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Current Members

 

Stefano Cannicci

 

     I’m Assistant Director of the Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) of The University of Hong Kong and Associate Professor at the School of Biological Science and Resident Researcher at HKU. I’ve been studying mangrove ecology and biodiversity all over the world (Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Hong Kong and, recently, Brazil) for more than 20 years. I’m interested in the patterns of diversity of crabs and molluscs in mangroves and in their role in ecosystem functioning. I also study the behavioural ecology, eco-physiology, taxonomy and phylogenetic relationship of Sesarmidae and fiddler crabs, i.e. the most common taxa present in Indo-Pacific mangroves. As an evolutionary biologist, I am truly fascinated by the semi- and terrestrial crabs and I am coordinating a project aimed at understanding the evolutionary pathways to terrestrial environments of these highly specialized brachyuran crabs. I have more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed international scientific journals and I am an invited member of the Mangrove Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the largest organization devoted to nature conservation.

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     My interest in ecology germinated during my M.Sc. studies after an internship in East-Africa and experiencing nature and marine research first hand. My particular love for mangroves sprouted with thanks to one of my professors who taught me the strong dependency we all have on these invaluable ecosystems, still underappreciated.

   My scientific interests lie within applied ecology and center mainly around restoration and conservation. Within mangroves, among all the factors piecing together a successful mangrove restoration, many remain unknown. As mangrove crabs play a key role in maintaining a healthy mangrove ecosystem, my PhD studies aim at unveiling a part of the ecological impacts of mangrove crab burrows and the mysteries of the mangrove foodweb. Therefore, I look into the bioturbation potential of different crab species using 3D scanning techniques to visualize their burrows and investigate CO2 release from crab burrows (in collaboration with MBL, UChicago). Additionally, I study crabs’ role in the mangrove foodweb across Hong Kong using a combination of stable carbon isotope analysis of amino acids and bulk isotope techniques. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like some more info.

Laura Agusto

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     My interest in biological sciences began when I learnt about Charles Darwin in school, keen to become an evolutionary biologist I went on to study for a BSc in Biology at Royal Holloway, University of London. During my time there I became fascinated with the marine realm and the influence humans are inflicting on it, which in turn created a new ambition to work in marine conservation. This new focus led me to completing a marine research internship with Marine Conservation Cambodia in 2013, an MSc in Conservation and Biodiverity at The University of Exeter in 2015, and to my study here at The University of Hong Kong where I am investigating the influence of heavy metal pollution on mangrove fauna. By understanding the influence of human impacts on ecosystems, we can educate ourselves and prevent further damage to our planet.

Rebekah Butler

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     I am fond of the natural environment since childhood and I completed the Bachelor of Science programme in the University of Hong Kong, majoring in Ecology and Biodiversity. I am interested in mangroves and the associated flora and fauna, especially crabs and snails. After graduation, I conducted a territory-wide survey of Hong Kong mangroves and recorded the rich biodiversity there. I enjoy spending time in the mud with the crabs, but at the same time I also notice that there are similar crabs living in the forest. They are much lesser-known. Therefore, my current project focuses on the terrestrialization of the crabs. I aim to evaluate the population dynamics of native forest dwelling crabs, as well as their roles in the ecosystem. I will also investigate their adaptations to the terrestrial lifestyle, with a focus on the microbiome.

Christine Cheng

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     I am student of Erasmus Mundus Masters Couse in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystem (TROPIMUNDO) and I will be working on my thesis under supervision of Dr. Cannicci, focusing on the feeding ecology of Haberma tingkok and the phylogenetic relationship of Haberma species with other tree-climbing crabs. Currently very little is known about this new species, so I hope I will be able to reveal the secret life of this tiny creature only found in our city (so far)!

Cherry Cheung

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     I am interested in how global change (ocean warming and acidification) will influence animal physiology; behaviour; their microbiome; their interactions with other species, and ultimately ecosystem function.  I am using the predatory rocky shore crab Eriphia ferox and the mussel Septifer virgatus as a model system. I will test their physiological responses, (metabolic rate), their interactions and quantify any changes to their microbiome under a variety of future thermal and pCO2 scenarios. Modification of behaviour is often an animals first response to environmental stress, resulting in altered species interactions and ecosystem processes; therefore, I will also investigate the effects of global change on the foraging strategies of E. ferox. Placing this knowledge in the context of other local stressors and processes at regional and global scales will enhance understanding of predator-prey interactions and may help inform adaptive management strategies to improve ecosystem resilience in a rapidly changing climate.

