The Baker Lab Team

The Baker Lab Team

a list of current team members and their research


Dr. Shelby McIlroy

Research Assistant Professor
Ph.D. (University of Buffalo), M.S. (Moss Landing), B.S. (Univ. of Florida)
I have been lucky to see both well-preserved and highly degraded coral reefs all over the Caribbean and Pacific. Though anthropogenically driven climate change is causing worldwide changes to our ecosystems, local actions can be responsible for the proliferation or demise of regional reefs. My undergraduate work in Moorea, French Polynesia, my Master’s degree study in Panama, and my Doctoral research in the Florida Keys has helped to increase our understanding of the causes and consequences of genetic diversity among the algal endosymbionts of corals. While this diversity can be adaptive for corals, environmental factors such as temperature stress or eutrophication can disrupt the coral-algal symbiotic balance and lead to coral decline. In Hong Kong I will work on projects that examine how algal symbionts vary in their response to nitrogen eutrophication and how that affects the coral algal symbiosis.

Dr. Isis Guibert

Post-doctoral Fellow
Ph.D. (Sorbonne) , M.Sc., B.Sc. (Aix Marseille)
Interested by the symbiosis between coral and Symbiodiniaceae, I started working on coral reefs in 2013 during my first year of my master's degree. After my master's thesis in French Polynesia, I obtained a PhD grant from Sorbonne University to work on coral and giant clams assemblages. Using an integrative approach, combining cytology, metabolomics and metabarcoding; my Doctoral research increased our understanding of the individual response of holobionts according to environmental pressures and neighboring species, and finally this project highlighted the importance of taking into account the surrounding diversity for predicting the future fate of coral reefs. In Hong Kong, I will keep working on coral reef and biodiversity. I will use metagenomics analysis to determine community changes and explore the global marine biodiversity of different sites in Hong-Kong.

Dr. Inga Conti-Jerpe

Post-doctoral Associate
Ph.D. (HKU), M.S. (UNCW), B.S. (Cornell)

My broad research interests center on the factors that mediate the benthic community structure of hard bottom reef communities. Specifically, I am interested in the trophic ecology of soft corals, or octocorals. During my master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, I used controlled feeding experiments and stable isotope analysis to identify niche differentiation among three temperate Atlantic gorgonian octocorals. I also had the opportunity to participate in fieldwork diving off the coasts of North Carolina, Florida, and the Bahamas, including a 10-day saturation mission in the underwater habitat Aquarius Reef Base. For my PhD work, I am interested in continuing to look at nutrient acquisition in different species of pacific octocorals. My interests outside of research and diving include aquarium husbandry, outdoor activities (kayaking and hiking in particular), and amateur photography.

Graduate Students

Emily Chei

Ph.D. Candidate: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU-SWIMS)
B.S. Env. & Sustainability Science (Cornell University)

I moved to Hong Kong from the United States where I studied marine biology and environmental sciences at Cornell University.  My undergraduate research spanned topics including food web ecology, population genetics, and intraspecies phenotypic variation. For my PhD, I hope to study anthropogenic effects on reef resilience and coral bleaching, particularly due to nutrient pollution from wastewater effluent and land use in coastal cities. I will be examining coral trophic strategies to better understand symbiotic relationships in changing environmental conditions. I look forward to exploring the diverse reef ecosystems in this part of the world, as well as learning isotopic and molecular techniques to further investigate these issues. If I’m not in the lab or field, you can find me dancing, painting, or hiking in the mountains.

Alison Corley

Ph.D. Student: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU-SWIMS)
B.A. Environmental Science (Barnard College, Colombia University)

Working as a research assistant at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, I explored the possibilities of applying geochemical methods to core into archives below the seafloor to decipher the history of Earth’s climate. Following the massive global coral bleaching event of 2014-2017, I recognized that I wanted to apply this passion for the past towards studying the ecosystem dynamics of coral communities in marginal environments. Over the course of my Ph.D program, I look forward to expanding my research into the domain of historical ecology – applying geochemical and molecular tools towards better understanding the biological mechanisms that drive my most favorite biome on broad temporal scales. Outside of my academic interests, I love embroidery, science fiction, and growing plants on my windowsill."

Jon Cybulski

Ph.D. Student: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU-SWIMS)
M.S. Environmental Sciences (American University)
Originally trained as a Geologist during my undergraduate studies, I began focusing on impacts to near shore marine environments during my time working for the Federal USA government. I expanded my marine experiences by studying paleoecology for my Master’s thesis at American University, where I used push-core samples to study the historic stressors that shaped the coral reef ecosystem in Guam. The start of my Doctoral research at HKU will involve using similar methods to conduct core sampling and analysis of the modern and historic coral communities around Hong Kong. Throughout my time here, I plan to expand my research by learning various historic dating techniques, as well as using biogeochemistry as an analytical tool. Besides rocks and paleoecology, I love to weightlift, play sports, go on any type of outdoor excursion, brew beer, or read epic fantasy novels. 

