around holding a prism on a pole at a pre-set height. The camera will send a laser towards the prism, which reflects the laser. Using the aforementioned magic (i.e. really complicated math), the camera calculates how far away and how tall the point is. It's intense. After that Rick shows me some of the maps he's been able to draw. Using the data, he was able to construct a 3D map of the whole of Mandai Mangroves and superimpose it on a satellite image. Such data is truly useful for future work in that area.

Rick believes that accurate equipment is necessary for good ecology. After visiting his lab, I agree. There's no point in wasting time and energy in collecting inaccurate data with inferior equipment. That's why accurate and precise equipment is really needed to do proper data analysis.

Day 5
Once more, I visited Rick in his lab and met up with his friend Aloysius, who was looking to get some experience in muddy environments. Naturally, the mangroves were the perfect practice area. So, we set off!

Yes, we do this for fun. Why do you ask?
This time, I didn't wear my track pants. NEVER DO THAT. It's really uncomfortable, especially when you're walking through a field of pandan. Luckily, most of our work was on dry land on that day. I got to use the total station on the field for the first time. It was definitely quite an experience; sniping for the prism.

It put a demonic spark of joy in my eye.
So, we mapped out many trees that Dipti and Rick had tagged on the day I took a hiatus. Along the way, we  met some friendly residents of the mangrove, including a tree climbing crab.

Which was... climbing a tree.
Aloysius took the chance to practice his swordsmanship as well.

En garde!
And that was it for Day 5! It was really fun.

Day 6

Final day. I met Rick at the lab again and we took the stuff to the mangroves once more! This time, we took a taxi, so we got to relax. While Rick talked animatedly to the taxi driver, I sat at the back, thinking about life and other deep stuff such as that. We picked Dipti up at the MRT station and went to the mangroves. This time, I had the good sense to wear  track pants. However, when we reached the mangroves, the tides were too high to do any sort of work. So Rick gave us a tour of the other side; the side I hadn't seen yet.

This was how high the tides were.
Here's us fooling around before the tour.
So, during the tour, Rick introduced us to many species of mangroves that we were unable to see on the other side, such as Sonneratia trees. Again, I should do a dummy's guide to mangroves sometime. We also saw Nipah! It's the only palm that grows in saltwater. The fruit is naturally sweet, and is a vital addition to Ice Kachang.

That's the fruit. Inside, is the attap chee
We also saw proof that people have lived in the Mandai Mangroves. It's possible that these structures were built by the fishing village that lived here and was relocated by urbanization. It was cool, albeit slightly eerie to think that many people had been born and had died in that area. In a sense, is it not our national heritage?

 Pretty cool huh? I was amazed too!

Rick showed us the setup for another experiment. This was attached. Guess who did the Tamil translation...
We also got a great view of Malaysia!

Rick taught us all the distinguishing features of the mangrove trees.  Truly an enriching experience.

Once the tide receded, we returned to the sandbar and continued mapping and tagging the trees. It was, as usual really hard work. Once it ended, we all breathed a sigh of "TGIF!"
Remember, Rick always needs help. So, do try to volunteer for his cause. Where else can you go all He-man in the mangroves?

It looks like 'Hey Rick', but it actually reads 'Help Rick'
SO GO HELP HIM! Do the manly thing of walking in knee-deep mud... for science!

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