The Baker Lab Team

The Baker Lab Team

a list of current team members and their research


Dr. Shelby McIlroy

Post-doctoral Fellow
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. Naomi Geeraert

Post-doctoral Fellow
Ph.D., M.Sc., B.Sc. (KULeuven, Belgium)
When you look around you in the natural environment, there are so many natural processes which have a clear spatial component. The fascination for that spatial component was the motivation to study Geography, where I learned about terrestrial ecosystems and global change. During my doctoral research, I increased our understanding of carbon cycling in a large tropical river by looking at changes in carbon concentration and stable isotope signature during the wet season in the Tana River in Kenya. I will continue to work on stable isotopes by measuring the nitrogen and oxygen in the nitrate in the Pearl River Estuary and the waters around Hong Kong to learn more about the effects of increased nitrate input from human sources (e.g. waste water or fertilizer) on the marine ecosystem.

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

Ph.D.: Ecology & Biodiversity (HKU-SWIMS)
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

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. 

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

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

I grew up in the countryside of Hong Kong. The most memorable days of my childhood happened in nature. I started diving during my undergrad, and I soon became infatuated by the sea, especially corals. I have worked in local environmental consultancy and conducted Environmental Impact Assessment. In 2016, I joined the lab as a Research Assistant for the Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park coral restoration project commissioned by AFCD. 


Research Assistants

Tracey Prigge

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

I grew up in South Africa. During my masters I worked on African Horsesickness Virus in the Molecular Biology of Orbiviruses group at The University of Pretoria. Following my masters, I worked as a Research Assistant in the Forest Molecular Genetics group at the University of Pretoria. At this point I strayed from Science for a while and followed my heart (and my now husband) to Hong Kong. I got caught up teaching English and then being a stay at home mom for a while but recently decided to try work my way back into Science as I was missing it a lot. This group has been extremely welcoming and I’ve really been enjoying being back in the lab! I’m currently working as the lab manager and its been great being able to help out on the various projects we have going on.

Dr. Phil Thompson

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.

Johnny Richards

Research Assistant
B.Sc. Molecular Biology & Biotechnology (HKU)

I grew up in Los Angeles and came to HKU to study molecular biology. I work primarily in the Conservation Forensics group, using molecular methods to identify illegally traded wildlife and develop new tools for use by law enforcement and customs officials to quickly and accurately identify trafficked wildlife. I'm also exploring uses for new techniques and methods such as eDNA detection and next-generation sequencing for better understanding and characterizing the global black market trade in endangered plants and animals.  Outside the lab I love to cook, bake, and talk to my garden of carnivorous plants. 

© 2012 by David M. Baker. All rights reserved

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