Current and past alumni of the Insect Biodiversity and Biogeography Laboratory
Roger Ho LEE
My first unforgettable experience with insects was watching the migration of Monarch Butterfly as a kid. Before joining HKU, I worked on agricultural projects and I was inspired by the services that both bees and ants provided us with. I also experienced the territoriality of social insects through an attack by the Red Imported Fire Ants, Solenopsis invicta.
Insect not only represents one of the major components of biodiversity, but also provides a wide range of ecological services to our society. As ecosystems and biodiversity face tremendous development pressure as well as higher threats with the introduction of invasive species, we now require a better understanding on how these changes will affect insect communities. I am currently working on a study to assess the long-term dynamic of ant communities in Hong Kong through urbanization. The aim of this research is to understand how environmental disturbances and biological invasions might affect insects communities and their ecological functions.
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My interests lie at the intersection of geography and evolution – how topography and climate influence biodiversity patterns and exert selection pressure at different levels. Here at HKU I am working to protect the biodiversity of ants, which along with other insects are hugely underrepresented in conservation efforts. I am developing assessment strategies to place ants on the IUCN Red List, particularly by using species distribution modeling to infer their threat levels. This work is especially pressing in Hong Kong, where rapid urbanization may oust rare species. Tweet me @vagr_ant or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
M.Sc. Environmental Management students:
Dr. Kavyanjali SHUKLA
It feels so exciting to learn endlessly about nature and its wondrous forms. The interest and excitement of exploring mysteries of animal life directed me towards pursuing a Ph.D. in Zoology at University of Lucknow, India. Exploring “under the microscope” as well as outdoors fascinates me and so does communicating my work.
Learning about an unusually hard working organism like “ants” is just awesome!! I had previously studied arthropods during my master’s program, but I got the opportunity to learn about ants under Dr. Guénard’s expert guidance. Currently, I am studying the ecological characteristics and biological invasions of various ant species from marine commercial and leisure ports of Hong Kong and surrounding areas. Detection of invasive species will help us analyze the harmful potential of their population. We hope to determine some effective management strategies and mitigation measures. I find this research intriguing, so much of a fun and I enjoy doing it!!
My love for ants and adventure has taken me to many interesting places. Originally from Utah, I now have the opportunity to live and work in Hong Kong. My love for ants began early, collecting nests in the Colorado mountains. After many stings and the face full of formic acid, I figured out there’s a lot more to learn from these tiny beasts. Curiosity led to investigation, and eventually to start my ant career during my undergraduate at the University of Utah.
My work in Hong Kong involves carrying out an ant diversity survey throughout Hong Kong, focusing on the ecological impacts of invasive ants. The goal is to establish a thorough survey of where invasive ant species occur, how they affect the diversity of native insects, and finally determine what are their impacts on decomposition processes. This project will contribute to a better understanding of the biodiversity of Hong Kong, invasive species ecology, and ultimately to the conservation of biodiversity.
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Born and raised in urban area, I did not develop any particular interest on ecological studies before entering the university; in fact, when I was first admitted to the university, ecology was not one my intended majors. My interest on ecological studies emerges after reading a piece of text by Chinese philosopher Xunzi. In book 9 of Xunzi, the author states that “天地生君子，君子理天地”, which roughly translates to “the world give rise to the gentlemen and the gentlemen should in return take care of the world”. As a science student, I feel obligated to learn more about the natural world and hence be able to take good care of it. It is my pleasure to become a part of the Insect Biodiversity and Biogeography Laboratory since it provides me with chances to gain first-hand experience on ecological researches.
Since childhood, I have always been the happiest when I am exploring nature. I knew that I wanted to learn as much as I could about ecology; it is just that I needed the real life experience and guidance. My first memorable field experience in Hong Kong was the 5 – day trip in Pak Tam Chung in the New Territories. That reading week has to be best one because I had the experience of working with loads of unique animals and plants in five different habitats.
I am a year 3 Ecology and Biodiversity student and am working on a summer project, that focuses on investigating niche differentiation in context of nesting limitations of ants in Hong Kong. One month has passed by and I already feel that I am having a lot of fun learning about the diversity of arthropods in Hong Kong.
Chase Liu Wei WANG
Coming from a tropical island, Hainan, I have developed the curiosity about nearly all kinds of living creatures since a very young age. The best part of my childhood included reading wildlife encyclopedia, watching nature documentaries and walking in the woods trying to discover small, strange-looking animals. When I learned about the Ecology & Biodiversity major at HKU I knew this was exactly the kind of program I would truly enjoy studying. It’s my great pleasure to take a part in the Insect Biodiversity and Biogeography lab. Benoit has been giving me huge support and guidance. He also showed me how fantastic ants are to learn about in terms of their diversity and social behavior. It has been my best experience in freshman year and made me more determined to pursue biology in the future.
My first experience of Hong Kong was in 2013, as an exchange student. I spent one semester at HKU as an undergraduate student, taking classes from the Ecology and Biodiversity department, and I was really impressed with the courses and the research that came from the department. After my exchange semester I went back home, to the University of Melbourne, to finish my Bachelor of Science with a major in Zoology. During my Bachelor’s degree I had the opportunity to study whether bill markings in black swans (Cygnus astratus) had an effect on dominance behaviour, and also what effect size and colour had on heat uptake in skinks. Before starting my position as a research assistant in this lab, I had very little experience with insects. However, since then I have realised that insects, especially ants, are incredibly interesting creatures and I love learning new things about them every day.
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Mark WONG (Singapore)
As an early researcher I am interested in learning from a broad range of fields, with a special focus on the biodiversity and ecology of terrestrial invertebrates. My previous work at The Australian National University investigated the evolutionary divergence, biogeography and physiology of funnel-web spiders (Hexathelidae: Atracinae). During my subsequent attachment at the Insect Biodiversity and Biogeography Laboratory, I developed a specific curiosity for ants under Benoit’s excellent mentorship. I am presently studying the ant communities of Singapore.
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The beauty of plants and animals, the intricacy and complexity of the interactions between organisms – organisms filling every conceivable form and function – have inspired my ultimate goal to become actively involved in research, environmental education and conservation. My fascination with all forms of life, insects especially, has developed out of a childhood curiosity for nature. Thanks to the encouragement and endless patience of my parents, I was able to explore, observe, and experience the natural world by actively engaging with it. This childhood curiosity and amazing experiences working at a zoo led me to study ecology, behavior and entomology at Cornell University.
Now at The University of Hong Kong, my research involves surveying the biodiversity of ants and moths at the Hong Kong International Airport. Through monitoring non-native species, providing tools to educate the public on Hong Kong’s biodiversity, and by developing action plans for airport authorities, we hope to minimize potential threats imposed to Hong Kong’s native fauna.
Gordon YONG (Singapore)
My interest for insects started with a field trip with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to Sri Lanka, where I got my first dose of the great diversity laden in the world of insects. Ants in particular have always been a very fascinating creature to me. They are found everywhere you look with many specializations in different niches. While most look similar to the untrained eye, their diversity truly shines upon more detailed observations under a microscope. Through the recommendation of Mark, I volunteered at the Insect Biodiversity and Biogeography Laboratory and learnt a great deal about ants under the stellar guidance of Benoit. I am currently still a year 3 undergraduate student at NUS looking forward to uncovering the diversity of ants in Singapore!