Do animals have a preference when they choose their mates? Why does an individual prefer a particular mate over another? What are the cues responsible for individual recognition and mate choice? Do individuals with particular genotypes have higher fitness than the others? Our lab uses field and molecular approaches to answer these questions. We study how the genome-wide diversity and candidate genes such as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes affect mate choice and fitness in non-model species. We also study the co-evolution between host and pathogens. Our research systems include vertebrates such as birds and mammals, as well as invertebrates.
Animal phenotypic traits are highly diverse. Some traits have been shaped by natural and sexual selection for a long time and play important roles in survival and signalling. Our lab is studying the genetic basis of animal traits, and is trying to understand how did they evolve. One of the most diverse phenotypic traits in the natural world is animal coloration, and we are studying the genetic basis and evolution of it and how does it affect animal communication and speciation. Another big research interest of our lab is to study genes involved in immunity and senses.
Biodiversity is under serious threat in the Anthropocene. With our genomic techniques we try to investigate the demographic history of endangered species and determine the genetic diversity of extant populations. This knowledge is highly valuable in designing proper conservation strategies.
Arms race between host and parasites is intense in nature. Animals have co-evolved with parasites and pathogens for millions of years. Microbiome may also play an important role in this host-parasite interaction. In our lab, we study the co-evolution between host, parasites, and microbiome.
A key focus of our lab is to study animal cognition, intelligence, senses and communication. We aim to understand how animals use different senses to communicate and respond to stimuli, and how their mental capacities help them to survive and reproduce.
Animal pathogens may not only lead to devastating effect on the survival of a species, but can also cause zoonotic diseases. Our lab studies pathogens in wild and captive animals, in order to understand the threat of animal diseases to endangered species and public health.
RESEARCH FUNDING & AWARDS
2022–2025 Research Grants Council (RGC) General Research Fund, PI
2022–2025 Seed Funding for Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Scheme, PI
2022–2024 Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF), PI
2021–2023 Seed Fund for Basic Research (HKU), PI
2021–2023 Research Grants Council (RGC) Collaborative Research Fund, Co-PI
2020–2023 Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF), PI
2020–2022 Seed Fund for Basic Research (HKU), PI
2020–2022 Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF), PA
2019–2021 Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCF) funding, PI
2019 Research Grants Council (RGC) Early Career Scheme Award
2019–2022 Research Grants Council (RGC) Early Career Scheme, PI
2018–2020 Seed Fund for Basic Research (HKU), PI
2018–2023 Croucher Start-up Allowance, PI