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Dr Thiyagarajan VENGATESEN of HKU School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science said, the hatchery was designed not only for oyster seed production but also as a platform for research, education, and knowledge exchange.

HKU marine scientists join hands with local oyster industry to set up the first oyster hatchery in Hong Kong, cultivating native seeds to sustain oyster aquaculture

Oysters have been an important commodity in Hong Kong for more than 700 years. While serving as a tasty and highly nutritious food source, oysters have also helped to clean and enrich our seawater, and their reefs provide habitat and nursery grounds for many native species that are otherwise lost from our shores. However, the local oyster agriculture in Lau Fau Shan and the surrounding waters of Deep Bay has been severely hindered by coastal modification, the seasonal shift in temperature and salinity due to climate change, pollution and emerging pathogens in the recent years, which not only leads to huge summer and winter mortality of oysters (as high as 80%), but also has affected the livelihood for thousands of growers around the area. As demand for sustainable supply of this precious seafood is rapidly growing, there is an urgency to identify an oyster strain with relatively high-stress tolerance and immune resistance power to overcome at least some of these novel human-induced environmental constraints. In view of this, Marine Scientists at School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) of The University of Hong Kong (HKU),  join hands with the local oyster industry to set up the Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery & Innovation Research Unit, which aims to develop innovative hatchery technology in partnership with growers and industry that re-establishes high-quality natural resources and delivers superior oyster seeds for sustainable coastal aquaculture particularly in South China and Hong Kong. The facility will commence operation in July 2022. On 27th May, 2022, the hatchery and aquaculture experts from the northern, middle and southern part of mainland China gathered at HKU to discuss the oyster hatchery and its relevance for sustainable aquaculture with Hong Kong’s oyster growers, government agency, industry, NGOs, researchers, and other stakeholders, in order to identify ways through which the proposed oyster hatchery could be integrated with national effort to develop sustainable oyster aquaculture with a global perspective. The project received 5.28 million funding from the Sustainable Fisheries Development Fund (SFDF) of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), and 3 million generous donation from Lee Kum Kee Company Limited. Under their support, an oyster hatchery at a research scale will be set up at HKU campus, using novel hatchery technologies to enhance oyster seed production. After the settlement of the oyster spat, the final stage of seed production will be taken place at the laboratory of SWIMS, which is located in the Cape D’Aguilar marine reserve, where the seeds will be maintained and monitored for few weeks before supplying to local growers. The laboratory set up at The Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery The hatchery at HKU Campus contains an Algal Culture area to supply adequate food for the nursery culture of both oyster larvae and spats in the hatchery room. A Larval Culture area made the major part of the hatchery, which has its own re-circulation facility for over 2000L of seawater and supports larval settlement and spat culture facility. A significantly large Chemical Lab area for studying oyster meat quality and food safety parameters.   The project aims to produce oyster seeds of three local oyster species: Crassostrea hongkongensis (Hong Kong oysters), Crassostrea ariakensis (Suminoe oysters) and Crassostrea angulata (Portuguese oysters), and estimates to produce 10,000 strings of oyster seeds, with each string holding 200 good quality oysters approximately per year. The trial seed production will start in summer 2022, and full-scale seed production is expected to be done by summer 2023. Local stakeholders, including oyster growers, will adopt the technology for their oyster production by the year 2024. Building these innovative tools would help local growers and government authorities to modernise the oyster aquaculture industry in the region, hoping to have a direct impact, particularly in South China and Hong Kong. Mr CHOW Wing Kuen, Senior Fisheries Officer (Aquaculture Fisheries) of the AFCD noted, “Oyster hatchery will demonstrate the feasibility and economic viability of local oyster seeds production, which ensures faster growth of disease-resistant local strains, and improve the livelihood of local oyster farmers.” Mr CHUNG Shiu Cheong, General Manager of Oyster Hatchery (China) said on behalf of Lee Kum Kee Company Limited, that the company would continue to seize every opportunity to contribute to the society, “We are honoured to have this opportunity to collaborate with the research team at HKU which specialises in oceanology and marine science. We truly believe it will lead the local oyster industry to a bright and successful future.” Professor Vivian Wing-Wah YAM, HKU Dean of Science (Interim) and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy appreciated the collaboration between HKU Marine Scientists and the industry, “I am delighted to have representatives from local oyster growers, the government, industry, NGOs and student entrepreneurs gathering to develop a strong interlined network of collaborations and knowledge exchange involving all stakeholders and importantly, local industry and to discuss and identify ways to tackle and overcome the challenges.” Dr Thiyagarajan VENGATESEN of HKU School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science, who took the lead in setting up the Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery & Innovation Research Unit said, the hatchery was designed not only for oyster seed production but also as a platform for research, education, and knowledge exchange, “We hope that this oyster hatchery will foster interdisciplinary research to modernise the green carbon neutral oyster aquaculture industry, as well as networking with global leaders to identify quality breed that contains trait of interest using big data and machine learning tools.” At the kick-off meeting of The Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery and Innovation Research Unit, the hatchery and aquaculture experts, local oyster industry, government agency and other stakeholders gathered to discuss the sustainability of Oyster aquaculture in Hong Kong. From the left: Mr CHUNG Shiu Cheong, General Manager of Oyster Hatchery (China), Mr Brian LEE (Director of Manufacturing) and Mrs Elizabeth MOK (Technical Service Director) of Lee Kum Kee Company Limited; Professor Vivian Wing-Wah YAM, HKU Dean of Science (Interim) and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy; Mr CHOW Wing-Kuen, Senior Fisheries Officer (Aquaculture Fisheries) of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department; Dr Thiyagarajan VENGATESEN of HKU School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science; Mr Fung CHAN of Hong Kong Oyster Company Limited.  

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Professor Quentin Parker, Director of the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR) at The University of Hong Kong and one of the co-winners of the 2022 Gemini Prize.

HKU Astrophysicist Professor Quentin Parker and His Collaborators Awarded the 2022 Gemini Prize

Professor Quentin A PARKER, Director of the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR) at The University of Hong Kong, together with his collaborator, Pascal Le Dû, amateur astronomer and 2SPOT association President, as well as amateur astronomers and members of the 2SPOT association Thomas Petit, Lionel Mulato and Olivier Garde, are awarded Le Prix Gemini 2022 (the 2022 Gemini Prize) co-organised by La Société astronomique de France (SAF) and Société Française d’ Astronomie et d’Astrophysique (SF2A), for their project ‘Search for and Confirmation of Planetary Nebulae Candidates’. ‘I feel honoured and humbled to receive this international recognition of the importance of our professional astronomical work with our French amateur colleagues in the discovery and confirmation of a significant new sample of Galactic Planetary Nebulae (the beautiful glowing shrouds of low mass dying stars). This “prix Gemini” is a fitting reward for the more than a decade of work of many of my close French amateur colleagues, led by Pascal Le Dû, in this incredible pro-am endeavour of scientific discovery, and I am proud to have played a role in their great pursuit,’ said Professor Parker. The prize (medal, diploma and cash award), which is set up to reward outstanding collaboration between professionals and amateurs in astronomy and related sciences, will be delivered during the SF2A Symposium to be held in Besancon, France, on June 10, 2022. A talk will be given by the awardees during the Gemini Pro-Am workshop on the same day. The project also has an opportunity to publish a paper in a coming issue of L’Astronomie magazine, an edition of Société astronomique de France, by the year end of 2022. About the Project This prestigious award results from an intensive and coordinated ten-year observational pro-am program designed to uncover and confirm Galactic Planetary Nebulae (PNe). This has been undertaken by a dedicated group of largely French amateur astronomers led by Pascal Le Dû in collaboration with professional colleagues led by Professor Quentin Parker. This group has so far uncovered 209 spectroscopically confirmed Galactic PNe. These discoveries represent ~5% of all 3831 Galactic PNe currently known according to the HASH (Hong Kong AAO Strasbourg H-alpha Planetary Nebula) PNe database. This award recognises the power and value of the amateur community in undertaking a coordinated and focused program such as this with their professional counterparts. About Professor Quentin Parker and Laboratory for Space Research Quentin Parker joined The University of Hong Kong in 2015 and is currently Director of the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR, see https://www.lsr.hku.hk). Research activities are mainly associated with Wide Field Astronomy, and he has discovered more Planetary Nebulae (PNe) than anyone in history. He has also extensive experience as an astrophysics instrumentalist and has published 571 papers/articles, of which 278 are refereed. These have more than 23475 citations with a h-index of 71. Quentin also has a long-term interest in Chinese Bronze artefacts and cultural heritage, interdisciplinary studies and science pedagogy. More recently, Quentin has been engaged in promoting STEM education from a Space and entrepreneurial direction (see https://cubesat.hku.hk) and is currently Vice Chairman of OASA – the Orion Astropreneur Space Academy (https://www.oasahk.org). He is also an active newspaper opinion piece contributor.

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Epinephelus fuscoguttatus, a type of brown marbled grouper which is listed as vulnerable and decreasing according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were detected in the study.

