Hong Kong has a seasonally dynamic marine environment. Summer sea surface temperatures can exceed 30°C whereas winter temperatures can drop below 15°C. This range in temperature allows for year-round coral communities, and abundant growth of macroalgae in the winter. For my PhD, I am researching the role of the long-spined sea urchin, Diadema setosum, in the ecosystem, here in Hong Kong. Much work has been done on Diadema antillarum in the Caribbean, and some work has been done on the D. setosum as a bioeroder of coral reefs in the tropics. However, little is known about which marcoalgae these urchins feed on; how they affect the seasonal patterns of macroalgae growth and distribution; if the urchins target living corals here in Hong Kong or just the turf algae that grows on the dead skeletons of the corals. Answering these questions will help understand the food sources of the urchins and how their energy stores vary with the seasonal change in food abundance. I am also interested in the connectivity of the populations of D. setosum across its range, as they can be found from the East coast of Africa to French Polynesia, from Honshu, Japan to NSW, Australia. I want to compare the physiological performance of the urchins from stable tropical environments and highly variable environments to determine if they show extensive physiological plasticity, or if populations have adapted to variable environments. This will allow me to predict how these important grazers will cope with future conditions across their range.
2016: Bachelor of Science, Honours Marine Biology, University of British Columbia, Canada
2013: Arts and Science Diploma: Biology, Langara College, Canada
2015: Dean of Science Scholarship – Biology research grant
2013: Betty and Tony Pletcher Memorial Scholarship – For Achievement in Biology
2012: Real Estate Foundation Biology Student Bursary – Bursary for Biology students
Sea cucumbers are well researched organisms in the field of fisheries due to their value in the south-east Asian markets. However, not many studies address this animal in their natural habitat. It is suggested that these organisms could protect the coral reefs under global warming by increasing the pH level of sea water through their natural digestive processes, thus counteracting the impact of ocean acidification. On the other hand, sea cucumbers could potentially purify sea water in fish farms by feeding on detritus, hence alleviating nutrient loading in fishery systems. These findings reveal the importance of sea cucumbers in both marine and fishery ecosystems.
Although coral reefs are not found in Hong Kong, individual coral colonies are present in the territory. Therefore, my research looks into the impacts of sea cucumbers on marine nutrient dynamics. By understanding the role of sea cucumbers in the marine ecosystem, better conservation plans can be drafted. Moreover, my research also aims to investigate the potential of sea cucumbers as an aquaculture species under the development of sustainable fisheries in Hong Kong.
2018: Bachelor of Social Science (Honours), Geography and Research Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong