Between August and December 2018 I was allowed to dive into the life of a student at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Diving can be taken quite literal, as the adjacent Red Sea is worthy every second that you can spend in it!! The copious amounts of coral and fish impressed me and made me understand how important it is to study this extreme hot and saline waterbody.
The work with scientists from different working groups made the internship extraordinarily interesting. During the first weeks a team led by Professor Michael Berumen and consisting of students from the Reef Ecology Lab explored some of the reefs located directly in front of the campus via dive transects, surveys and deployed baited remote underwater video devices (BRUVS).
During the course of the internship I was lucky to be able to help Master student Fadiyah Baalkhuyur in her research on micro plastic and European food fish, sea bream, in the laboratory. Dr. Roberto Arrigoni taught me to work on what a senior scientist does very routined in the laboratory; DNA sequencing, which was new to me and extremely interesting! M.Sc. Gabriela Perna showed me how to process coral tissue in the lab for subsequent analyses and Dr. Darren Coker supervised me constructing fish autonomous reef monitoring structures (FARMS) and lead diving surveys. During further coral, anemone, fish surveys and trips with the Phd students Alison Monroe, Royale Hardenstine, Matt Tietbohl, Rodrigo Villalobos and Wally Rich along the coast, I could experience the diverse and often unexplored marine flora and fauna that these guys are keenly studying.
I supported M.Sc. Lyndsey Tanabe to search for temperature loggers, hidden in different depths of the sand near Al Lith (south) and Ras Baridi (north of KAUST). Both areas are important sites for marine sea turtles as they use the beaches for nesting. With M.Sc. student George Short we tested the amount of predation across different areas of nearshore reefs with a method called ‘squid pops’ that she repeated for a seasonal comparison in her study. And I could even explore some of the local intertidal zone with M.Sc. student Timothy Thomson during his field work in the mangroves, which sharpened my “eye” for the invisible microbiology in mangrove sediment.
In summary, the warm days in the Kingdom were filled with work and learning experiences from the lab to the seafloor. The working environment was joyful and I have only fantastic memories of the young scientists working at the Red Sea Research Centre.