Third Red Sea Expedition Underway at KAUST

By King Abdullah University Of Science Technology, PRNE
Monday, December 5, 2011

THUWAL, Saudi Arabia, December 6, 2011 -

The third Red Sea Expedition of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is almost complete, having set sail from the University on September 15. This 81-day research voyage is the debut expedition for the new Director of the Red Sea Research Center, Xabier Irigoien, who joined KAUST only a few weeks prior. Irigoien was previously the Head of the Pelagic Fisheries and Biological Oceanography at AZTI (Institute for Fisheries and Food Science) in Pasaia, Spain, and holds a PhD in Oceanography from the University of Bordeaux, France.

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The 2011 KAUST Red Sea Expedition (KRSE) involves about 60 faculty and researchers from KAUST and some of the world’s premier marine science institutions: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), USA; American University of Cairo (AUC), Egypt; Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR), Greece; and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), China. The expedition also involves national participants: King Abdulaziz University, Ministry of Agriculture, Saudi Geological Survey, and General Commission of Survey of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation.

“The expedition’s cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary initiative aims to advance marine science and education in Saudi Arabia. Because of its wide scope and the state-of-the-art technology involved, it will be remembered as a milestone in marine research in the Red Sea, explained Irigoien.

Aboard the 62 meter long research vessel Aegaeo, researchers perform various measurements and collect samples for many studies, including large-scale oceanography, brine pool and deep-sea microbiology, colds seeps and associated biota, as well as deep and mid-water fauna.

The expedition’s sampling strategy is actualized through the expertise of the researchers and the use of state-of-the-art equipment, including autonomous self-recording oceanographic instruments and underwater observation systems (both manned and remotely-operated).

“The scale of KRSE is just tremendous, given the peculiarities of the research objectives involved and the challenges associated with achieving the sampling requirements,” said Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem, Manager of KAUST’s Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab, who spearheaded the expedition preparations.

The diversified scope of the expedition is highly multidisciplinary.  While the KAUST scientists and researchers involved are mostly from the University’s Red Sea Research Center, other centers and labs participating in the research and sample analyses include KAUST’s Water Desalination and Reuse Center; Physical Sciences and Engineering Division; Analytical Core Lab; Advanced Nanotechnology, Imaging, and Characterization Core Lab; and Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab.

Legs one through four have involved large-scale hydrographic sampling at over 100 stations; microbiological studies analyzing the differences between brine pools and non-brine pools; study of mesopelagic fishes and brine pools through the deployment of acoustic and camera moorings; and investigation into a KRSE 2010 discovery: a cold brine seep system.

The current, final leg is investigating the possible occurrence of deepwater corals beyond the reach of sunlight and sample collection of deep fauna.


KAUST is an international, graduate level university committed to advancing science and technology through transdisciplinary research, education, and innovation. The University’s unique matrix structure supports both basic and goal-oriented research in the globally significant areas of energy, water, food, and environment.

The University is located on the shores of the Red Sea, about 90 kilometers (50 miles) north of Jeddah.  The total area of the self-contained community spans about 36 million square meters, including a unique coral reef ecosystem that the University preserves as a marine sanctuary. In 2011, KAUST was named “Lab of the Year” by leading science and technology publication, R&D Magazine.

More information
Marine Science Faculty and Student Openings
KAUST Red Sea Expedition 2011
Red Sea Research Center
Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab

For more information:
Christopher Sands, Head of University Communications



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