MERIT addresses global marine environmental problems

Regina Lau

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 More than 150 guests, staff members and students gathered at the Centre for Marine Environmental Research and Innovative Technology (MERIT), 28 January, to celebrate its opening. Led by CityU and joined by  five other local universities, MERIT has been selected by the University Grants Committee (UGC) as an “Area of Excellence” (AoE) in Hong Kong. This is the only AoE dealing with environmental issues.


Kicking off the opening, Professor David Tong, CityU’s Acting President, delivered his welcoming speech.

“This AoE is truly an international, collaborative effort,” he said. “It marks a significant  achievement by our young university, through the maturation of one of our major areas of research activity.” Officiating at the occasion, Dr Michael Chiu, Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection Department, HKSAR Government, said, “It is encouraging to see six universities working toward a single goal—the improvement of the marine environment in Hong Kong. I am looking forward to innovative technologies from this Centre.” Also officiating at the ceremony were: Professor C F Ng, President and Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong Baptist University; Professor J M Ko, Vice President of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University; Professor Tony R Eastham, Associate Vice-President for Research and Development of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Professor Joseph Lee, Pro Vice-Chancellor of The University of Hong Kong; and Professor Rudolf Wu, CityU’s Professor (Chair) of Biology and Director of MERIT.


Problems caused by the oversupply of nutrients, disease-causing agents and man-made toxic chemicals pose significant ecological and public health risks worldwide, especially in Hong Kong and the South China region with its very high population density and rapid industrialization.The MERIT project, funded with $45 million from the UGC, focuses on the development of innovative technologies for the early detection, assessment, prediction and control of pollutants that affect the marine environment.


The five-year MERIT project, led by Professor Rudolf Wu, comprises 24 outstanding researchers from the City University

of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, The University of Hong Kong and seven world class scientists from the US, Australia, Norway and Mainland China. “We have achieved an exceptionally high level of synergy through this collaboration of toxicologists, ecologists, physiologists, engineers, genomic technologist, chemists and statisticians,” Professor Wu said. “This project will establish Hong Kong as a leading centre for marine environmental research, and enable Hong Kong to capitalize on the growing commercial opportunities presented by the enormous world market.”

MERIT will not only be unique globally and at the forefront of research, but will also foster economic development along with enhanced environmental protection. Examples of novel research projects conducted through MERIT include: the development of “Artificial Mussels” to monitor heavy metals in sea water; the application of “Multiplex Quantitative Real-time PCR and Gene Chip Technology” to monitor waterborne pathogens such as Vibrio, Cholera and E. coli; and investigation on how “Hypoxia” might disrupt endocrine functions and cause malformation and reproductive failure in fish.


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