PhD Student Named National Geographic Explorer for Research in Marine Biology

January 15, 2018
  • Mr Jonathan D. Cybulski, PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences

    Mr Jonathan D. Cybulski, PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences

Congratulations to Mr Jonathan D Cybulski, PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences under the supervision of Dr David Baker, for his being named as National Geographic Explorer by the National Geographic Foundation.

Coral reefs in the South China Sea are a biodiversity hotspot, one that is presently under attack from global climate change and regional development. In recognition of their importance and conservation status, myriad efforts for coral restoration are in development for the Chinese mainland. However, effective restoration plans must identify a relevant historical baseline for biodiversity. It is crucial to identify what has been lost. Mr Jonathan D. Cybulski, PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences, has been named a National Geographic Explorer and awarded a funding by the National Geographic Foundation to conduct his fieldwork on coral reefs in Sri Lanka. Jonathan’s proposed project links historic and paleoecology, archaeology, and human ecosystem interaction to tell the story of the original stressor to Hong Kong coral reefs – the slaked lime industry. 

Through this National Geographic grant, Jonathan will visit Sri Lanka, one of the last remaining centres of the coral lime industry, to help understand the process of coral mining and identify any sampling bias that may exist when harvesting live coral from the reef. He will collect present coral diversity transect data, conduct interviews with local industry workers, and observe the current process, which is still similar to Hong Kong historic industry. This novel approach proposes to incorporate diversity data from preindustrial time, a period that is often ignored in modern ecology. The results of this project will detail the specific species that existed historically in the ecosystems, as well as identify ecosystem changes, with the aim of informing restoration efforts to rewild our marine environments. The Young Explorers Grants offer opportunities to young individuals to pursue research, conservation, and exploration-related projects consistent with National Geographic’s existing grant programmes. Jonathan joins the ranks of hundreds of other adventurers before him who set out to investigate, explore, and tell the story of our world’s changing environment.


Jan 18, 2018