Mangrove Cleanup by CSR

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Something amazing happened on the 12th of August 2017. A group of staff, everyday common staff, just like you and me (maybe some of us), has come together for an initiative. Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine came up with initiatives for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and one of the projects was mangrove cleanup. Now, take into account that most of these staffs are office workers who find comfort within their working environment, a.k.a laboratories, offices or hospital setups. That is significantly different from going out and tread on the mud along the coastline. So, for this, it is worth applauding of the courage these participants had in trying something new and meaningful.

Thanks to ICCS (International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore), who has been actively cleaning the coastline while the rest of us enjoy peaceful, serene environment, most of the procedure and setup was made a whole lot easier and standardized. Our location on that day was Lim Chu Kang area. Participants gathered in the morning before departing and of course, we took group photos. There were drizzles earlier that morning but we decided to try our luck…

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Photos are important – Smile!

For many of us, this would be the rare occassion where we set foot on somewhere so near the edge of the country, able to see Johor from where we stood.

The weather was good with not too much sunshine yet not too wet. Johor could be seen across the water body.

However, overall, many were excited to be greeted by small creatures crawling around on the mud. When we took a closer look, then we realized they were small mangrove-dwelling crabs. There were networks of mangrove trees with their pneumatophores jutting out of mud, gasping for air. Long seed pods from mangrove trees could be seen left behind by the tides. The shape of the pod enable them to plant themselves among the soft ground and start growing once the condition is favourable. Sprouting coconuts was also one of the main sight as they are halfway on their journey to find their new home as well…

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it: Mangrove-dwelling crab.

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I want to be a coconut tree!

The operation went on smoothly as the participants were divided into groups and each assigned a designated area to clean up. The members were very enthusiastic and equally shocked by the amount of trash hidden in plain sight. There were a lot of plastic bags, layered beneath the mud. Fishing nets and ropes could be seen tangling the root networks. Due to the forever cycle of tides coming in and out, the trash layers were continuously covered by mud after each tide. Hence, there were some trash that were so deep that it was quite challenging to remove them. It is easy to throw a plastic bag away, it takes so much manpower just to remove one – and that hasn’t take into account the amount of effort needed to properly dispose of it. Please reduce the use of plastic bags!

It looked like mud, but they are layers of trash.

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Trying to dig and cut out ropes tangled within the roots from underground.

Not all things are shiny and happy. We did encounter dead creatures and one was this poor horseshoe crab. These living fossils are amazing reminder of what we do now will impact generations after us. Clean and healthy environment is important for the health of biodiversity.

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Dead horseshoe crab covered with barnacles.

The cleanup activity this time was not big scale, but it was a good start for the participants and organizers alike. Let’s hope this experience create awareness among us on the importance of our daily habits and effort in creating a harmonious world – not just amongst humans. The activity ended with a success of quite a substantial amount of trash cleared and many new friendship forged. And most importantly, an opportunity for a group of people to be closer to nature and understand the intimacy between us and the environment which silently provide to us.

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SAP#3: Cell Culture Room

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Above is a familiar scene in a biology lab, especially those working on cell culture. To minimize contaminations, lab users usually keep the place neat and clean and sprayed their things with 70% ethanol. The flask she was holding was probably a tissue culture flask. They come in different sizes, mainly known by their surface area, such as 25cm2 or 75cm2. This is because mammalian cells are usually cultured as a layer, attaching to a surface, compared to suspension culture where you have shake flasks.

SAP#2: Lift Under Maintenance

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Just like many working location, science laboratory has safety and health policies to protect the safety and well-being of those working in it. Hence, when we are transporting liquid chemicals, such as a bottle, there would be a secondary container and fully clad with protective gears (lab coats). This picture was a depiction of what happened when we were working in a high-rise building. There were only two service lift (for cargoes and lab samples transporting). Sometimes, unfortunately, the elevator was not feeling well and we were stuck several stories from our level.

SAP#1: The -80 degree Celsius Freezer

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One of the things about working in a lab is the temperature. In a biological lab, many samples are best kept at -80 degree Celsius or -20 degree Celsius. Hence, it was common to have a shared -80 freezer, which most probably was covered with ice. The chilling experience to find your tube of samples in a -80 freezer was, at times, like a competition. You race against time, hoping to get your hands on the sample before the cold get to you.

