TeamSeaGrass conducted insightful sharing for S.E.A. Aquarium team members

Seagrass habitats are amongst the top 3 habitats with the highest amount of ecological services. The other 2 habitats are estuarine wetlands and mangroves. Seagrasses form vital habitats that affect a wide variety of life, such as nurseries for juveniles of some larger fishes and animals that later move out into deeper waters, and sanctuaries for animals to lay their eggs.

These are just some of the eye-opening facts shared at a special sharing session by TeamSeaGrass. Organised by Guardians of the S.E.A.A. for S.E.A. Aquarium team members, more than 60 attendees turned up for the session on 26 September 2018.

One of the presenters was Dr Siti Maryam Yaakub, Senior Marine Ecologist at DHI Water & Environment and co-founder of TeamSeaGrass (a volunteer-based monitoring programme that regularly conducts surveys in our local meadows). She has published extensively on seagrasses in Singapore, focusing on the resilience of marine systems to environmental stressors and the components of ecosystem resilience.

TeamSeaGrass
Dr Yaakub is currently a Principal Investigator on an NParks-supported project “Assessing the resilience of seagrass meadows in Singapore and its potential for restoration”.

TeamSeaGrass
The other presenter was Samantha Lai, currently a PhD candidate at the NUS. Her work centres on the connectivity of seagrass meadows in Singapore, focusing on the role of vegetative seagrass fragments in long-distance dispersal.

TeamSeaGrass
Aside from seagrass meadows, Samantha also has prior experience working on other coastal habitats in Singapore such as coral reefs, rocky shores and seawalls.
TeamSeaGrass
Apart from our Curatorial team, members of the S.E.A. Aquarium operations, Life Support Systems and Marine Engineering teams also took the opportunity to learn more about seagrasses.

During the Q&A session, Dr Yaakub and Samantha patiently answered the many questions that were posed to them.

An attendee asked about cloning consequences in seagrass, whether or not cloning will affect the resistance of seagrass habitats. According to Dr Yaakub, seagrasses use cloning as a method of ‘spreading the risk’. They invest some energy into cloning themselves and extending/stretching to areas with better conditions which will allow them to invest more energy into sexual reproduction (increased genetic diversity).

A common question asked by the aquarists was the potential of growing seagrasses in artificial systems. Dr Yaakub said that the main challenge lies in recreating the sediment composition. She suggested that it would be best to acquire the sediment from the original site for restoration/grow out projects.

With so much interest in cultivating seagrass in an aquarium setting, there were even talks about potentially curating a seagrass habitat or restoration experimental set-up in S.E.A. Aquarium. Attendees also looked forward to future sharing sessions and suggested topics such as mangroves, coral reefs, animal psychology and animal nursery.

Team SeaGrass with S.E.A. Aquarium’s conservation team.

Guardians of the S.E.A.A. will be organising more of such sharing sessions in the near future to empower team members with new and in-depth marine life knowledge which they can share with guests visiting the aquarium. It is also a way to expose them to various opportunities with regards to marine conservation.

In the next sharing session, we will be inviting Dr. Giana Gomes from James Cook University to share on eDNA and highlight its importance and relevance to aquariums.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about seagrasses, or join TeamSeaGrass’ volunteer-based monitoring programme, you can find more information on their Facebook page or blog.

A day of global recognition is a crucial step towards saving seagrasses. You can help raise awareness on the importance of seagrass meadows, threats to them, and what happens if we lose them. Sign the petition here: http://wsa.seagrassonline.org/world-seagrass-day/

To find out more about what else Guardians of the S.E.A.A. does, click here

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