Conservation of Giant Clams – Part 1

For the past year, I have had numerous opportunities to speak about the conservation of giant clams. Here, I decided to write a four-part series about the conservation issues surrounding giant clams to commemorate my TED talk in April 2017! For the first post in this series, I shall share the history of giant clam mariculture and explore some of the country case studies in implementing it as a conservation solution.

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Cultured juvenile fluted giant clams (Tridacna squamosa), Singapore.

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2017 class of TED Fellows and Senior Fellows

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*squeals*

I’m a little late in sharing the wonderful news, but I am thoroughly thrilled to be selected as a TED Fellow to take the stage at TED2017 this coming April in Vancouver, BC! Together with myself, there are 14 other aspiring young innovators from four continents, who will also deliver their talks on the TED stage.

I wish to send a big thank you to the TED Team, my colleagues and friends for their heartiest support and well-wishes on my Fellowship. I am highly encouraged to know that I will have the opportunity to present my ideas and work on such a great platform!

I have also been asked: What is my motivation on applying to be a TED Fellow? What do I hope to accomplish as a Fellow in the upcoming year? So here are some of my thoughts about what becoming a TED Fellow means to me… 🙂 Continue reading

Hainan bans the sale of giant clams

News have surfaced from within China that Hainan has now put a widespread ban on the sale of giant clam shells, particularly those found in Tanmen Village. Articles report that as of 1 January 2017, Hainan Island began the ban of sale, purchase, and use of corals, giant clams and other handicraft. (See Chinese article here)

In 2013, the local government (presumably Hainan) strongly supported the trade of giant clam shells, making it a pillar industry in Tanmen Village and provided work for thousands living in the village. However, in 2015, within a short span of 2 years, the support of the industry has turned to prohibition, and finally a total ban. (Translated materials)

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A factory in Tanmen with mounts of fossilised giant clam shells.

On 30 November 2016, the Hainan Provincial Counsel passed the bill of “Hainan’s Coral and Giant Clam Protection Regulations”, which states the ban beginning 1 January 2017. Since the ban, the shops have reportedly removed the items and stopped selling giant clam shell products, whilst others have ‘closed down’. It is estimated that the ban will cause the loss of livelihoods of almost 10,000 people. (Translated materials) Continue reading

The race for giant clams…

Conference on Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals – Environmental Law, Policy & Management, 9-11 November 2016, Singapore

2016 is a year of milestones – The NUS Law School’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL) celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Two degree programs focusing on the environment – the Master of Science in Environmental Management (MEM) and Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) also celebrate their 15th and 5th Anniversaries respectively. To celebrate, APCEL, MEM and BES are coming together from 9-11 November 2016 with a line-up of distinguished speakers who will share their expertise and insights on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

One such speaker is the inspiring oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia A. Earle! An avid underwater explorer, she continues to inspire generations of the importance of up keeping a healthy marine ecosystem. Her stories of exploration underwater and how she used modern technologies (such as underwater submersibles) to take people under the sea to show them the beauty of the oceans. We were thrilled to have this opportunity to attend her talk in this conference.

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Channel 8 – Island Escapade: St John’s Island

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Thank you WaWa Pictures for featuring our marine lab on St John’s Island, as well as our giant clam research project on their recent series: Island Escapade!

Island Escapade is a series of episodes showcasing the various offshore islands around Singapore in a fun and entertaining manner. The show’s host (Yan Wei) is a good friend of my husband, and I enjoyed the episode on St John’s Island thoroughly!

For this feature, I got our Research Assistant – Ambert Ang to front the giant clam project. Well-done! Also featured are Research Assistants – Lee Yen-Ling, who works on polychaete worm taxonomy, and Research Engineer – Lim Chin Sing, who works on the biofouling projects. Catch them on the latest episode of Island Escapade! 🙂

Toggle’s Catch-up TV: http://video.toggle.sg/en/video/series/island-escapade/ep6/456107

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Host with Research Assistant, Ambert Ang (Giant Clam Research Team)

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A scene in the CMBS lab.

