09 July 2017

ButterflyCircle : Conservation and Education

ButterflyCircle : Conservation and Education
Part 3 : Community Engagement and Citizen Science

ButterflyCircle's poster at the Festival of Biodiversity 2017 © Huang CJ

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we shared ButterflyCircle's contributions to the butterfly conservation and education efforts in Singapore over the years. In the previous articles, ButterflyCircle members' work were featured in journals, research reports, books and publications, and also on interpretative signages at public parks and gardens in Singapore. In this concluding part about ButterflyCircle's contributions, we take a look at some of the public engagement efforts, educational talks and citizen science initiatives in Singapore.

Educational Talks and Sharing Sessions on Butterflies in Singapore

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest amongst the public and nature enthusiasts in Singapore to learn more about our natural heritage and biodiversity in Singapore. Butterflies, being an iconic taxonomic group, have always intrigued and fascinated humans. The variety of shapes, colours and sizes of butterflies has often attracted people to admire them, and want to learn more about them.

Public sharing session at Singapore Botanic Gardens organised by NParks

Butterfly watching and identification outing with the participants

I have often been invited to give talks to various organisations and to the general public. I have lost count of the number of talks on butterflies that I had given to both the public and private sectors in Singapore. Some of these include talks to the National Parks Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Centre for Livable Cities, Nature Photographic Society (S), Yale-NUS, Centre for Urban Ecology and Greenery, Town Councils, and many other community sharing sessions - too many to name here.

Butterfly ID Training session for public for BioBlitz

ButterflyCircle member Federick Ho (3rd from left) conducting a field trip with participants

ButterflyCircle member Chng CK (extreme left) with his group of 'students' 

ButterflyCircle members participated in several BioBlitz training sessions at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Members of the public who signed up to learn more about butterflies in a classroom setting also had field outings led by experienced ButterflyCircle members who volunteered their time to help the public learn more about butterfly spotting and identification. This training was useful for those who wanted to participate in the on-going National Parks Board's Bioblitz and Butterfly Watch biodiversity surveys all around Singapore.

Having a discussion about butterflies with Yale-NUS students . A/Prof Monteiro (2nd from right) joining in the discussion

Photography outing with Yale-NUS students

Talks and sharing sessions were also held for students of Yale-NUS, and one such talk was also graced by Assoc Prof Antonia Monteiro who has conducted many research projects on butterflies. Talks were also held for Centre for Urban Ecology and Greenery (CUGE) students to learn about landscaping and plants to attract butterflies and create a more holistic environment for biodiversity in the landscape design industry.

Sharing session at Tampines-Changkat community club

Butterfly watching outing at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio butterfly garden

Community planting at Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden

Community gardening groups in various HDB towns in Singapore were also keen to set up butterfly gardens and many talks were conducted for the various interest groups who eventually went on to set up local butterfly gardens. Together with Mr Foo and his members from the Seletar Country Club butterfly garden group, ButterflyCircle held talks and gardening sessions at Tampines-Changkat Butterfly Garden, Bishan-AMK Garden and Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden.

With the Green Volunteers Network (GVN) and Grant Pereira at Pasir Ris Park

Grant Pereira (pointing) explaining to members of GVN about his butterfly garden

Over at Pasir Ris Park, ButterflyCircle collaborated with the Green Volunteers Network, under the leadership of Grant Pereira to hold a sharing session for the members and a butterfly walk to spot and identify butterflies in the Pasir Ris Park area. Amongst the photography societies, I did a talk, focusing on the use of Nikon equipment in macro work, for the Nature Photographic Society (S).

Butterfly sharing session with teachers at Deyi Secondary School

Outing at Deyi Secondary School's butterfly garden

A talk for the teachers of the Science Instructional Programme Support Group (IPSG) was held at Deyi Secondary School to help the science teachers expand their knowledge about butterflies. This also coincided with a visit to the Butterfly Garden in the premises of the school that was set up to introduce greater biodiversity in a natural setting for the students and teachers to enjoy.

Dr Laurence Kirton and Prof Horace Tan at a Butterfly Conservation Dialogue organised by ButterflyCircle

ButterflyCircle also hosted a talk by Dr Laurence Kirton and A/P Horace Tan for butterfly enthusiasts in Singapore. The talk focused on butterfly conservation in Southeast Asia, whilst Horace shared his expertise and awesome photos of the early stages of butterflies from his meticulous documentation work on life histories of Singapore's butterflies.