Kevin Geoghegan

     

         Marine Biologist with a Master degree in Zoology (2016) from the Sao Paulo State University (UNESP), Brazil. My interests are now in the thermal ecology, physiology and behaviour of mangrove associated crabs. I am currently developing my PhD thesis at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), where I study the physiological responses of mangrove crabs to temperature. My work involves comparing the physiological responses to temperature in species with different phylogenetical relationships, distributions, and from different habitats. My goal is to find patterns of adaptation and to assess the vulnerability of mangrove crabs to the future warmer climate scenarios.

    Pedro Julião Jimenez

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         I began my scientific career as an ecologist, completing my Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne in 2014. A general interest in ecology has resulted in my scientific career being quite varied, and after graduating I worked as a research assistant and project officer in 2 insect research labs. These roles involved a lot of fieldwork, and whilst out I noticed that the world around us was increasingly overrun by anthropogenic debris, especially in the marine environment. This inspired me to study anthropogenic marine debris in a coastal habitat that is rarely surveyed – the mangroves! My research has highlighted the lack of knowledge and awareness in the issue of plastic pollution in the mangroves and that more needs to be done to understand the effect of plastic debris on habitats other than beaches. If you’d like to know more about my research, you can contact me at any of the available links.

    Ying Luo

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         After completing my Bachelor of Science with a major in Chemistry from the University of Hong Kong, I have been exploring the field of ecology, targeting Brachyurans and especially terrestrial crabs. My interest lies in the process of terrestrialization of crabs, together with their wide ranges of physiological adaptations. Various forms of adaptations regarding osmoregulation of freshwater and land crabs are described and documented, but linkage to their ancestral origins awaits to be further discovered. This leads me conducting physiological experiment on osmoregulation of crabs as well as studying microbiomes in their gills. By incorporating phylogenetic analysis in comparative physiology studies, we can gain a deeper understanding towards the landward penetration demonstrated by land crabs. My attempt of linking physiology together with evolutionary biology will hopefully provide more information in completing the picture of terrestrialization of Brachyurans.

    Carl Ng

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    Previous Members

     
     

         Having always lived within 15 minutes of the ocean, the marine world was always an important part of my life, so becoming a marine biologist seemed like the only possible choice. I did my BSc in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology at the University of Plymouth (UK) and then continued on to more tropical waters for my MSc in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems (TROPIMUNDO), where I got to develop research projects on corals in both Australia (Great Barrier Reef) and Tanzania (Zanzibar).

        After a short stint as a science communicator in the Azores (Portugal) I decided to go back into academia, which is when I moved to Hong Kong and joined the iMEco lab at the beginning of 2018. I started to develop metrics to assess the functionality of mangrove ecosystems and later became a project manager in charge of continuing a territory-wide assessment of the current status of mangrove forests. That gave me the perfect excuse to visit dozens of mangrove forests and conduct qualitative and quantitative surveys on the associated invertebrate fauna (e.g. crabs and snails).

        In my spare time I try to focus on the communication of science and conservation of all things endangered with the NGO I co-founded, Lonely Creatures.

       Now you can find me dividing my time between Groningen (Netherlands) and the Caribbean where I am studying diversification on coral reefs using gall crabs as model species as part of my PhD.

    Henrique Bravo

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        I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist ever since first seeing coral spawning on Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ at three years old, before I could even pronounce the name of my future career. This led me to an Advanced Marine Biology and Ecology degree at the University of Queensland, and eventually to complete the first unbiased study on the recreational spearfishing community on the Great Barrier Reef. After moving to Hong Kong I discovered another passion, using my ecology, fisheries and legislation interpretation skills to uncover Hong Kong’s huge role in the international wildlife trade. Working in mangrove ecology has renewed my appreciation for mangroves and the ecosystem services they provide. My current project is on heavy metal pollution in the Pearl River Delta and the impacts that it has on Hong Kong’s mangrove crabs, and therefore the entire mangrove ecosystem.

    Thea Bradford

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         I am passionate about studying how coastal development in China and Southeast Asia shapes marine ecosystems. After obtaining a B.S. in Environmental Sciences from UC Berkeley, I moved back home to Hong Kong to work on various marine biodiversity studies in The Swire Institute of Marine Sciences at The University of Hong Kong. I came to the Mangrove Ecology Lab as a research assistant on our territory-wide survey of Hong Kong mangroves funded by the Environment and Conservation Fund. For this project I helped gather and analyze valuable data on mangrove sediment characteristics, include heavy metal contamination. I am currently pursuing a Masters in Marine Affairs at The University of Washington.

    Samantha Klein

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