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  wild people: Ria

Having gotten so many of my wild friends to bare their souls to the nation, it only seems fair that I should do likewise :-) So here is a little about myself...

How did you first get involved in working
for nature in Singapore?

My first real taste of wild nature in Singapore was as volunteer guide at Sungei Buloh. I was so entranced by Buloh that I started a personal online journal of my visits there (sadly discontinued due to distractions).

Through the volunteers and people at Buloh, I heard about Chek Jawa, about 6 months before it was due to be reclaimed. I visited Chek Jawa and fell under her spell.
on Sekudu at sunrise: bliss!
On Pulau Sekudu with Chek Jawa in the background and knobbly sea star...bliss

From then on, I got involved more extensively in guiding and other nature awareness programmes to do with Chek Jawa. For more about my experiences as a Chek Jawa guide.

Everything to do with nature is interconnected. I soon got involved in programmes for other nature places in Singapore as well.

For more about my thoughts on nature in Singapore
How our wild places can build a stronger Singapore?
What is the value of our natural seashores?
Why it makes cents for Singapore to be green
Uniquely Singapore: City Reefs!
Possibilities of a truly integrated development?
on the wildfilms blog with comments
on wildsingapore

What do you get out of it?
There is nothing as exhilarating as seeing our very own wild creatures going about their daily lives, as they have done for millions of years. And learning more about them. From birds, to jeweled insects; intriguing plants; magical corals; comical crabs....the list is endless.

What is even more rewarding is sharing this excitement with others. The joy of introducing a child or child-at-heart to our wild places. To see in their eyes, the fascination and realisation of how nature can make us whole again. My favourite way is to share it personally during a guided walk. Another way is through photographs, which capture the wondrous qualities of our flora and fauna. I've just recently started to upload as many of my photos as I can on wildsingapore flickr in powerpoint size for teachers and other nature educators to use. For more on my thoughts on photographing nature in Singapore.

But the most rewarding part of working for nature is meeting the equally fascinating community of people who are passionate about Singapore's natural heritage. Just like the rainforest or coral reef community, these "wild people" are just as varied, colourful and interesting. Many are well camouflaged as "ordinary" people; but surprise with their true wild nature :-)

In the process of doing the NDP moblog, I got to know more about these wonderful wild people. Their write-ups poignant with how nature moves them and hint only at their quiet but vast dedication in their particular areas of influence. It has been immensely moving to be in the company of such special people.

What is your personal motto in your work?
Make a difference, no matter how small.
For more on how one person can make a difference..

Awareness is the necessary start point for all positive effective action; not only in conservation, but also in my work and personal life.

Have faith. In people, in yourself. Just start. Do what you can, what you must. The time, resources, money and support will somehow be found.

My work for nature has almost been mystical. Synchronicity at every turn. I have crossed paths with some of the most beautiful, pure souls in my journey. More than I imagined could survive in this so-called "rat race" society that we believe we have. Perhaps it is nature that brings out this quality in us? :-)

This alone has made the journey worthwhile.

What are some of your current projects?
My life is controlled by the tides :-)

At low tide:
Since Chek Jawa, I have made it my personal mission to visit and document all other intertidal areas of Singapore. We nearly lost Chek Jawa because we simply didn't know it was there. Together with a few other crazy people, I've shared our sightings on the wild shores of singapore blog and wildsingapore flickr and these are consolidated on the wild fact sheets.

Currently, I'm in collaboration with TeamSeagrass, a group of volunteers set up to monitor our seagrass meadows with the support of NParks.

I'm glad to be able to help NParks in coordinating the volunteers for the exciting Mega Marine Survey which is a great opportunity for ordinary people to learn about and contribute to a better understanding of our shores.

I'm also a proudly naked member of the Naked Hermit Crabs, a group of volunteers who aim to guide on shores not covered by other major groups, especially those shores in danger.

I was involved with volunteers to film our shores. Called Wild Things, the film crew has been working hard to catch the super low tides of 2004. The plan was to film over two seasons and come up with a 12-episode series on Singapore's own shores. But we ended up doing it for 4 years. Recently, our work was incorporated into an Arts Central series about our shores called "Once Upon a Tree: Coasts and Tides". The crew have decided to take a break from filming for a while. For more about wildfilms.

