The Biodiversity Challenge is an annual orientation open to anyone with relatively little exposure to biodiversity in Singapore, but are keen to learn more and contribute. It is organised around three elements, and involves spending some 20 hours over 5 months on the following:
Empower yourselves by attending the BFF Seminar & Workshop [4 hours]
Equip – Attend three curated field trips offered by seniors and log your experience in a shared field journal on wordpress. [3 field trips, 10 hours]
Engage & enable – by sharing about nature first with friends and family, and then with the public at a booth during the Festival of Biodiversity [6 hours]
Graduates of the last challenge said this is what they liked of the programme – everyone was welcoming, anyone could join, they made friends and met people in the nature community, their eyes were opened to new places, and they made aware of many things which were hapening in the local scene and got to share existing information about wildlife in Singapore with friends, family and the public.
We have begun preparations for the 2020 programme to roll out in Feb this year. Watch this space!
Have you ever wondered how decision-making about our urban landscapes tells us about our nation’s priorities? What are the possible consequences of choosing to build, conserve or destroy? What can we learn from our past land-use planning decisions?
In collaboration with Accommodate, a land-use simulation game session was held on 22 September 2019, Sunday, at Function Room, Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens. Accommodate is an initiative started in 2017 by a group of youths, and it has since evolved over the numerous workshops conducted for groups including schools and public agencies.
15 BFF youths joined the Sunday morning session to explore the importance of land-use planning and examine how biodiversity can fit in by role-playing as ministry officers to develop/redevelop Singapore’s land.
In Accommodate, there are several groups who each represent a hypothetical ministry, e.g. Ministry of Supply. The main objective of the game is to obtain higher scores for each ministry’s indicator through a series of auction rounds and action rounds. In each auction round, ministries are open to bid for a plot of land. When a ministry wins an auction, they will get to determine an action taken upon that land by conserving, demolishing or redeveloping it. However, with each action taken by the winning ministry, there are repercussions, with some ministries standing to benefit while others penalized.
As the game came to an end, participants were reminded to think about their land-use decisions throughout the game. Does a positive score in a particular sector necessarily satisfy the needs of the citizens?
BFF ended up with two Housing Estates and Museums in the vicinity of each other, after demolishing quite a number of old landmarks! That said, the Environment Ministry managed to conserve a mangrove area and set aside the primary forest as a Nature Park, which was definitely an achievement in the grand scheme of things.
To round it all up, we hope that all BFFers had an enjoyable time with this stimulating game session, look out for more updates from Accommodate at their webpage, https://accommodatesg.com!
The second BFF Challenge has come to an end! BFF Challenge alumni from 2018 and 2019 were invited to drop by the Red Box on a Friday evening on 2 Aug 2019 for a pizza party with games.
The evening started off with a pizza party with pizzas, wings, chips and fruit tarts, where everyone was busy eating and mingling with each other, and certificates were given out to 10 of the 12 BFF Challenge alumni. Great job BFF Challenge 2019 graduates, we hope you’ve learnt more about Singapore’s wildlife and also made new connections and friends from this experience!
Following that, BFF Challenge mates had the chance to play “Wildlife Encounters”, a game designed by BFF Challenge 2018 graduate and her coursemates from NUS’ Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) programme. This was the time to score points by doing the right actions when you encounter a wildlife around Singapore, or sabotage your friends into making poor choices which may result in a negative Human-Wildlife interaction.
All smiles from this group!
Sneak preview of the game, which will be available for play in the Forest Discovery Centre at the upcoming Gallop Road extension of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Time to take out the chip stash, before tabulating the scores!
Thank you Charlotte, Yudhish, Christabel and Lorraine for creating the game and facilitating the session with BFFers!
After which, Tina (BFF Challenge ‘18) and familiar OtterWatcher gave everyone a crashcourse on “How to be an effective AV crew”, drawing on her learning points from organising the recent Mangrove, Macrobenthos and Management 2019 Conference. A nice summary and many useful pointers brought up for everyone to reflect on.
Last but not least, Siva ended off the session with a Q&A about Stakeholder Engagement, for BFFers to ask any questions about the process when large development projects happen, typically involving various stakeholders including nature groups, researchers and relevant parties. While the topic was new, we hope more are interested in the process, given its recent spotlight from development projects such as the Cross Island Line and the Mandai Project.
That’s it, cheers to all the Challenge participants, we hope you join this growing network of youths passionate about biodiversity and conservation of our natural heritage through the BFF Programme, and will be interested to be involved in the organisation of future events and workshops.
In the meantime, look forward to upcoming workshops to build capacity and relationships in the last quarter of the year!
Before we begin, you might be wondering what a fireside chat is. Our BFF fireside chats are sessions specially organised for BFF-ers to get to know an experienced member of the biodiversity scene in a small-group setting.
A Fireside Chat with Mr Kenneth Er, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Parks Board (NParks), was held on 6 April 2019, Saturday, at Function Room, Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens. We were also treated with a surprise guest as Dr Adrian Loo, Group Director of Conservation & Wildlife Management in NParks, decided to join us to share more about NParks and the company’s conservation strategies and efforts.
The day began with Joy, Manager from the National Biodiversity Centre, providing some background information on NParks and Mr Kenneth Er through a Kahoot! session.