HKU Conservation Forensics Lab develops novel environmental DNA monitoring method for identifying rare and endangered fish species sold in Hong Kong wet markets

In a paper recently published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, researchers in the Conservation Forensics Lab at The University of Hong Kong have outlined a powerful new tool for monitoring trade of rare and endangered fish species in Hong Kong wet markets. Using environmental DNA (eDNA) present in the drain runoff water of fish markets, researchers were able to extract and sequence enough DNA to identify over 100 species of fish that had passed through the market. Various types of vulnerable or endangered species were detected by the eDNA method in the study, including Epinephelus fuscoguttatus, a type of brown marbled grouper which is listed as vulnerable and decreasing according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and three eel species including Anguilla japonica and Anguilla rostrata, which are listed as endangered by IUCN, as well as CITES(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)-listed European eel, Anguilla anguilla. Two types of bream were detected including the golden threadfin bream (Nemipterus virgatus) which is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, and the Okinawa seabream (Acanthopagus sivicolus), listed as vulnerable and decreasing by the IUCN. Metabarcoding Allows Identification of Species At Once Barcoding is a common method of species identification, wherein certain regions of an organism’s genome are sequenced and used to identify the organism in question. Each species has its own unique ‘barcode’, which can provide a more reliable form of identification than traditional morphology-based methods. This technique can be expanded to identifying many species at once (known as metabarcoding) thanks to advanced high-throughput sequencing technology. Even the small amounts of DNA shed from plants and animals into the environment (eDNA) are sufficient for metabarcoding which enables identification of mixed communities of species that may have been present in the area. In this study, researchers in the Conservation Forensics Lab aimed to develop a method for identifying fish species traded in Hong Kong markets that does not rely on having fish taxonomy experts spend hours visually identifying every fish on sale. Further, many fish vendors are often reluctant to permit lengthy inspections of their wares, as endangered fish species can often be found for sale in Hong Kong markets. The method outlined in the paper compared the two most common types of eDNA capture: filtration and precipitation. In the filtration method, one litre of water collected from the drains in three wet markets was collected and passed through a fine filter, which captured tissue, blood, and other cellular debris holding enough DNA to make an identification of the fish species that shed it. The precipitation method used even less water, enabling identification of fish species present by chemical precipitation of eDNA present in cellular debris from 45 ml of drain runoff. After the drain water was collected, eDNA was extracted and sequenced and fish species present in the three wet markets investigated over a 5-day period were identified. To confirm the results, an expert fish taxonomist performed a visual survey, and the overlap of species detections were compared. High Reliability and Easy to Adapt While it is impossible to be 100% certain in identifying every single species present with either method, the advantages of a DNA-based survey method are numerous. Chiefly, DNA-based IDs can be more reliable than morphological IDs, and this is especially true when fish are sold butchered or belong to certain similar-looking genera and families. The DNA extraction method outlined in the paper is also very simple and can easily be executed by anyone with basic molecular lab training of several hours. Visual surveys require hours and hours of extensive work by multiple expert taxonomists, which has been a factor holding back rollout of regular surveys in Hong Kong. ‘We hope that our method will not only encourage local authorities to adopt more high-tech solutions to monitoring and combatting the illegal wildlife trade in Hong Kong, but also help expand the use of eDNA and metabarcoding further into urban contexts,’ said John L RICHARDS, co-author of the journal paper. About HKU Conservation Forensics Lab Working towards the conservation of illegally traded wildlife in Hong Kong, members of the Conservation Forensics Lab at HKU are trained in various tools and techniques for identifying the legality of seized species. In order to support government and conservation efforts in curbing the trade of threatened species, the lab provides a platform for interdisciplinary scientific research and education to the general public. For more information about the Lab, please visit: https://www.ccf-hku.com Link of journal paper: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.13842

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Dr Thiyagarajan VENGATESEN of HKU School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science said, the hatchery was designed not only for oyster seed production but also as a platform for research, education, and knowledge exchange.

HKU marine scientists join hands with local oyster industry to set up the first oyster hatchery in Hong Kong, cultivating native seeds to sustain oyster aquaculture

