Monday, 12 October 2020

Three new groups learning tree nursery skills

With Local Service suspended due to COVID-19, we have even more students than usual milling about in our tree nursery. A Middle school group works with Mr Meehan on Wednesday; a Grade 9-10 group with Mr Daniels and Ms Haley on Thursday; and a Grade 11-12 group with Mr Tomlin on Friday. Meanwhile, a URRP GC group also meets at lunchtime on Thursday, literally getting their hands dirty. As if that weren't enough, a Magic Mulch group meets on Thursday afternoon, taking invaluable compost to trees around the campus that started life in the nursery. The new URRP groups are following a basic tree nursery course that introduces them to the theory and practice of how to:

  1. germinate seeds
  2. 'pot up' seedlings
  3. grow new trees (clones) from cuttings
  4. grow new trees by means of air layering ('marcottage')
  5. plant a tree

It's an exciting time — especially with NParks keen to involve us in their One Million Trees movement — and we look forward to a new batch of students coming through the nursery in Season 2 (Nov-Jan). The late Nobel Peace Prize winner Waangari Maathai once said, “Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.” Keep digging!

Collaboration with NParks: One Million Trees

We are delighted to be part of a collaboration with NParks, supporting the One Million Trees movement. This is a nationwide effort to plant a million trees over the next 10 years and we hope that thousands of those trees will be raised in our new GreenHeart nursery.

UWCSEA Rainforest Restoration Project (URRP) staff met with NParks staff on 24 September. We have already received seeds from NParks and plans are afoot to plant URRP-raised saplings in parts of the Southern Ridges, such as Kent Ridge Park and the Rail Corridor. URRP staff will also visit theNParks nursery at Pasir Panjang during the October half-term break.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Rainforest Restoration Project film

In 2018/2019, Nicolas Sugandi (UWCSEA Dover, Grade 12 film student) worked with UWCSEA's former Director of Sustainability, Nathan Hunt, to capture the work of the Rainforest Restoration Project in a short film.

As well as sheltering hundreds of often critically endangered tree seedlings, the specialist nurseries on both UWCSEA campuses are helping to nurture the next generation of reforestation scientists and advocates. Our long-term partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and NParks, the Singapore government’s National Parks Board, is providing both excellent opportunities for applied learning for UWCSEA students and exciting chances to contribute to Singapore’s national strategy for biodiversity conservation.

Watch the film below.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Alexandra Park tree planting

Ms Edwards and Ms Henry
barely breaking a sweat.
As a slightly belated celebration of International Day of Forests (21 March), a small group of URRP staff and students planted ten trees at the Alexandra Park estate on 25 March. A pair of white-collared kingfishers flashed aquamarine between the existing trees and called out raucously as we worked. 

All of the trees were raised in our Dover nursery and all but one (Broad-leafed Mahogany) was an indigenous species. The full list comprised:
  • Barringtonia asiatica (Fishkiller)
  • Cynometra cauliflora (Nam Nam)
  • Hopea bracteata (Merawan Ungu)
  • Hopea ferrea (Ceylon Ironwood)
  • Litsea elliptica 
  • Mimusops elengi (Tanjung, Spanish Cherry)
  • RĂ­ona helped plant five trees.

  • Moringa oleifera (Horse-radish tree)
  • Shorea materialis 
  • Sterculia foetida (Hazel Sterculia, Java Olive)
  • Swietenia macrophylla (Broad-leaved Mahogany)

The Sterculia tree has an interesting etymology: Sterculius was the Roman god of cow dung and "foetida" means stinking! The name refers to the fact that all parts of the tree exude an unpleasant smell while it is flowering.

Mr Daniels takes the strain while
working out with Moringa.

Mea has planted many trees
over the past two years.

Neat Nursery

In recent weeks, Andy Tan and his landscaping team, together with Facilities staff and outside contractors, have done an impressive job of reorganising the Dover nursery. Rotting wood and broken pots have been disposed of, replaced by lightweight metal tables with mesh tops and relaid artificial turf. Even our Shade House has had a makeover.

The Rainforest Restoration Project should soon be moving its base to the space near the new Ecology Centre. As we do so, we should dispose of our much-loved but dilapidated cupboards. As ever, we should ensure all our species are labelled and bring our inventory up to date. A next step may be to seek new stock from NParks while also using cuttings to propagate some indigenous species.

COVID-19 has interrupted our meetings with NParks partners, but we are exploring the possibility of being assigned a section of the Rail Corridor for reforestation, from seedling collection, through nursery care, planting and subsequent monitoring of tree growth.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

New Season for East RFRP

Students learning about species and relevant identification skills
(Species in picture: Adenanthera pavonina)
Students learning about species and relevant identification skills

With the coming of the new season as too are new challenges and experiences. New students have for the second time this year joined the service marking the start of season 3. Taking new students to explore the campus flora and fauna is our first key step into their integration, and a key exciting event for the newcomers. However challenges await, a lack of plant resource availability has forced us to explore new avenues in our nursery; while new students must be taught essential skills. They have begun learning about the different species on campus, distinguishing them through observing features such as leaf shape, height and colour. 

While some of the students tried to finish our plant inventory management project, a crucial but painstaking process, others watered and maintained the plants. Nonetheless, with these newcomers comes opportunities for growth, both in the nursery and at heart as a new generation of conservationists is born.

Sheet used for identification (leaf shapes)
Students actively communicating

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

It has been a while ...

This poor old blog has been neglected for a while — a long while. Let's try to put some life back into it.

URRP founder Nathan Hunt moved on to greener (well, colder) pastures in June. Much missed, but the good news is that we have a strong staff team in the shape of three High School Biology teachers, Amy Woolloff, Barry Daniels and Judson Tomlin, as well as Simon Bignell (Geography and Environmental Systems & Society teacher) and veteran amateur Frankie Meehan. Barry leads the GC; Amy, Judson (and occasionally Barry) co-lead the HS service group; and Simon and Frankie co-lead the Middle School group.

So what have we been up to? Quite an assortment of things, as is always the case with tree husbandry:
  • reorganising the Shade House (thank you, Callista, for the new tables layout); watering, weeding and discarding saplings;
  • checking our marcotted shoots (zero success!) and our cuttings that we had kept for months in transparent plastic "tents" (a success rate of about 60%);
  • mulching many dozens of trees that URRP students had planted out in the past year, especially in May/June 2019;
  • replacing a Syzygium cuminii behind the Art block that had been ravaged by a fungal infection;
  • helping UWCSEA Foundation donor Cathia Magnenat and her sons Quentin and Lohan plant a Cynometra cauliflora (on 23 Jan.) near the swings behind the Art block;
  • helping another donor, Jennifer Zhang, and her children Tony (Class of 2019), Maggie and Ivy, plant three beautiful Cratoxylum cauliflora trees (on 24 Jan.) by the rainwater catchment stream on level 3 of the Middle School block