I also collaborated with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research to develop guided walks for the public on the shores of Pulau Semakau. With probably the largest mangroves, seagrass area and coral reefs in Singapore, it is a spectacular shore to share with members of the public. Semakau convinces me there is so much more to our shores than just Chek Jawa!

At high tide:
Nature guiding has been my first passion: before Chek Jawa, I have been guiding at Sungei Buloh and the Botanics Rainforest Trail. I also guide at Bukit Timah, Lower Peirce and MacRitchie as well. I also work with the Raffles Museum, and the Blue Water Volunteers.

2010 is International Year of Biodiversity and together with a few others, we are running the Celebrating Singapore's Biodiverity blog and companion facebook page. Drop by to see the latest news and events related to our amazing biodiversity.

I am currently working closely with November on her Leafmonkey Workshops which aim to provide opportunities for nature guides from all groups to get together, share and learn from one another on all kinds of topics and issues from marine to terrestrial, including broad issues such as wildlife trade and invasive alien species.

I thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience of the Chek Jawa Guidebook. I'm planning to use what I learnt to start guidebooks for some of our other fabulous nature places. In collaboration with many enthusiastic and well informed volunteers of the Blue Water Volunteers, we came up with the Southern Shores guidesheet which is now in its third print. I was also involved in the latest book about Pulau Semakau written by Marcus Ng as well as the second edition of the this book. In 2012, I was touched to be kindly invited to contribute to the Wild Singapore coffee-table book together with Dr Geoffrey Davison and Benjamin Lee.

It takes a long while to get published on paper. In the meanwhile, I try to publish on the internet. I have set up the wild facts sheets with brief information and lots of photos of mainly our common marine life but also some plants; with special segments for nature guides. The wildsingapore.com website has fact sheets on our wild places, while I post daily news updates on the wildsingapore news and weekly updates on the wildsingapore happenings blogs. I also share hundreds of free photos of our shores for use by educators and nature speakers on the wildsingapore flickr site.

Other web resources I manage include Bleach Watch Singapore.

In 2007 I was invited to join the National Youth Council. Its been heartening and humbling to work with youths who have such boundless energy and interest to make a difference. I worked with a group of dedicated volunteers to organise the SHINE youth festival in 2008 and 2009. I have since left the Council.

I also contributed to International Year of the Reef 2008 Singapore a year-long effort to raise awareness of our shores and reefs. My role is primarily to run the Singapore Celebrates the Reefs blog which highlights feature articles about our shores, marine issues global and local, and people working for the shores and their activities. It also includes the IYOR Singapore flickr group which features shared photos of our shores.

I am practically fifty. Meet me also on facebook.
More on
how YOU can make a difference too...

Posted by EckKheng Posted on 28/08/04 08:02
Without a doubt, meetng you in the course of moblogging for the ndp site, is one of the best things of the experience. Your Dedication, Integrity and Friendliness proves thatyou can make a DIFferrence. I know you will never stop. Thank you for sharing so much of your energy, tiime and yourself. You are an example for all of us.

Posted by hoppiesg Posted on 28/08/04 15:20
wow, you certainly dont look your age! you do look young;) Your motto "Make a difference, no matter how small" --- juz to let you know that you have already made a little difference in my life:). You have increased my interest for the nature. love those pics that you uploaded. it does cause me to long for the nature's experience.....esp. now! i am literally working inside the concrete jungle now, in my office! OT... the singaporean life.....i do enjoy my work, but i am planning my next getaway now... to the nature and wild...

Posted by Ria Posted on 28/08/04 16:01
Oh dear, so sorry to hear you are working this Saturday. Yah, do take a break. Instead of leaving Singapore for the get-away, why not escape to one of our wild places? Visit my website for more about the very many places that you can relax in and enjoy. Our join one of the many free guided walks by volunteer nature guides. I guide regularly so perhaps we can meet on one of these walks? :-)

Posted by grayowl Posted on 30/08/04 13:56
Hi RiA, now we get to know you better (^^).


these blog entries were first uploaded on MoBlog Singapore! Celebrate Singapore NDP 04
website©ria tan 2004