Oysters have been an important commodity in Hong Kong for more than 700 years. While serving as a tasty and highly nutritious food source, oysters have also helped to clean and enrich our seawater, and their reefs provide habitat and nursery grounds for many native species that are otherwise lost from our shores. However, the local oyster agriculture in Lau Fau Shan and the surrounding waters of Deep Bay has been severely hindered by coastal modification, the seasonal shift in temperature and salinity due to climate change, pollution and emerging pathogens in the recent years, which not only leads to huge summer and winter mortality of oysters (as high as 80%), but also has affected the livelihood for thousands of growers around the area. As demand for sustainable supply of this precious seafood is rapidly growing, there is an urgency to identify an oyster strain with relatively high-stress tolerance and immune resistance power to overcome at least some of these novel human-induced environmental constraints. In view of this, Marine Scientists at School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) of The University of Hong Kong (HKU),  join hands with the local oyster industry to set up the Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery & Innovation Research Unit, which aims to develop innovative hatchery technology in partnership with growers and industry that re-establishes high-quality natural resources and delivers superior oyster seeds for sustainable coastal aquaculture particularly in South China and Hong Kong. The facility will commence operation in July 2022. On 27th May, 2022, the hatchery and aquaculture experts from the northern, middle and southern part of mainland China gathered at HKU to discuss the oyster hatchery and its relevance for sustainable aquaculture with Hong Kong’s oyster growers, government agency, industry, NGOs, researchers, and other stakeholders, in order to identify ways through which the proposed oyster hatchery could be integrated with national effort to develop sustainable oyster aquaculture with a global perspective. The project received 5.28 million funding from the Sustainable Fisheries Development Fund (SFDF) of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), and 3 million generous donation from Lee Kum Kee Company Limited. Under their support, an oyster hatchery at a research scale will be set up at HKU campus, using novel hatchery technologies to enhance oyster seed production. After the settlement of the oyster spat, the final stage of seed production will be taken place at the laboratory of SWIMS, which is located in the Cape D’Aguilar marine reserve, where the seeds will be maintained and monitored for few weeks before supplying to local growers. The laboratory set up at The Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery The hatchery at HKU Campus contains an Algal Culture area to supply adequate food for the nursery culture of both oyster larvae and spats in the hatchery room. A Larval Culture area made the major part of the hatchery, which has its own re-circulation facility for over 2000L of seawater and supports larval settlement and spat culture facility. A significantly large Chemical Lab area for studying oyster meat quality and food safety parameters.   The project aims to produce oyster seeds of three local oyster species: Crassostrea hongkongensis (Hong Kong oysters), Crassostrea ariakensis (Suminoe oysters) and Crassostrea angulata (Portuguese oysters), and estimates to produce 10,000 strings of oyster seeds, with each string holding 200 good quality oysters approximately per year. The trial seed production will start in summer 2022, and full-scale seed production is expected to be done by summer 2023. Local stakeholders, including oyster growers, will adopt the technology for their oyster production by the year 2024. Building these innovative tools would help local growers and government authorities to modernise the oyster aquaculture industry in the region, hoping to have a direct impact, particularly in South China and Hong Kong. Mr CHOW Wing Kuen, Senior Fisheries Officer (Aquaculture Fisheries) of the AFCD noted, “Oyster hatchery will demonstrate the feasibility and economic viability of local oyster seeds production, which ensures faster growth of disease-resistant local strains, and improve the livelihood of local oyster farmers.” Mr CHUNG Shiu Cheong, General Manager of Oyster Hatchery (China) said on behalf of Lee Kum Kee Company Limited, that the company would continue to seize every opportunity to contribute to the society, “We are honoured to have this opportunity to collaborate with the research team at HKU which specialises in oceanology and marine science. We truly believe it will lead the local oyster industry to a bright and successful future.” Professor Vivian Wing-Wah YAM, HKU Dean of Science (Interim) and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy appreciated the collaboration between HKU Marine Scientists and the industry, “I am delighted to have representatives from local oyster growers, the government, industry, NGOs and student entrepreneurs gathering to develop a strong interlined network of collaborations and knowledge exchange involving all stakeholders and importantly, local industry and to discuss and identify ways to tackle and overcome the challenges.” Dr Thiyagarajan VENGATESEN of HKU School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science, who took the lead in setting up the Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery & Innovation Research Unit said, the hatchery was designed not only for oyster seed production but also as a platform for research, education, and knowledge exchange, “We hope that this oyster hatchery will foster interdisciplinary research to modernise the green carbon neutral oyster aquaculture industry, as well as networking with global leaders to identify quality breed that contains trait of interest using big data and machine learning tools.” At the kick-off meeting of The Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery and Innovation Research Unit, the hatchery and aquaculture experts, local oyster industry, government agency and other stakeholders gathered to discuss the sustainability of Oyster aquaculture in Hong Kong. From the left: Mr CHUNG Shiu Cheong, General Manager of Oyster Hatchery (China), Mr Brian LEE (Director of Manufacturing) and Mrs Elizabeth MOK (Technical Service Director) of Lee Kum Kee Company Limited; Professor Vivian Wing-Wah YAM, HKU Dean of Science (Interim) and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy; Mr CHOW Wing-Kuen, Senior Fisheries Officer (Aquaculture Fisheries) of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department; Dr Thiyagarajan VENGATESEN of HKU School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science; Mr Fung CHAN of Hong Kong Oyster Company Limited.  

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Professor Quentin Parker, Director of the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR) at The University of Hong Kong and one of the co-winners of the 2022 Gemini Prize.