Following which, the participants were split into two focus groups where NParks interns Lesley and Rena each facilitated a group. The groups were brought through a short discussion session where they reflected on how the efforts of NParks have helped connected them with nature, and shared their concerns on biodiversity and NParks’ conservation plans.
After a short break, Mr Kenneth Er shared about his personal journey in the biodiversity scene. In addition, he shared about the successes of NParks’ conservation efforts as well as future conservation strategies.
With the end of Mr Kenneth Er’s sharing, participants were invited to direct any relevant questions to him and Dr Adrian Loo in a question-and-answer session.
Rounding up a fruitful fireside chat were refreshments! Over fruit tarts and sandwiches, participants got the chance to network with Mr Kenneth Er and Dr Adrian Loo and interact with them on a personal level.
Overall, it was a very enriching morning with Mr Kenneth Er, Dr Adrian Loo and some 20 like-minded individuals who came together to learn more about the role of the public sector in biodiversity conservation as well as to voice their own thoughts and concerns!
This year, participants of the Biodiversity Challenge 2019 are being offered a series of curated walks by members of the nature community. In addition to the exploration of a diversity of ecosystems and wildlife, each trip involves engagement with Facilitators who will act as a human library, and with each other, to build a network of natural history enthusiasts.
We have visits to forests, mangroves, inter-tidal areas, and participants will learn about macaques, crocodiles, otters, pythons, birds and wildlife rescue, from March to May 2019:
Labrador Walk with N. Sivasothi aka Otterman (NUS Toddycats)
Crocodile Watch with Bernard Seah (SBWR Volunteers)
Monkey Walk with Joys Tan and Quek Xiao Tong (JGIS)
Bird Walk with Xu Weiting (NUS Toddycats)
ACRES visit w/python talk by Sankar Anantharayanan (HSS)
Intertidal Watch with Cheo Pei Rong (NParks)
Love MacRitchie Walk with Chloe Tan (NUS Toddycats)
Otter Walk with Chong Marjorie & Tina Liow (Otter Working Group)
We are also pointing participants to other walks, workshops and festivals offered by the community in Singapore, and will guide reflections and discussions about their experiences and the landscape in Singapore.
Thanks to the community for their nurturing support of enthusiastic new individuals!
Sat 23 Feb 2019 – the BFF Biodiversity Seminar & Workshop was held at Ridge View Residential College, National University of Singapore. It was exciting for us to host, once again, some 50 like-minded individuals who came together to learn about and discuss biodiversity issues in Singapore.
Our lovely registration duo (Srishti and Karl) registered our participants before guiding them to breakfast. Over toast and coffee, participants, facilitators and mentors warmed up to each other as they interacted on a personal level.
After breakfast, the session began in Multi-purpose Room. Linda Goh, Director of the Biodiversity Information and Policy Branch at the National Parks Board, kicked off the session with a thoughtful and soothing account of her experience in engaging Singaporeans to discover and enjoy nature.
To allow our participants a feel of the BFF Biodiversity Challenge, Tina Liow, alumni of the BFF Biodiversity Challenge 2018, highlighted her main takeaways of her BFF challenge journey and the joy at raising awareness about biodiversity in Singapore – starting with just the simple step of reaching out to family and some highly urbanised friends!
Majorie Chong, an otter-watching member of the public, shared how her regular observations otters has been translated to wildlife management through contributions as a member of the Otter Working Group. The stories from behind the scenes of monitoring and action was exciting and an eye opener to how various groups work together to ensure wildlife in Singapore is protected while educating Singaporeans who delight in our aquatic residents.
The lecture on “Changing Landscapes in Singapore” and its impact on local biodiversity and civil society was delivered by N. Sivasothi aka Otterman, resident coordinator of the BFF programme and experienced advocate for nature conservation in Singapore.
Then the discussions began! Our participants were broken up into focus groups of four or five and brought through three activities by games-master Sivasothi to gain a better understand biodiversity issues in Singapore. The small groups encouraged participants to engage and interact more with our facilitators and mentors and the relaxed atmosphere helped tremendously.
Through discussions and hands-on activities, participants looked up various resources which broaden their knowledge about wildlife and biodiversity –and help them, answer questions!
Participants identified various local animals, worked out their origin categories, as well as their global and local red list statuses, informal and formal groups in the local conservation scene, including agencies and ministries. This helped them understand the stakeholder engagement mechanism underway in various projects.
Rounding up a fruitful workshop, Joy Wong briefed participants about the diversity of activities offered by the BFF Biodiversity Challenge 2019. And then there was lunch – another chance to network with each another as well as our mentors and facilitators.
It certainly looked like most enjoyed themselves and we are looking forward to their personal journeys with the BFF Biodiversity Challenge 2019!
(Photo credits: Lesley Chng)
Thanks to the team: Our Facilitators – Ivan Kwan, Joleen Chan, Karl Png, Lesley Chng, Majorie Chong, Sankar Anantharayanan, Shirlene Chiam, Srishti Arora, Tan Boxin, Tina Liow & Xu Weiting. Our Mentors – Alvin Wong, Stephen Beng, Linda Goh & N. Sivasothi. Our Secretariat – Joy Wong & Rena Tan