Ministry of National Development newsletter "Happy Hands" featuring volunteers and special topics of interest.  Issue 10 showcases biophilic design and nature conservation

On the professional front, I did several talks for the architects/planners of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, National Parks Board and Centre for Livable Cities focusing on biophilia and biodiversity enhancement in the greening of Singapore. It was also a good opportunity for me to promote biophilic design in our urban and architectural developments in Singapore through these talks and to engage the industry professionals to conserve our biodiversity.

Butterfly Biodiversity Surveys and Ubin Day

ButterflyCircle's survey at Outward Bound Singapore on Pulau Ubin

ButterflyCircle members also participated in many surveys - both at the amateur/citizen science and at a scientific level for the National Parks Board as well as other organisations which were keen to know more about the biodiversity in their respective premises. National level surveys like NParks' Butterfly Watch surveys help to gather useful data on butterflies that can be used eventually for the planning and management of our parks and gardens.

ButterflyCircle's survey at Gardens by the Bay

ButterflyCircle members were also invited to conduct baseline surveys for Gardens by the Bay and the Outward Bound Singapore site on Pulau Ubin. The more senior members were also involved in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve biodiversity survey, representing the butterfly group and gathering data on pre-set transects.

ButterflyCircle and Seletar CC members with Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong and Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee at Butterfly Hill @ Pulau Ubin

Briefing before our butterfly survey during BioBlitz at Ubin

ButterflyCircle members participated at the Ubin Day events and were invited to brief and show VVIP visitors at Butterfly Hill on several occasions. Butterfly Hill at Pulau Ubin was the result of a collaborative effort between ButterflyCircle and NParks to rehabilitate a previously featureless knoll into a lushly-landscaped hill that is teeming with free-ranging butterflies today.

Biodiversity Roundtable and Festivals of Biodiversity

ButterflyCircle is represented at the multi-agency and multi-society Biodiversity Roundtable. The Biodiversity Roundtable of Singapore is an initiative spearheaded by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and National Parks Board (NParks) under the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan. The Roundtable comprises members from both the public sector agencies like NParks, NUS, SUTD and non-governmental organisations from the various terrestrial and marine groups.

ButterflyCircle members at FOB 2015

The Festival of Biodiversity is an annual event organised by NParks, in collaboration with the Biodiversity Roundtable. The Festival aims to create awareness and foster a sense of appreciation for Singapore's natural heritage. The festival showcases Singapore’s impressive and unique array of island biodiversity. This event celebrates Singapore’s natural heritage and in doing so, hopes to bring about greater awareness of the rich biodiversity that Singapore has.

ButterflyCircle and Seletar CC members at various Festivals of Biodiversity

Even since it started in 2012, ButterflyCircle has been supporting the Festival of Biodiversity annually. With the help of volunteers from the Seletar CC group, ButterflyCircle has been represented as one of the participants for each of the six FOBs from 2012 to 2017. The FOB is held over two days each year, and the amount of time and effort that the participating members of ButterflyCircle who volunteered at the Festival, is quite substantial. Kudos to our members who volunteered their time to help set up and man ButterflyCircle's booth and share their butterfly passion with members of the public.

ButterflyCircle members with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Butterfly Hill @ Pulau Ubin

And so I end this 3-part series which highlights a small sample of ButterflyCircle's contributions to butterfly conservation and education efforts in Singapore. It started with an innocuous question about what "I had hoped to achieve by watching and photographing butterflies". No, it is not just about taking pretty pictures and posting them on social media. There is a lot more meaningful and sincere effort in helping to share knowledge with, and educate the community, create awareness of our butterfly biodiversity and promote conservation in Singapore for our future generations to enjoy nature's flying jewels.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by various ButterflyCircle members, collaborators and volunteers.

Special Thanks to ButterflyCircle members who have regularly sacrificed their free time to volunteer for community events, talks and outings with various groups. Also to Mr Foo JL and the members of Seletar CC Butterfly Garden for collaborating with ButterflyCircle on many events.