HKU Astrophysicist Professor Quentin Parker and His Collaborators Awarded the 2022 Gemini Prize

Professor Quentin A PARKER, Director of the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR) at The University of Hong Kong, together with his collaborator, Pascal Le Dû, amateur astronomer and 2SPOT association President, as well as amateur astronomers and members of the 2SPOT association Thomas Petit, Lionel Mulato and Olivier Garde, are awarded Le Prix Gemini 2022 (the 2022 Gemini Prize) co-organised by La Société astronomique de France (SAF) and Société Française d’ Astronomie et d’Astrophysique (SF2A), for their project ‘Search for and Confirmation of Planetary Nebulae Candidates’. ‘I feel honoured and humbled to receive this international recognition of the importance of our professional astronomical work with our French amateur colleagues in the discovery and confirmation of a significant new sample of Galactic Planetary Nebulae (the beautiful glowing shrouds of low mass dying stars). This “prix Gemini” is a fitting reward for the more than a decade of work of many of my close French amateur colleagues, led by Pascal Le Dû, in this incredible pro-am endeavour of scientific discovery, and I am proud to have played a role in their great pursuit,’ said Professor Parker. The prize (medal, diploma and cash award), which is set up to reward outstanding collaboration between professionals and amateurs in astronomy and related sciences, will be delivered during the SF2A Symposium to be held in Besancon, France, on June 10, 2022. A talk will be given by the awardees during the Gemini Pro-Am workshop on the same day. The project also has an opportunity to publish a paper in a coming issue of L’Astronomie magazine, an edition of Société astronomique de France, by the year end of 2022. About the Project This prestigious award results from an intensive and coordinated ten-year observational pro-am program designed to uncover and confirm Galactic Planetary Nebulae (PNe). This has been undertaken by a dedicated group of largely French amateur astronomers led by Pascal Le Dû in collaboration with professional colleagues led by Professor Quentin Parker. This group has so far uncovered 209 spectroscopically confirmed Galactic PNe. These discoveries represent ~5% of all 3831 Galactic PNe currently known according to the HASH (Hong Kong AAO Strasbourg H-alpha Planetary Nebula) PNe database. This award recognises the power and value of the amateur community in undertaking a coordinated and focused program such as this with their professional counterparts. About Professor Quentin Parker and Laboratory for Space Research Quentin Parker joined The University of Hong Kong in 2015 and is currently Director of the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR, see https://www.lsr.hku.hk). Research activities are mainly associated with Wide Field Astronomy, and he has discovered more Planetary Nebulae (PNe) than anyone in history. He has also extensive experience as an astrophysics instrumentalist and has published 571 papers/articles, of which 278 are refereed. These have more than 23475 citations with a h-index of 71. Quentin also has a long-term interest in Chinese Bronze artefacts and cultural heritage, interdisciplinary studies and science pedagogy. More recently, Quentin has been engaged in promoting STEM education from a Space and entrepreneurial direction (see https://cubesat.hku.hk) and is currently Vice Chairman of OASA – the Orion Astropreneur Space Academy (https://www.oasahk.org). He is also an active newspaper opinion piece contributor.

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Epinephelus fuscoguttatus, a type of brown marbled grouper which is listed as vulnerable and decreasing according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were detected in the study.

HKU Conservation Forensics Lab develops novel environmental DNA monitoring method for identifying rare and endangered fish species sold in Hong Kong wet markets

In a paper recently published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, researchers in the Conservation Forensics Lab at The University of Hong Kong have outlined a powerful new tool for monitoring trade of rare and endangered fish species in Hong Kong wet markets. Using environmental DNA (eDNA) present in the drain runoff water of fish markets, researchers were able to extract and sequence enough DNA to identify over 100 species of fish that had passed through the market. Various types of vulnerable or endangered species were detected by the eDNA method in the study, including Epinephelus fuscoguttatus, a type of brown marbled grouper which is listed as vulnerable and decreasing according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and three eel species including Anguilla japonica and Anguilla rostrata, which are listed as endangered by IUCN, as well as CITES(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)-listed European eel, Anguilla anguilla. Two types of bream were detected including the golden threadfin bream (Nemipterus virgatus) which is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, and the Okinawa seabream (Acanthopagus sivicolus), listed as vulnerable and decreasing by the IUCN. Metabarcoding Allows Identification of Species At Once Barcoding is a common method of species identification, wherein certain regions of an organism’s genome are sequenced and used to identify the organism in question. Each species has its own unique ‘barcode’, which can provide a more reliable form of identification than traditional morphology-based methods. This technique can be expanded to identifying many species at once (known as metabarcoding) thanks to advanced high-throughput sequencing technology. Even the small amounts of DNA shed from plants and animals into the environment (eDNA) are sufficient for metabarcoding which enables identification of mixed communities of species that may have been present in the area. In this study, researchers in the Conservation Forensics Lab aimed to develop a method for identifying fish species traded in Hong Kong markets that does not rely on having fish taxonomy experts spend hours visually identifying every fish on sale. Further, many fish vendors are often reluctant to permit lengthy inspections of their wares, as endangered fish species can often be found for sale in Hong Kong markets. The method outlined in the paper compared the two most common types of eDNA capture: filtration and precipitation. In the filtration method, one litre of water collected from the drains in three wet markets was collected and passed through a fine filter, which captured tissue, blood, and other cellular debris holding enough DNA to make an identification of the fish species that shed it. The precipitation method used even less water, enabling identification of fish species present by chemical precipitation of eDNA present in cellular debris from 45 ml of drain runoff. After the drain water was collected, eDNA was extracted and sequenced and fish species present in the three wet markets investigated over a 5-day period were identified. To confirm the results, an expert fish taxonomist performed a visual survey, and the overlap of species detections were compared. High Reliability and Easy to Adapt While it is impossible to be 100% certain in identifying every single species present with either method, the advantages of a DNA-based survey method are numerous. Chiefly, DNA-based IDs can be more reliable than morphological IDs, and this is especially true when fish are sold butchered or belong to certain similar-looking genera and families. The DNA extraction method outlined in the paper is also very simple and can easily be executed by anyone with basic molecular lab training of several hours. Visual surveys require hours and hours of extensive work by multiple expert taxonomists, which has been a factor holding back rollout of regular surveys in Hong Kong. ‘We hope that our method will not only encourage local authorities to adopt more high-tech solutions to monitoring and combatting the illegal wildlife trade in Hong Kong, but also help expand the use of eDNA and metabarcoding further into urban contexts,’ said John L RICHARDS, co-author of the journal paper. About HKU Conservation Forensics Lab Working towards the conservation of illegally traded wildlife in Hong Kong, members of the Conservation Forensics Lab at HKU are trained in various tools and techniques for identifying the legality of seized species. In order to support government and conservation efforts in curbing the trade of threatened species, the lab provides a platform for interdisciplinary scientific research and education to the general public. For more information about the Lab, please visit: https://www.ccf-hku.com Link of journal paper: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.13842

