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“I like corals because they tell you something about the marine ecosystem. They’re fragile creatures that can only exist in a certain temperature and water-quality state, and they’ve found a way to be incredibly resilient in Hong Kong,” Cybulski explains.
Remarkably, Hong Kong has more coral species than the entire Caribbean combined, while over 25 per cent of China’s marine biodiversity can be found in Hong Kong waters, despite the fact that the territory accounts for less than 0.03 per cent of the country’s coastline. “There are places with 100 per cent coral cover and there are places with over 30 species of coral in one area,” he says.
The places Cybulski recommends to see the highest diversity and the highest coral cover in Hong Kong are around the outlying islands between Mirs Bay and Port Shelter in the territory’s northeast, including Tung Ping Chau, Crescent Island, Bluff Island and Sharp Island, and in the Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, a large protected area near Sai Kung that’s home to coral and many other types of sealife.
It’s in these areas that Cybulski can often be found scuba diving to gather historical data, work that helped some of his HKU colleagues to create 3D-printed terracotta tiles with various species of corals attached that are being used to attempt to rejuvenate the coral reefs of Hoi Ha Wan.
Such spectacular vistas also help to inspire Cybulski in his personal mission, to communicate the science behind nature in a way that makes it easier for people to understand so that they can better appreciate the importance of protecting and conserving it. “I’m a conservation biologist and so it’s my hope to bring as much insight as I can to conserving, or at least better integrating with nature,” he says. “My hope is that, by telling the story of science in a more connectable and more human way, it will lead to more people appreciating it.”