Citizen Science is a way to encourage us all to get outside, hone our senses, and undertake meaningful activity to monitor and maintain our environment, improve scientific literacy and best of all, be happier and healthier. – Mara Kerry, David Suzuki Foundation.

Here’s a picture of me 10 years younger starting out my PhD research, with my first sighting of a giant clam in Singapore waters! Photo credits: Ria Tan, Wild Singapore.

For this World Oceans Day, I would like to put the spotlight on the many volunteers who have aided me in my giant clam research over the past decade. Yes, it’s been 10 years since I embarked on this journey of studying the giant clams. πŸ™‚ Here’s our story.

Unfazed by the challenge…

I can still remember when I first told people that I was looking for giant clams in Singapore waters, many were not convinced that I could find many or any! In fact, many of my email inquiries and consultations with senior marine biologists should have dissuaded me of the idea of finding any giant clams here. Despite all that, I was pretty determined to push ahead, and thankfully, I had the (financial!) support of my PhD supervisor. πŸ˜›

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For my PhD, I carried out a year-long comprehensive survey locating these rare mega-fauna in Singapore waters. Photo credits: Ria Tan, Wild Singapore.

Volunteers from all walks of life…

Between 2009 and 2010, I had organised numerous intertidal trips to almost 29 reefs across the southern islands of Singapore. I had recruited the help of passionate intertidal surveyors from all walks of life – teachers, accountants, artists, photographers, free-lancers, lawyers, and scientists too! With every bit of their help, time, and effort, I slowly mapped out the location of every giant clam in Singapore! It’s no wonder I’ve gained the nickname of Giant Clam Girl! haha…

Citizen Science – New term, but old practice…

The collection and analysis of scientific data by the general public, with the ability to expand research taxonomically, geographically and temporally. – Elizabeth Ellwood, published on Ecological Indicators

The practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge. – National Geographic

The participation of the community in organised research endeavours. Data derived from these projects inform decision makers about our biodiversity and helps to formulate conservation strategies. – National Parks Board, Singapore

Citizen science goes a long way…

Even though the comprehensive surveys ended in 2010, my intertidal friends and I continued to note down each and every giant clam species we discover during our field trips. Over time, an informal long-term monitoring was established for these endangered marine species populations. Although I do not go on many field trips these days, my friends continue to look out for these iconic animals. I have now amassed almost 10 years worth of information for Singapore’s populations, all thanks to my intertidal friends!

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#10yearchallenge – My first wild giant clam sighting in Singapore. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Mama Jong Clam’, we first found her in 2008 when I was just an undergraduate! Alas, Mama Jong passed away in 2018 due to unknown causes. The positive note is that we preserved her genes through her babies that are now living at the Sisters’ Island Marine Park.

Today, I get regular updates because my friends tag me on every giant clam photo they see – in Singapore and elsewhere in the world! πŸ˜€

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Here’s ‘me’ in this photo!

On this World Oceans Day, I like to salute my ocean heroes who have not only helped me greatly in my research, but for your companionship and friendship over the years. It is your enthusiasm that has kept me going for all these years, as well as for keeping the spark of hope that anyone and everyone can do their part for the oceans. πŸ™‚

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