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HKU Biologists Reveal a Novel Macrophages-mediated Mechanism that Promotes Peritoneal Metastasis of Ovarian Cancer, Providing Important Insights into Its Therapeutic Strategy

The research discovers that Wnt/b-catenin signalling in metastatic cells upregulates the expression of cancer cells metadherin and communicates with macrophages through CEACAM1. Image modified from original illustration of Adv. Sci. (Weinh) 2022; e21   A research team at the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong (HKU), has revealed novel cellular and molecular interactions between cancer cells and tumour-associated macrophages that promote peritoneal metastasis of ovarian cancer. These findings provide important insights into the therapeutic strategy of ovarian cancer and are now published in Advanced Science, a leading interdisciplinary open-access journal.    Background Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of deaths among all gynaecological cancers. Over 70% of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage with metastatic diseases. Peritoneal metastasis is very difficult to treat due to tumour heterogeneity and the dynamic interactions of cancer cells with the tumour microenvironment. The lack of suitable experimental models has been one significant obstacle to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of this critical process, and the distinct interactions among different cancer cell subclones and tumour microenvironment are largely unknown using traditional bulk measurement.   Research methods and findings Key findings: In metastatic ovarian cancer cells, Wnt/b-catenin signalling upregulates the expression of metadherin, which communicates with macrophages through CEACAM1, a carcinoembryonic antigen expressed by macrophages, suggesting that blockade of macrophage-tumour communications (by inhibiting either metadherin or CEACAM1) could greatly reduce peritoneal metastasis.   Based on tumour heterogeneity, the research team has previously established an isogenic model that mimics spontaneous ovarian cancer metastasis. Using this model, an upregulation of Wnt/β-catenin signalling was found in the metastatic cells by gene profiling and bioinformatic analyses. Wnt/β-catenin signalling is known to play critical roles in embryonic development, tissue homeostasis and cancer development, since its upregulation increases oncogene expression and facilitates cancer metastasis.   Macrophages play key roles in both the innate and adaptive immunity to orchestrate the concerted immune responses and are the most abundant immune cells in the ovarian cancer tumour microenvironment. Observation of cellular behaviours using single-cell time-lapse microscopy reveals that in the presence of macrophages, a subset of the metastatic cells shows selective advantage of becoming polyploidy, a phenotype that duplicates entire genomes, could promote tumour aggressiveness and therapeutic resistance. On the other hand, the metastatic cells polarise macrophages to a tumour-associated phenotype that reinforces the polyploid phenotype. Further molecular analyses suggest that b-catenin signalling upregulates cancer cell surface metadherin, which communicates through CEACAM1 expressed by macrophages.    The clinical relevance of these scientific findings were further validated by tumour xenografts in mice and patients’ clinical samples. Blocking macrophage-tumour communications via the inhibition of metadherin or CEACAM1 greatly reduced peritoneal metastasis in humanised mouse models which have human immune cells. Since metadherin and CEACAM1 are accessible on the outer surface of cells, they represent highly suitable candidates for tumour cell tracking and clinical targeting.   Research significance The team has made a key discovery of a potential driving mechanism for cancer cell polyploidy and genomic instability, which is initiated through direct interaction with macrophages. Targeting components of the molecular cascade identified in the study holds great therapeutic potential to disrupt polyploidisation of the cancer subclones that drive metastasis.   ‘Our findings are intriguing because few factors that regulate cancer polyploidy have been identified to date, and we have also provided a mechanistic rationale for targeting b-catenin or its downstream signalling molecules to decrease peritoneal dissemination associated with poor prognosis,’said Professor Alice WONG, Director (Interim) of the School of Biological Sciences, who led the research. The team plans to explore in more detail the signalling mechanisms that drive polyploidy in the metastatic cells, as this would greatly enhance the understanding of the genomically unstable disease.    About the research team The research was co-led by Professor Alice Sze Tsai WONG (Director (Interim) of School of Biological Sciences, HKU), and Dr Jue SHI (Associate Professor, Department of Physics, Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU)). Dr Sally Kit Yan TO (Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, HKU), was the first author, with the assistance of Dr Maggie Kei Shuen TANG (Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory for Synthetic Chemistry and Chemical Biology, InnoHK; Honorary Research Associate, School of Biological Sciences, HKU) and Dr Yin TONG (Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Pathology, HKU). Other collaborators include Dr Jiangwen ZHANG (Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, HKU), Dr Karen Kar Loen CHAN, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, HKU), and Dr Philip Pun Ching IP (Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, HKU).   Acknowledgements This work was supported by the Hong Kong Research Grant Council grants (17104820, 17141216, C4041-17G and C2006-17E) and ‘Laboratory for Synthetic Chemistry and Chemical Biology’ under the Health@InnoHK Program launched by Innovation and Technology Commission, HKSAR. Professor Alice WONG is a recipient of the Croucher Foundation Senior Research Fellowship.   Link of journal paper can be accessed from here: https://doi.org/10.1002/advs.202103230   More information about Professor Alice WONG’s work and her research team: https://www.awonglab.com/