30 years since Challenger Disaster

Last week, on the 28th of January, marked the 30th year since Challenger Disaster. NASA made it a day of remembrance for the sacrificed and contemplation upon the future of manned spaceflight. To be fair, NASA had many achievements along the years. Recently, it shone brightly with projects like New Horizons and Mars Rovers. All these did not come in easy, it took many people’s many effort, to ensure things were right. In movies, we often see the glorious moment when the spacecraft succeeded in entering space and so forth, with people cheering at the control centre. Indeed, these are the moment worth celebrating.

Despite the usual meticulousness of the whole process, NASA was still subjected to a few grave moments. To name a few, Columbia, Apollo 1 and Challenger.

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In 1986,  Space Shuttle Program STS-51-L was launched with Challenger space shuttle before ending as a disaster a minute later. This flight consisted of seven crew, including one school teacher. This incident was very much talked about in science class or spaceflight accidents, not only because it was tragic, but it served as a reminder of how often we overlooked something very small. After investigation, it was reported the cause of the accident was due to some faulty o-ring seal.

If you have no idea what an o-ring looks like, here it is:

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Yes, exactly. This is something you get to see everywhere, from equipments to your water bottle to your pipes. Of course, in a space shuttle, the scale is different, but they served the same purpose. In Challenger’s case, hot gas from the right Solid Rocket Booster(SRB) had been causing the casing the bent and smoke. During previous mission, this process allowed the o-ring to melt and seal properly, hence a design meant for extrusion. However, during the mission in 1986, the weather might have been a bit cold for the seal to melt in time for the sealing to be complete. The disaster went on with the sealing with molten aluminium oxide, the unfortunate not-seated-well backup o-ring, liquid hydrogen tank. Within a minute, the aerodynamics of the spacecraft was finally compromised and failed. The structural failure, however, did not affect the crew cabin. And this had also brought about the notion that the crew might be fully aware or conscious throughout the process until the impact of the hit back on Earth.  None of the crew survived.

What happened after that? In 1998, there was another accident, Columbia disaster, during its re-entry to Earth atmosphere. And for NASA, it spelled the temporary end of space shuttle program. To this date, all of our travel from our Pale Blue Dot to the International Space Station (ISS), were by the Soyuz spacecraft, which was meant for Soviet manned lunar programme. It had been in service for quite a long time. Yet, these accidents or incidents hinted us of how early we are still in terms of manned space flight. Putting things away from Earth was still not our forté and work still needed to be done in this field to ensure solid foundation before we could confidently send people off this planet.

Let us remember and appreciate the work and sacrifice done by those, who had contributed in our journey as we forward ourselves in the knowledge and practicality of aerospace activities. NASA had prepared a page on their thoughts for these too.

Apollo Mission Archive by NASA

Needless to say, NASA probably got most of the limelight in this year’s scientific breakthrough and headlines, with Pluto Flyby and the discovery of a potential Earth-twin Kepler-452b. Not only did these news reached us in terms of press release, NASA had successfully engaged most of the public, in the excitement of exploration through social media, videos and pictures, leaving us awestruck by the scale of magnificence, displayed by the universe.

Recently, NASA opened up another archive which possibly brought us back to the place near where it started. Even for a person who might not have much knowledge about space, most probably we at least heard of The First Man On the Moon.

Yes, NASA had published its archive of photos taken during the Apollo Mission, called Project Apollo Archive. The full collection of rather high quality could be found in its Flickr account.

Here are some of the amazing moments when human made a mark, showing us the possibilities we could achieve…

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The archive of media included the first manned flight in 1968 till Apollo 17 in around 1970s, and were taken using Hasselblad 500 EL, 1968.

Of course let’s not forget each and every of these mission, even for the ones we get to witness this year, consists of extreme hard work by so many and detailed planning. Yet, the area we have explored in the universe, was none other than a tiny speck of dust in this vast dark universe. Hence, let’s try our best to contribute to advancing our science and technologyand move forward!