Kai commenced his PhD in 2019 under the supervision of Simon Ho, Nate Lo, Anthony Gill, and Joey DiBattista (Australian Museum, Sydney). He is interested in the taxonomy, systematics, and evolution of coral reef fishes, with a focus on wrasses. Kai is active in the field of taxonomy and has described over a dozen new species of coral reef fishes, with several appearing on the covers of systematics journals.

Kai was awarded First Class Honours for his research on the stripey (Microcanthus strigatus), which he completed in the MEEP Lab under the supervision of Simon Ho, Nate Lo, and Anthony Gill (Chau Chak Wing Museum and Australian Museum). The work from his Honours project was subsequently published in the journal Molecular Ecology: “Boomeranging around Australia: Historical biogeography and population genomics of the anti‐equatorial fish Microcanthus strigatus (Teleostei: Microcanthidae)”.

For further information, please visit Kai’s personal website.

A list of Kai’s publications can be found on Google Scholar.

Awards and honours

  • Australian Museum Research Institute Postgraduate Fellowship, 2019
  • Best macro photograph and best overall photograph, Australian Coral Reef Society, 2019
  • Travel award, Genetics Society of AustralAsia, 2018
    University of Sydney

  • Postgraduate Research Support Scheme award, 2019
  • Science Centenary Fund Scholarship, 2019
  • Academic Merit Prize, 2019
  • Research Training Program Stipend Scholarship (International), 2019
  • John H Elliott Memorial Prize for Best Thesis in Animal Biology, 2018
  • Dean’s List of Excellence in Academic Performance, 2018

  • Media coverage and community engagement

    Kai has a strong social media presence on both Twitter (@FishGuyKai) and Instagram (@kaithefishguy), where he actively engages with the community on new scientific discoveries, academia, and science communication.

  • Why some tropical fish are gettin’ squiggly with it. New York Times, 22 August 2020
  • Angels in disguise: Angelfishes hybridize more than any other coral reef fishes. Forbes, 22 August 2020
  • A fish called Wakanda: New purple fish honors ‘Black Panther’. CNN, 11 July 2019
  • A fish called Wakanda. Marvel, 16 July 2019
  • Scientists identify stunning new tropical reef fish that shimmers like an opal. Forbes, 28 June 2019
  • Living the wildlife with @FishGuyKai. The Wildlife Host, 1 September 2019
  • Reef encounters: Yi-Kai Tea. Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, 25 January 2018

  • A selection of coral reef fishes that have been described by Kai.