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Victoria Shanghai Academy's QBE Agricultural Monitoring, a remote sensing CubeSat as a real-time crop monitoring system that can help expand production and maximise yields.

Secondary School Students team up to simulate production of “CubeSat” prototypes to unfold business opportunities in the “NewSpace” era

The Business & Economy in Space Technology (BEST) programme, the first-of-its-kind Space Technology initiative in Hong Kong for secondary school students, has come to an end with roaring success.  "BEST" is a guided, STEM-based, hands-on and immersive, interdisciplinary educational experience with a strong entrepreneurial edge. It is based around a CubeSat concept & a design programme that has resulted in an astonishing level of quality and ideas from participating schools.   The programme was co-organised by the HKU Academy for the Talented1, the HKU Laboratory for Space Research2 and the Orion Astropreneur Space Academy (OASA)3, with an aim to nurture the next generation of  STEM “Astropreneur.”. Participants attended a two-semester series of educational talks and workshops with professional mentorship guidance to learn how Space Technology and Space Data can bring immense business opportunities in the "New Space”4 era.   A total of 22 school teams participated in the programme, including Carmel Pak U Secondary School, Shung Tak Catholic English College, Queen's College, St. Stephen’s Girl’s College, Victoria Shanghai Academy, and Chinese International School etc. The teams applied Space Technology to design a “CubeSat” that can tackle critical issues and imminent challenges under the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Their projects yielded some exciting business opportunities in the “New Space” Era that can contribute to the future development of Hong Kong, the GBA and mankind.   “The judging panel for the final competition is comprised of industry professionals, including Mr Howard Cheng, the Chief Operating Officer of Cyberport, and Professor Quentin Parker, the Director of HKU Laboratory of Space Research. The “BEST Overall Award” was awarded to Victoria Shanghai Academy's project “QBE Agricultural Monitoring”. The team proposed the use of a remote sensing CubeSat as a real-time crop monitoring system for farmers that can expand production and maximise yields. One of the team members, Nicole Tse, said: “I got to explore Space Economy and gained hands-on experiences, and this really inspired me to consider studying related programmes in the future.” Team captain Michael Tong also said: “Our mentors guided us throughout our journey and were really helpful. They pointed out our blind spots and provided us with new perspectives, we have learnt a lot from this project.”   The “The BEST Astropreneurship Award” was won by St. Stephen's Girls' College. Its project “spASH” worked on a meaningful initiative that allows people to commemorate deceased loved ones in a special way. They proposed an affordable commemoration service by sending small samples of cremated ashes into earth orbit with a CubeSat. The in-orbit camera can send back pictures of earth, and the CubeSat also allows people to send commemorating messages to Space. Ms. Yau, a teacher from St. Stephen’s Girls’ College said: “Students can truly explore interdisciplinary STEM topics when choosing their project topic. In the process of building a CubeSat, students have to ensure that their final project is technically feasible and that their marketing plan could be carried out. It was truly an unforgettable STEM learning experience for the school team.”   The judging panel appreciated the ideas and designs of all the projects and praised the teams for coming up with innovative CubeSat concepts that are very innovative and even better than many similar competitions The teams put forward specific solutions targeting global issues, while at the same time taking into account the commercial and technical aspects of the project. The overall plans are comprehensive and feasible, and are comparable to the designs from students in tertiary institutions and start-up companies.   Professor Bennett Yim, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and International Student Exchange, said that he was delighted to see the outstanding performance of all teams. The global Space Economy is one of the main areas of development in today’s digitalized world. HKU hopes that through this programme, secondary school students can gain a deeper understanding of such cutting-edge scientific knowledge and technology, and join the new generation of Space Economy entrepreneurs.   