WCMB 2023: PeerJ Presentation Award Winners

by | Aug 4, 2023 | Award Winner Interviews, Awards, Community, Conferences, Societies


The 6th World Conference on Marine Biodiversity (WCMB 2023) was successfully held on the beautiful island of Penang in Malaysia on the 2nd to 5th of July 2023. The conference brought together a total of 400 leading scientists, policymakers, conservationists, early career ocean professionals and other stake holders from 50 countries across the globe, making this one of the largest gatherings since the inception of the WCMB series….Read the full WCMB 2023 round up blog here.

Prof. Dr. Aileen Tan (WCMB Chair) and Dr Abe Woo (WCMB Co-chair)


Eva Breyer PhD-candidate at University of Vienna, Austria. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?

I was always fascinated about the oceans and the biogeochemical  processes that guide them. In my master studies I started to work on the interesting topic of marine pelagic fungi and have continued this into my PhD. My field of study reaches from oceanic fungal ecology to their ultimate role in marine biogeochemical cycles.

What first interested you in this field of research?

Fungi are a very special group of organism with great potential ranging from secondary metabolite production to degradation of refractory organic compounds in the oceans. Marine pelagic fungi especially are less studied compared to their relatives in marine sediments or in the terrestrial realm. Hence, the prospect of uncovering new insights about this kingdom is truly exciting.

Can you briefly explain the research you presented at WCMB 2023?

During the conference I could give insight in one of our current projects, which focuses on the quantification of oceanic fungal biomass and the responsible groups. So far there is not much data available for pelagic oceans and we aim to compare different methods to establish first numbers covering whole oceans.

What are you next steps?

Moving forward, our next steps involve gathering additional samples from various oceanic regions and conducting a comparative analysis to obtain a comprehensive global quantification and distribution of pelagic fungal biomass in the oceans.


Denise Ann McIntyre Undergraduate student at National University of Singapore. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?

I’ve just completed my 2nd year of undergraduate studies at the National University of Singapore and will be starting my 3rd year next month.

As an undergraduate, I’m still very new in the field of research. I was a scuba diving instructor for almost 6 years. In the last 3 years as an instructor, I spent 1-2 months a year volunteering in marine science and conservation. During my time as a volunteer, I was taught reef survey methods and for a season, I was the project leader for a coral reef monitoring project at Operation Wallacea. It was these experiences that peaked my interests in research. As someone who’s very new to research, I have not narrowed down any specific research interest per se!


Shang Ping (Ricca) Yau MPhil student at The University of Hong Kong. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?

I am an evolutionary biologist from Hong Kong, currently working on my MPhil under the supervision of Dr. Juan Diego Gaitán-Espitia. Invertebrates come with huge diversities of species, and they evolved to fit into great varieties of niches. While I am interested in studying their plasticity and adaptations to environmental stresses with the use of molecular techniques, so as to understand how this successful group of organisms evolved under natural selection. My current work focuses on thermal plasticity of the diverse Araneae communities in natural and disturbed habitats.

What first interested you in this field of research?

Distinct from endotherms like us, ectotherms are unable to maintain their body temperature at the optimum levels. The activities and metabolisms of invertebrates are hence highly influenced by their surrounding environmental conditions. This intrigues me as they evolved different strategies to help themselves overcome those unideal times under the changing environment. With the help of molecular techniques, we would be able to reveal the mechanisms behind these adaptation strategies. By understanding these mechanisms, we could also have a better prediction of their potential and limitations under the future climate crises.

Can you briefly explain the research you presented at WCMB 2023?

Tropical high shore intertidal snail Echinolittorina malaccana is well tolerated to extreme heat in summer and broad range of temperature across seasons. Through a functional transcriptomic approach, we revealed the genetic and regulatory mechanisms behind its physiological adaptation and thermal plasticity. The expression patterns in the high temperature and low temperature treatment groups revealed distinct pathways matching with their physiological responses under different thermal conditions. The results suggest that both extreme temperatures are unfavourable to the species, despite its high thermal tolerance. The limitations of the adaptive mechanisms also reflect this tough species may still be threatened by future climate change conditions.

How will you continue to build on this research?

The current stage revealed the key genes responsible for the adaptations in extreme temperatures. By testing on more precise temperatures, we may be able to further confirm the roles of each gene under different temperatures. We will also further investigate the non-coding RNA expressions to understand the mechanism of regulations of these key genes. This may provide a deeper understanding and more concrete evidence to extreme temperature adaptations.



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