Saturday, January 7, 2012

Seven Links Blog Project: A Milestone Year

We're almost a week into the new year, and while I'm not really the sort who likes to reflect on the past year and mull over my successes and failures, Crystal Riley from Crystal and Bryan in Singapore has tagged me to take part in the Seven Links Blog Project, where I repost links to seven of my posts from different categories. Although I was tagged last year, I only found out last night, and I guess it's still not too late for me to look back on 2011.

2011 was a year in which I really started to focus a lot of energy on blogging, though work and personal matters inevitably got in the way at times. It also marked a stage where blogging really helped open up a lot of opportunities for me in many ways. I'm immensely proud of a number of posts that I wrote and published in 2011, for various reasons.

Your most beautiful post: The King and I: King Cobras in Singapore

Wild King Cobra
(Photo by gerry morgan)

I love reptiles, and I'm always jealous of people who're able to have close encounters with snakes in the wild. Perhaps one of the holy grails of local herpetology for me would be to spot a wild king cobra. A paper by Kelvin Lim, Leong Tzi Ming, and Francis Lim, collating records of king cobra in Singapore, inspired me to do a post on one of the most regal and majestic of all serpents. To be able to cross paths with this potentially dangerous and yet stunningly beautiful reptile in the forest would be a real thrill for me (of course, such an encounter should ideally end with both the snake and I leaving unhurt).

Your most popular post: Harry Potter and the Parliament of Owls

(Photo by hump7)

It turns out that my most popular post in 2011 was the post on king cobras, but this one comes in second place. Certainly, all the hype and excitement surrounding the final installation of the Harry Potter movie series helped inspire me to write two posts, one on the owl species featured in the books and movies, and a guest post on Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity on the owl species of Singapore. Apparently, the Magical Quill challenge that allowed Harry Potter fans to register early for access to Pottermore (a website dedicated to JK Rowling's magical world of wizardry that's currently still in beta) posed a riddle that led a lot of people to my blog: "How many owls are on the Eeylops Owl Emporium sign? Multiply by 49." My post didn't exactly provide the answer to that (oops), but the answer was readily available elsewhere.

Your most controversial post: Macaques, Conflict and Keyboard Warriors

(Photo by amos1766)

Long-tailed macaques stand out as a species that is perpetually being involved in conflict between humans and wildlife. Whether it's monkeys entering homes, monkeys harassing humans in parks and nature reserves, or idiots feeding monkeys despite the threat of heavy fines, these fellow primates constantly remind us of the impact of our actions; you cannot have a picnic in the park or choose to live on the edge of the rainforest without considering how the resident monkey troops will behave. In response to a lot of paranoia and stupidity regarding macaques attacking people, I wrote a letter to the Straits Times Forum, and it was published. This also led me to think a lot about the value of parks and nature reserves (who owns them: humans or wildlife?), as well as my devotion towards fighting ignorance of local wildlife and conservation issues. At the very least, being a keyboard warrior for wildlife has made me able to deal with a lot of nonsense that might give others brain damage.

Your most helpful post: The Chironomids Part II: Millions of Midges

Bedok Reservoir Park 25
(Photo by zh3nG 正)

Bedok Reservoir has popped up quite often in the news over the past year, and it's not just because of all the human corpses found there. A swarming episode at the beginning of 2011 created a lot of buzz (literally) over midges, and while these midges don't suck blood, they did cause a great deal of inconvenience and discomfort to residents, as well as loss of revenue for businesses in the area. This post was meant to publicise the research of Adam Quek and Lin Yijun, two of my colleagues, who published a paper based on this event. And based on comments and recent news articles, it appears that the midges have returned in 2012. At the very least, I hope that this post will prove useful to any disgruntled resident affected by the midges at Bedok Reservoir, and lead them to my colleagues' paper.

A post whose success surprised you: Timberland Earthkeepers and the Horqin Desert

Vincent's Story
(Photo by TBL_Interactive)

This post helped pave the way for some of the most memorable experiences of 2011. For once, there was a blogging contest perfect for someone who focuses on nature and conservation, and while I was fervently hoping that I would win, I was honestly taken by surprise when I received a call one day announcing that I had been selected as the winner. My close friends will all know just how happy I was. Having the chance to travel to Inner Mongolia and Sichuan with Timberland, and take part in some of their activities to help fight desertification, was truly an opportunity of a lifetime. The spectacular landscapes and the travel companions who have since become my friends truly helped to make this a worthwhile experience. Not to mention that it marked a turning point as I made the transition between jobs, and provided a great form of nature therapy during a rather depressing period of my year.

A post you feel didn't get the attention it deserved: That's no fish: Alligator spotted at Sembawang Park?

False Gavial Croc
(Photo by lkarzag)

A lot of my content is inspired by posts submitted to that bastion of citizen journalism (sigh), STOMP. While it proves to be a useful resource for wildlife sightings, there are times when there is so much misinformation and rubbish that you just can't help but shake your head and facepalm, before issuing another online ass-kicking. This post was one such example, where a photo of a false gharial at the Singapore Zoo became the topic of a rather lame and stupid hoax. At least this gave me a chance to write at length about the false gharial, a rather obscure crocodylian that frankly deserves a lot more attention.

The post that you are most proud of: Stepping on Stonefish: A Year On (Part 1) and Stepping on Stonefish: A Year On (Part 2)

Synanceia horrida
(Photo by James)

Okay, I cheated on this one, since this post technically consists of two parts, and because I started work on this post in late 2010. But still, this post was a true labour of love, because I really wanted to share about the experience of getting stung by a stonefish. If I'm not wrong, I think this is still the most comprehensive personal account of an incident with a stonefish, documenting the entire painful ordeal from the moment I was stung, as well as the whole recovery process. Believe me when I say that I dedicated a lot of time towards writing this, including reading up on stonefishes, as well as searching my Twitter archive. Besides, this really counts as one of the most epic ways to celebrate the new year. I hope that it's encouraged more people to take safety very seriously when visiting our shores.

Now here comes the part where I'm supposed to nominate a few other bloggers to join in, and to share seven of their most memorable posts or experiences from 2011. The following are friends of mine that I respect for their own talents and insights in sharing Singapore's wildlife.

Ria Tan of Wild Shores of Singapore

Marcus Ng of The Annotated Budak

Andy Dinesh of SGBeachBum

James Koh of Singapore Nature

Nicky Bay of Macro Photography in Singapore

Here's to the new year! May 2012 be an awesome year, full of new discoveries, adventures, and further successes in the never-ending fight to protect our fragile biodiversity.