Below are the details of the winning teams: Award Awarded Team Awarded Project The BEST Overall Award Victoria Shanghai Academy QBE Agricultural Monitoring While over one-quarter of the world’s agricultural land resides in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 5% of Sub-Saharan soil is currently being irrigated. In view of this, the team has proposed the use of a remote sensing CubeSat as a real-time crop monitoring system that can help expand production and maximise yields. The BEST Astropreneurship Award St. Stephen's Girls' College spASH The team aimed to provide an alternative commemoration method. Many samples of cremated ashes can orbit the Earth within a CubeSat to provide a novel service for loved ones. The BEST STEM Award Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong Seatellite By equipping CubeSat with calibrated infrared sensors, global oil spills can be accurately detected, providing a more economical and sustainable way to help manage oil spill pollution issues. The Most Liked Project Award Chinese International School Team 1 Soil Salinity The team simulated a CubeSat on board hyperspectral camera to provide Red, Green and Blue (RGB) image values that can be converted into a salinity index to indicate the amount of salt stress within the soil. The project targets underlying problems from the rapidly growing population that has been putting food security at risk.   Check out the winning school team videos from the BEST programme (5mins each): https://cubesat.hku.hk/school-teams   The Business & Economy in Space Technology (BEST) programme The Business & Economy in Space Technology (BEST) programme is supported by the HKU Academy for the Talented, the HKU Laboratory for Space Research and the Orion Astropreneur Space Academy (OASA). It is the first-of-its-kind Space Technology initiative in Hong Kong for secondary school students that is aimed at nurturing the next generation of “Astropreneur.” Participants attend workshops with professional mentorship guidance to learn how Space Technology and Space Data can bring immense business opportunities in the "New Space” era.   Professor Quentin Parker, Director of the HKU Laboratory for Space Research and the Business and STEM Mentors offer professional guidance to the St. Stephen's Girls' College team on their project “spASH". The school team from Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong provides a more economical and sustainable way to solve oil spill pollution issues by equipping CubeSat with infrared sensors that accurately detect the scope of oil spills.   Notes: 1The Academy for the Talented, established in 2011 at the University of Hong Kong, is a membership-based programme that brings together global students from diverse backgrounds. The unique programme challenges members to better understand their intellectual potential and advance their academic and personal development (talented.hku.hk). 2The HKU Laboratory for Space Research (LSR) is an interdisciplinary research entity that strives to play an important role in strategically positioning astrophysics, space, and planetary research of both HKU and Hong Kong SAR to a higher level (www.lsr.hku.hk). and to take advantage of the burgeoning global space and planetary science ecosystem. 3OASA, or The Orion Astropreneur Space Academy (Hong Kong) Limited, is an NGO that has been established to accelerate talents and start-ups for NewSpace opportunities throughout the world, starting from the international city of Hong Kong.  OASA works closely with all universities, mindful employers and help them establish STEAM programs where youths can learn how to build their own careers in the NewSpace era and improve ESG.  (www.oasahk.org). 4“NewSpace” is a term coined to refer to the recent commercialisation of the space sector.  

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This start-up business has been awarded HK$200,000 by Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU) 2022-2023 exercise under the Innovation and Technology Commission.

A Start-up Co-founded by Graduates from School of Biological Sciences was Funded by Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) to Provide Testing Services for Food Products

Food production went through a long and complex manufacturing supply chain that could span continents and involve third-party vendors at each step of the way, giving rise to food fraud. The issue drained a huge amount of money from the food industry by substituting high-quality food with cheaper alternatives, often from unknown, unsecured sources. Making matters worse, substitutions are often undetectable in final products.  In view of this, PhD graduates Dr Colin Chung-Lim LUK(on the left) and Dr Inga Elizabeth CONTI-JERPE from School of Biological Sciences, co-founded a start-up business ‘isoFoodtrace’ to provide testing services for food products by using stable isotope technology, which helps detect food fraud and ensure food safety. In collaboration with the Stable Isotope Laboratory at School of Biological Sciences, its scientific testing service can trace food products’ origin and farming/rearing method (grass-fed, wild-caught, free-ranged or organic) with half the cost of existing services and require only a small amount (1 gram) of sample for each test.  This start-up business has been awarded HK$200,000 by Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU) 2022-2023 exercise under the Innovation and Technology Commission.  

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