Gray A. Williams
I’ve been working in Hong Kong for 30 years and have spent most of this time trying to place tropical, monsoonal shores within the context of generally accepted patterns in intertidal ecology. Coming originally from a temperate background, my perceptions were changed arriving to the hot and barren shores that we find in Hong Kong during the hot season which contrast strongly with the vibrant life that we find in the cool winter season. The speed at which assemblages change, the high summer mortalities and then rapid winter recovery makes an incredibly dynamic system where species adopt a ‘live fast die young strategy’.
Trying to piece all these things together has proved challenging. Unlike in many temperate areas, the taxonomy of species in this region is poorly understood and even less is known of their ecologies. To try and document these patterns our group has spent a lot of time detailing the basic ecology of species in the region; much in collaboration with a great set of colleagues in Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, China and Malaysia. This information is so important when we try and interpret community patterns and yet seems to be out of fashion these days! From these studies we have focused on a few aspects, mostly around species behaviour and physiology, related to surviving in the extremes of a tropical intertidal zone. Inevitably, this work has mostly concentrated on rocky shore limpets and snails; but we have branched out to sandy shore crabs; mangrove snails and even vertebrates in the form of mudskippers at times……
Recently, studies have widened to consider how changing environmental conditions are affecting species responses over geographic ranges (working from Singapore to northern China) and currently to the survival strategies of high shore species, which are living in extreme harsh environments on tropical shores. As ever, these studies are revealing exciting findings and always challenging paradigms associated with temperate regions. Hopefully the insights we gain, as the world becomes a warmer place, will play an important role in how we can perhaps anticipate and manage future changes to species distributions, especially in understudied tropical areas.
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Tropical Intertidal Ecology group, SWIMS, HKU. I am interested in the behavioural ecology of intertidal animals, in particular how they acquire food and avoid physical stress in the highly variable and stressful tropical intertidal environment. Using a variety of modelling and experimental approaches, I am also interested in modelling animals’ behavioural patterns based on their decision-making processes to understand how they can survive and persist in the harsh intertidal environment.
Sarah L.Y. Lau
I have always been fascinated by the dynamic responses of organisms to environmental changes and how intertidal organisms manage to thrive in among the most thermally harsh environments. My work focuses primarily on the thermal biology of tropical littorinid snails in Hong Kong, which endure extreme heat in the summer as well as a massive change in thermal regimes across seasons. In particular, I investigate their seasonal behavioural patterns and studied how their behaviour and physiology change with temperature in order to elucidate their survival strategies in such a dynamic and stressful environment.
I am a PhD candidate in TIDE group and I am currently investigating the thermal refuge usage and metabolic strategy of a high shore limpet against heat stress. Apart from conventional field survey techniques, I am also eager to learn advanced technologies that can be used for efficient environmental conditions estimation and prediction, like topography mapping. Moreover, I am interested in the population genetics of intertidal organisms regarding oceanography and organisms' life histories.
I am pursuing my PhD with the TIDE group having completed a BSc at The University of New South Wales. I am interested in community ecology, which is about how species interact between each other. My previous work was to investigate how positive and negative interactions influence the realised community structure on soft sediment shores. In my new PhD position I will examine the thermal physiology of bivalves, as well as their strategies to survive under extreme conditions. From there, I will investigate how such traits in the bivalves will have knock-on effects on intertidal community structure.
I am currently registered as a PhD student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in South Africa, co-supervised by Richard Greenfield and Gray. I am looking at the synergistic/antagonistic effects of climate change and marine pollutants in molluscs along the rocky shore coastline of South Africa. The project aims to look at the temperature threshold of both Siphonaria capensis and Scutellastra granularis, the effect an increase in cadmium chloride concentration has on the exposed organisms as well as to determine any physiological changes the organisms undergo as a result of increased temperatures and cadmium chloride concentrations. My studies continue to strengthen my interests in the survivability and adaptability of molluscs on rocky shores, living in often unimaginably harsh natural conditions.
I am a master student under the supervision of Assist. Prof. Dr. Kringpaka Wangkulangkul from Prince of Songkla University (PSU) Thailand and Gray. I am interested in behavioural and physiological responses to thermal stress of two species of limpets (Siphonaria guamensis and Patelloida saccharina) in Thailand. These two species are affected by severe environmental factors since the rocky intertidal shores in Southern Thailand are located in the tropics and experience high temperatures. Hopefully, understanding how they survive these extremes will help explain their different distribution patterns on Thai shores and reveal how they cope with extreme heat environments.
Senior Research Assistant
I have just completed my MSc research on coral trophic dynamics and feeding behaviour at University College Cork, Ireland in partnership with St. John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, Singapore. Growing up on the South-West coast of Ireland, I developed a passion for marine conservation while exploring the nooks and crevices of the rocky shore. My interests lie in the role interconnectivity plays in community trophic dynamics, examining the physiological and behavioural responses of organisms over extended periods of time. I join the TIDE team bringing my previous experience in the field of biology and outreach education spanning mangrove, desert, seashore and woodland habitats.
My project studies rocky shore assemblages in Hong Kong, with a focus on "how different biotic and abiotic forces shape what we see on the shore". The ECF team and I have been collecting rocky shore community data around Hong Kong, and I will use these data for my thesis. Apart from the ECF project, I'm also collecting monthly time-series data on assemblage and physical environment and aim to apply time-series analyses here.
I conducted my final year research project under the supervision of the TIDE group in 2020, investigating the “standing” behaviour of hermit crabs in which they maintain a suboptimal body temperature to avoid heat stress in the highly variable tropical intertidal environment. I am currently working in the group to assist the newly established ECF project on Hong Kong rocky shore biodiversity. I am obsessed with the behavioural ecology of intertidal organisms, in particulate predator-prey interaction and resource competition, which determine the distribution of all species and form astonishing zones on the shore.
Back in 2017, when I participated in the Ting Kok Coastal Conservation Plan as a helper in the TIDE group, I was intrigued by the dynamic environment and the wide variety of organisms on rocky shores. Now, I work as a research assistant in an ECF funded project to study species richness along tidal heights on rock shores across Hong Kong. I am interested in using new techniques to study the relationship between topology and species richness.
Alex H.M. Li
It has always been a precious experience to work with amazing marine creatures. After completing my undergraduate studies at The University of Hong Kong, I have once worked as a research assistant at the State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution (SKLMP) at City University of Hong Kong, and an assistant ecologist/consultant at a local consultancy firm, where I have gained experiences in conducting studies on fisheries resources and juvenile fishes as well as intertidal surveys. Among the ecological topics, I am particularly interested in community ecology as I found it fascinating to know how different species interact and rely on each other. Currently, I am working as a research assistant at the TIDE Group to particularly assist in the RGC-funded research project on how the presence/absence of ecosystem engineers (mussels and oysters) would affect the biodiversity of the habitats on Hong Kong rocky shores and assess the possible impact of climate warming on such biodiversity – I hope my previous experience could contribute to the project and the TIDE Group.
Before joining the TIDE group, I was in charge of an education programme at SWIMS to develop rocky shore ecology-related learning materials and technologies that will empower teachers and students to be advocates of environmental sustainability. I'm now working as a research assistant on the ecosystem engineer project, with Jackson and Alex.