Leading Scientists Converge in Abu Dhabi to Conduct Field Research on Gulf Coral Reefs

Abu Dhabi: The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Institute, with the participation and support of the Ministry of Environment and Water Marine Environment Research Centre, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, and the Fujairah Municipality, will host 15 experts in the field of marine biology for a weeklong workshop in Abu Dhabi designed to generate new scientific findings on the nature of coral reefs in the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

The scientists who will come from the US, Australia, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will participate in field research in areas around Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, collecting samples and making observations about the local marine environment. To complement the workshop, the NYUAD Institute will host a lecture on Sunday, September 16, called “Habitat Degradation on Coral Reefs,” presented by Morgan Pratchett, professorial research fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. The event will be held at NYUAD’s downtown campus at 6:30pm and will be free and open to the public, however registration via NYUAD’s website is required.

The Arabian Gulf has been acknowledged by marine biologists internationally as having a unique and scientifically significant coral reef ecosystem. Coral and reef-associated fauna in the Gulf manage to survive at exceptionally high summer temperatures: temperatures at which many coral species around the world would “bleach,” or die off. In many ways, study of the Arabian Gulf ecosystem represents an opportunity to better understand the capability of marine life to survive in extreme environments, a matter of particular interest with regards to future climate change and rising global sea temperatures.

“The purpose of this workshop is to promote collaborative research during a period when temperatures in the Gulf are at their peak. This provides an excellent opportunity to use the Gulf as a natural laboratory to study how fish, corals, and other reef fauna respond to this kind of stress,” NYUAD Assistant Professor of Biology John Burt said.

This workshop follows a January conference, organized by the Institute and convened by Burt, on Coral Reefs in the Gulf, which brought together more than 150 experts to discuss critical issues pertaining to the Arabian Gulf and to identify knowledge gaps for future exploration. The upcoming workshop will now work to directly address some of these knowledge gaps, such as understanding the biological mechanisms that allow for the Gulf’s marine life to withstand such extreme temperatures.

The researchers will collect coral, algae, and fish samples for molecular and genetic lab analysis with the aim to address six key research questions on topics such as the growth rates of coral and fish, the impact of high temperatures on the feeding behavior of fish, and the impact of extreme temperatures on coral energy reserves.

“It is exciting to see an international science community with an active interest in investigating the local marine environment starting to develop and engage,” Burt said.

Leave a Reply