MERIT designated by UN body as first regional centre of excellence

Serene Chu


The Centre for Marine Environmental Research and Innovative Technology (MERIT), led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU), has been designated by a United Nations body as the first Regional Centre of Excellence in Marine Pollution, underpinning its leadership position in the field of marine pollution research, monitoring, assessment and management.

The designation was awarded, for the first time, by the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), under the United Nations Development Programme, and officially endorsed by its 11 national partners, including China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam and Cambodia, and 16 non-national partners.

It recognised the leadership of MERIT in marine environmental research, the distinctive contribution and relevance of its work in the East Asian Seas (EAS) region and its continuous commitment to contributing to the sustainable development in the EAS region.

Professor (Chair) Rudolf Wu Shiu-sun, from the Department of Biology and Chemistry of CityU and Director of MERIT, said this recognition was a testimony to the excellence of their research as well as their high application values.

"We are pleased that our research efforts over the years have been able to assist governments from the EAS region and around the world to address the issue of marine pollution and better manage our environment. This very prestigious designation serves as an unequivocal example to demonstrate CityU's mission to create applicable knowledge for the benefit of society," Professor Wu said.

As the Regional Centre of Excellence, MERIT will play a leading role in the protection, sustainable utilisation and management of marine resources and environment in the EAS region, while at the same time providing expert advice and training to governments and organisations in the region on marine environmental issues.

At the same time, MERIT has received an $8.1 million one-off special equipment grant from the University Grants Committee for the establishment of an Environmental Proteomics & Metabolomics Laboratory: the first of its kind in Asia. The grant will further boost the marine environment research capabilities of CityU.

In recent years, there has been a worldwide trend towards using bio-indicators to monitor the health of marine ecosystem instead of measuring the concentration of pollutants in the environment. By quantifying specific biochemical and molecular responses of marine organisms to changes in environmental conditions and pollution levels, the risk and impact of certain pollutants on the marine ecosystem can be more easily assessed.

The new laboratory facilities acquired through the grant will greatly facilitate the analysis of such biochemical and molecular responses, in particular changes in protein levels in marine organism genomes. This will ultimately provide a more reliable and economical way of studying the long-term impact of environmental changes.

The project will be led by Professor Wu and his team members include Professor (Chair) Paul Lam Kwan-sing, Associate Professors Dr Michael Lam Hon-wah and Dr Richard Kong Yuen-chong, and Assistant Professor Dr Lam Yun-wah, from the Department of Biology and Chemistry.


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