Róisín Hayden

Ph.D. Student: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU-SWIMS)
B.Sc. Environmental Biology (University College Dublin)
Coral reef resilience
Marine conservation
Molecular ecology
Hailing from Ireland, I have come in search of warmer waters here in Hong Kong. As an environmental science graduate from UCD, I am fascinated by natural systems (particularly marine) and the ecological processes that govern them. My PhD research will focus on investigating the mechanisms that structure and regulate coral-algal symbiosis, using molecular ecology and stable isotope analysis. Outside of academia, I can be found swimming, surfing, hiking or practicing my (amateur) nature photography. 

Taihun Kim

Ph.D. Student: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU-SWIMS)
M.Sc. Marine Biology (UST, KIOST)
My research interests in coral reefs originated from my passion for SCUBA diving. This led to a natural curiousity about marine life. I obtained my MSc in Marine Biology and worked as a research scientist at the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology under the Department of the Korea South Pacific Ocean Research Center (KSORC) located in Chuuk, Micronesia. I was involved in coral reef and seagrass monitoring, and coastal habitat mapping in Chuuk Lagoon. For my PhD I am deepening my study of the biochemical and physiological interactions between corals and their symbionts under global change.

Vicki Sheng

Ph.D. Student: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU-SWIMS)
B.A. Biology (Williams College)

Vicki hails from across the Taiwan Straits and is a certified DiveMaster. Educated in the US, she has since traveled around Asia in a number of wild work experiences; diving with bull sharks in Thailand, training wolves, and working as a stunt double on films in Beijing. Vicki joined the lab in Fall 2015 as a Research Assistant and has now transitioned to a PhD. She aims to study biocomplexity at multiple scales; from coral skeletons to reefs to understand the relationship between complexity and biodiversity.

Chloe Webster

Ph.D. Student: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU)
MRes Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation (UCL)
B.Sc. Biology (Royal Holloway, University of London)​

I'm a Welsh-original, London-educated postgrad, who's part- diver, part- dancer. I've recently completed my Masters of Research in Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation at University College London, in collaboration with the Natural History Museum and Zoological Society of London (ZSL/IoZ). My background is in the general field of Biology but with a main focus on the marine, with my interests seemingly channelled towards the molecular in more recent years. In joining the Baker Lab I hope to learn a bunch of new skills, like getting involved in some of the recently established Wildlife Forensics work going on here, as well as improving on old ones, such as scuba diving. Apart from all this, you can probably find me on a beach, up a mountain or in a tree somewhere. 


Vriko Yu

PhD Student, Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU)
B.Sc. Natural Sciences (CUHK)

In the face of rapid climate change, reefs are being threatened and deteriorating unprecedentedly on a global scale. Coral restoration has emerged in recent decades to mitigate net loss and consequences. My research aims to form a scientific foundation for coral restoration to foster resilience-based reef management in the South China Sea. Specifically, I will investigate 1) the population structure and connectivity of zebra corals (Oulastrea crispata) in the South China Sea; 2) the physiological trade-offs of micro-fragmentation, 3) the effectiveness of 3D-printed artificial reefs in biodiversity enhancement and ecosystem functioning, and 4) the application of adaptive management in the restoration practices in the region. Outside of the research world, I have been actively engaged in promoting coral reef conservation in the region – serving as the Assistant Director and Eco Diver Instructor for Reef Check Hong Kong to promote citizen science in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan. I also serve as the Education Committee for World Wide Fund (WWF-HK) to set year plans to integrate conservation into the education systems.


Research Assistants

Tracey Prigge

Molecular Lab Manager
B.Sc. Zoology, M.Sc. Genetics (University of Pretoria)

I am originally from South Africa where I received my BSc in Zoology and MSc in Genetics from The University of Pretoria. For my masters I worked on the subcellular localization of Nonstructural protein NS3 of African Horsesickness virus. I also worked as a research assistant in the Forest Molecular Genetics Group at the University of Pretoria before moving to Hong Kong. At the moment I’m working as the Molecular Lab Manager and I support several of the ongoing projects in the lab. I am particularly interested in using my molecular background to tackle wildlife trafficking in Hong Kong; using genetic data for species identification, determining of sample origin, and mapping out trafficking routes. I’m also looking forward to using Stable Isotope Analysis as a forensic tool to monitor illegally trafficked wildlife. 

Dr. Phil Thompson

Research Assistant
Ph.D.: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU-SWIMS)
B.S. (Plymouth State Univ.)
As an undergraduate I studied at the Shoals Marine Lab in the Gulf of Maine and discovered my passion for marine science and field-based research. In 2009 I traveled to Indonesia as a field volunteer to dive on pristine coral reef habitats and studied marine ecology on reef systems. Since then I have been traveling to the Caribbean to learn more about coral biology and ecology as well as teach high school students the importance of marine habitats on board traditionally rigged tallships for the Ocean Classroom Foundation. I’m very excited to be studying in Hong Kong for the next few years, I see it as great new adventure. I also enjoy playing Frisbee, hiking, video games, and I love to cook.

Zhongyue Wan

Research Assistant
M.Sc. Environmental Management (HKU)

Coral restoration

Coral reef resilience 

Sustainability and conservation


My work focuses on coral restoration. In particular, I look at how different restoration methodologies impact coral survival rate, health, and ecological function. I aim to identify optimal restoration methodology in sub-tropical Hong Kong areas to increase coral community resilience amidst a warming ocean. 


© 2012 by David M. Baker. All rights reserved

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