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HKU Science Launches Hi-Tech New Marine Science Institute

Image Credits: HKU, Press Release

The Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS), Faculty of Science of The University of Hong Kong (HKU), at Cape d’Aguilar Marine Reserve was recently launched and celebrates the opening of SWIMS’ expansion and marking the beginning of a new era in marine research.

Riding on its re-opening, SWIMS also launched the ‘Restoring Hong Kong’s Whale’ Campaign to restore the fin whale skeleton, the symbol of marine conservation that has been sitting on the shore beside SWIMS for 3 decades, in the hope of revitalising the icon and appealing for support to educational activities.

Since its inception in 1990, SWIMS has long been a premier marine centre driving the understanding of coastal marine ecosystems in Hong Kong and surrounding regions. Whilst earlier research relied on more field-based approaches, recent technologies have revolutionised marine biology and the new expansion. Three decades since its launch, it comes at an opportune time for SWIMS to modernise and expand its research capacity to provide HKU researchers with state-of-the-art facilities.

At the ceremony, the President and Vice-Chancellor of HKU noted that this transformative vision, the expansion, and new state-of-the-art facilities will help SWIMS achieve its goal of conserving marine biodiversity to build a sustainable coastal ecosystem.

Dean of HKU Science noted that Hong Kong, as a coastal metropolis strategically situated at the heart of Asia, is a vital hub to drive research in marine science. The newly set up marine biodiversity centre will soon establish an extensive physical and electronic reference base of Hong Kong’s marine life, which will be of use to scientists, government departments, NGOs and environmental institutions. The new facility will also introduce local citizens and students to the diversity of amazing sea life through its proposed outreach and knowledge transfer programmes.

About the expansion and new facilities

Forming an L-shape with the existing main building, the expansion and renovation will comprise a molecular laboratory, biodiversity centre and both indoor and outdoor seawater aquaria, providing state-of-the-art facilities for its growing body of new staff and research students.

Through the addition of new facilities, SWIMS will be able to host more researchers from around the world and maintain its leading role in marine science research, while also catering to the growing interest in local marine ecology and biodiversity being developed by citizens in Hong Kong.

‘Restoring Hong Kong’s Whale’ Campaign

In 2018, Hong Kong’s whale, a skeleton of a juvenile fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) sitting on the shore beside SWIMS, suffered major damage during Super Typhoon Mangkhut. The Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) has been the whale’s steward since it was first moved there in 1992.

With the reopening of SWIMS, Hong Kong’s whale will undergo its first restoration initiative in twenty years and be ‘re-born’ as a symbol for marine conservation in Hong Kong. The original bones will be preserved in the SWIMS biodiversity centre while new bones designed to withstand typhoon winds, salt spray and Hong Kong’s hot summer sun will be 3D printed using state-of-the-art technology.

A restoration campaign is being launched to help support the recreation of the whale skeleton and SWIMS research and education efforts to conserve Hong Kong’s marine environment. For details, please refer to the supplementary information attached.

About the Swire Institute of Marine Science

The Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS), originally named the Swire Marine Laboratory, was established in 1990 and is located at Cape d’Aguilar as an off-campus facility of HKU’s Faculty of Science. SWIMS facilitates and enhances interdisciplinary research, with its major research focus on coastal marine systems and their biodiversity and ecology, particularly in relation to the themes of habitat destruction and restoration; global change and adaptation; and overexploitation and sustainability.

It currently has around 75 scientists conducting active research, including many which stay in its accommodation on the cliffs overlooking SWIMS, and has recently received funding from The Swire Group Charitable Trust, the Faculty of Science, the University, and the HKSAR Government to expand its facilities to enhance its vibrant research environment.

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