Fireside Chat with Mr Kenneth Er!

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.

Participants enjoying the 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.

Mr Kenneth Er sharing about NParks’ conservation efforts
Participants listening attentively to Mr Kenneth Er’s sharing

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.

Mr Kenneth Er answering a participant’s question
One of the participants, Jaslyn, posing a question to Mr Kenneth Er and Dr Adrian Loo

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.

Mr Kenneth Er chatting with some of the participants
Dr Adrian Loo chatting with some of the participants

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!

Participants, Mr Kenneth Er and Dr Adrian Loo after an enriching fireside chat
biodiversitychallenge, biodiversitychallenge2019, workshop

The 2019 BFF Biodiversity Challenge Workshop!

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.

Partners in black – Srishti and Karl

Sivasothi aka Otterman chatting with two of our participants

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.

Linda Goh sharing with youths some of her early experiences in biodiversity

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!

Tina’s inspiring talk about her personal experiences during the BFF Biodiversity Challenge 2018,
and the joy of a friendly network of nature enthusiasts.

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.

Majorie’s passion and expertise shone through her sharing about her otterwatching experiences.

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.

Sivasothi delivering the “Changing Landscapes in Singapore” lecture

Sivasothi conducting the “Changing Landscapes in Singapore” lecture which underpins the BFF programme

Participants listening attentively to Otterman speak

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.

BFF participants in their focus groups

One of the focus groups and their facilitator, Majorie, classifying the images of animals provided according to criteria set by game-master Siva

Shirlene Chiam, a BFF Biodiversity Challenge alumni and now facilitator, helping to classify the images of animals provided according to the various criteria called out by game-master Siva

Facilitator Xu Weiting, explaining the different IUCN conservation statuses to the participants

One of our facilitators, Tan Boxin, explaining the different IUCN conservation statuses while participants referenced the IUCN Red Date List online.

Mentor Stephen Beng from NSS’ Marine Conservation Group, was n hand to provide valuable insights and chat with participants.

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.

Joy, closing off the session.

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