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Looking for polychaete worms.

Is this…? I think it is…? No, wait! What?

Juvenile fluted giant clam

In the past year, I have received a number of requests and initiated discussions regarding giant clam species identification. This is not surprising as the number of described species continues to expand since Joseph Rosewater’s (1965) seminal paper!

The initial list comprised Hippopus hippopus, Tridacna gigas, T. derasa, T. squamosa, T. maxima and T. crocea. In 1982, Hippopus porcellanus was described by Rosewater (1982) from the Sulu Archipelago (Philippines), and in 1991, a new Tridacna species – T. rosewateri was described by Sirenko & Scarlato (1991) from the Indian Ocean. Subsequently, three species were rediscovered from various regions: T. mbalavuana (Lucas et al. 1991) in Fiji and Tonga, T. squamosina (Richter et al. 2008) in the Red Sea, and T. noae (Su et al. 2014) in the Indo-Pacific region. In 2016, a new species was described from the Indian Ocean – T. lorenzi (Monsecour, 2016)! This brings the total species standing to 12 for the family of giant clams!

So how can we tell the species apart? Here’s a quick guide to first identify a giant clam and its basic anatomy, and then identify species. Although I have been working on giant clams for a while, I have yet to encounter some of the species in the wild! Here, I will focus on discussing the more common and widespread species within their geographic range. Continue reading

Ghostly clams

Have you seen a bleached giant clam?

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Bleaching in cultured juvenile Tridacna maxima at the St John’s Island Marine Laboratory.

In the (not so many) years of my research, I have not personally encountered bleaching giant clams, despite the severity of the major global events in the last two decades. This includes experiences locally (Singapore) and overseas. Unfortunately, we had that opportunity to observe first-hand clam bleaching in our aquarium tanks. 😦

My colleagues had first observed slight paling in the mid-May but was not yet alarmed. It was in early June, when more clams started to bleach out and ‘turn white’. The severity of clam bleaching is as follows (starting with worst performer): Tridacna maxima > Tridacna gigas > Tridacna squamosa. Note that all species are cultured species, which means that they are not naturally wild giant clams. We also observed mortality in the most severely bleached giant clams. 😦 Fortunately, the intertidal team had yet to report a bleaching clam! Phew!

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Bleaching in giant clam results the loss of symbiont, zooxanthellae. This individual here showed partial bleaching.

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World Congress of Malacology 2016

World Congress of Malacology 2016 – The 19th International Congress of UNITAS MALACOLOGICA, 18-24 July 2016, Penang, Malaysia

The World Congress of Malacology (WCM) is a tri-annual congress, which brings together scientists from all over the world to discuss issues related to molluscan research. The theme for this year’s WCM 2016 is “Unity in Diversity”. In collaboration between Universiti Sains Malaysia Penang and UNITAS MALACOLOGICA (UM), WCM 2016 is hosted in Penang, Malaysia. This is the second time the UM and WCM meetings are held in Asia – what a significant milestone!

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World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum – Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2016, 26-28 June 2016, Tianjin, China

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss not-for-profit foundation, and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Founded by Professor Klaus Schwab in 1971, the foundation’s mission is cited as “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”.

I participated in this year’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC) 2016 as a Young Scientist. I also had the opportunity to co-chair an Innovator Hub session as a discussion leader for the topic of “Investing in Oceans”. My other discussion leader is the energetic and vibrant Angela Chen, from Impact Capitalyst. 🙂

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Participants at the World Economic Forum – Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin People’s Republic of China 2016. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Jakob Polacsek

Thank you WEF for this kind invitation for myself and spouse! 😀 We truly enjoyed the discussions and activities organised. It provided me a perspective that gives me renewed energy to continue pursuing my research!

And thank you Agenda for the interview about myself and giant clams!

Q&A: What has the panda got that the giant clam hasn’t?

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