Friday, December 9, 2011

The Toddycats are going to Geylang!

The Toddycats! will be hitting the heartlands, with a very special exhibition at the Geylang East Public Library this Saturday, 10th December. With an exhibition of specimens, educational posters, games, and talks, it's the perfect opportunity to learn more about Singapore's wildlife.



Here's a sneak preview of what you can expect to see, based on our briefing and training session yesterday evening.

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Here are some of our volunteers doing a quick self-introduction. Many of them are Life Sciences undergraduates who will be guiding members of the public for the first time.

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Among the veterans is Junius, who is also the mastermind behind XinHeritage, creating papercraft featuring some of our native wildlife.



He'll be selling these kits at the booth. No scissors or glue needed!

In keeping with a paleontological addition to our exhibit lineup (more on that in a bit), he's also developed papercraft with a more prehistoric theme.

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*Hums Diana Ross - If We Hold On Together* (No points if you get the joke)

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Ok, the dodo wasn't exactly a member of the Pleistocene megafauna, but these are all characters from the Ice Age movie.

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No Toddycats! exhibition is complete without our educational posters, which have loyally served us for many years. They may be a little old, but the information within is still very much relevant.

We've also got games to help people learn more about our wildlife and the environments they live in!

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Tze Kwan developed this simple challenge where you have to match the animals with their correct diet and habitats.

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As well as simple board games that help educate people on our mangrove and marine ecosystems.

Of course, the main highlight of our exhibition must be all the specimens we've got on display. There's so much we can share with members of the public, but we promise that we'll try our best not to drown you with jargon or higher-level concepts.

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If you saw our booth at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III, you will find some familiar specimens, such as the dugong fetus, Asian small-clawed otter, mud crabs, and horseshoe crabs. However, we've got a lot more specimens to showcase this time around. Here's a sneak peek at some of the specimens we've got:

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A selection of fishes commonly encountered in coastal areas, especially near mangroves.

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Three species of water snake found in our mangroves.

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Our tree-climbing crabs; did you know that one of them is named after Singapore herself?

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Plus a quick guide as to how to tell male and female crabs apart.

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We'll also be featuring a number of skulls and skeletons.

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I like the skulls of the crocodile and dolphin. Not only can you talk about how diet affects dentition, but it's also a good way to inform the public that yes, we still have crocodiles and dolphins in Singapore!

Another very special specimen that we'll have isn't pictured here, but it's sure to draw the crowd - an actual dinosaur fossil! No, Twinky, Apollo, and Prince haven't arrived in Singapore yet, but we'll have a genuine caudal vertebra from a diplodocid sauropod.


(Life reconstruction of Diplodocus by 'unlobogris')


(Skeletal reconstruction of Diplodocus by Scott Hartman)


(Life reconstruction of Diplodocus by Todd Marshall)

Even though this fossil (and the others that the new Natural History Museum is obtaining) hail from North America, it's likely that at some point in time, dinosaurs roamed in a corner of the supercontinent, which, after millions of years of geologic upheaval and continental drift, would eventually form the island now known as Singapore. Besides, dinosaurs are excellent tools at capturing the public's imagination, and can serve as a springboard for a wide array of topics, from evolutionary relationships and an understanding of the concept of deep time, to extinction and conservation.

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Here we are, sharing information that hopefully will interest the visitors, or help them relate to some environmental issues threatening our bidiversity. These training sessions are an excellent opportunity to learn from one another, whether it's on content, tricks and skills in guiding, or how to deal with potentially difficult visitors.

We'll also have talks by some students and ex-students who have carried out research on native wildlife. With different areas of focus, such as the wildlife of Pulau Ubin, red junglefowl, wild boar, otters, and common palm civets, this is an excellent opportunity to learn and find out more from the people who've put in a lot of hard work to unravel some of wildlife mysteries.

At the end of the training session, it's time to start packing the specimens for their little trip out of the museum on Saturday.

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These are fragile, so we take great care to ensure that they don't suffer any damage.

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And they're ready for show and tell at Geylang East Public Library.

It's going to be an exciting day for the Toddycats!

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