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Exploring Marine Conservation: A Week with The RED SEA PROJECT™

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

The RED SEA PROJECT™ is a marine conservation organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of the Red Sea ecosystem and biodiversity. Their mission is to preserve, monitor, and protect marine and terrestrial life while also raising public awareness. We are students of Lycée Français du Caire and are part of 101 an initiative elaborated by a group of very motivated students in the Lycée Français du Caire and whose main goal was at first to strive for a better, more inclusive society that helps create responsible and mindful citizens of the future. As the years went by, and the scope of our projects widened, the protection and conservation of the environment came to be one of our main goals. That is why we have been cooperating with the RED SEA PROJECT™ since September 2021.

Catarina, Mahaullt and Mathieu during water quality and search for plankton workshop


Recently, we had the opportunity to learn more about the mission of the RED SEA PROJECT™. Over the course of this week, we joined the RED SEA PROJECT™ in their marine protection mission and got to actively contribute to the project. We were stationed in Marsa Abu Dabbab, the home of numerous corals, fish, and turtles that lie at the center of the RED SEA PROJECT™.

Mentored by Ahmed Fouad, Kate Hill and other team members, we discovered a variety of non-invasive scientific techniques and methodsthat allowed us to collect and analyze data to determine the health levels of the ecosystems we were studying. Here’s how our week as part of the RED SEA PROJECT™ research team went:


Diving into Sustainability: A Day of Discovery, Turtle Surveys, and Eco-Inspiration at the RED SEA PROJECT™

During our first day as part of the RED SEA PROJECT™, we were introduced to Marsa Abu Dabbab by programme manager Alice Piller Roner and learnt about the turtle monitoring system. We started the day off with an introduction by Kate Hill to the different informative slates used by the RED SEA PROJECT™ to raise public awareness, followed by two snorkel rounds in the bay. The first, on the North side of Marsa Abu Dabbab, where we got to see the coral reef and discover the local marine ecosystem.

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On our second round, thanks to guidance from team members and our previous snorkeling experience, we were able to learn the skills required to participate in a turtle survey and collected data on the turtle’s species, gender, measurements, the depth where they were found, and their behavior. In the evening, we attended a lecture by Gabriel Mikhail on his journey in nature and eco-architecture. Overall, this first day showed us the importance of the RED SEA PROJECT™ mission and even more importantly, how we could develop personally and acquire new skills during our week here.


Connecting with the Underwater World: Enhancing Our Abilities in Turtle Surveys and Coral Monitoring at the RED SEA PROJECT™


Our second day gave us the opportunity to practice the skills acquired on day 1 and to understand and discover more about the organization. Our day started off again with 2 morning snorkels on both the North and South side of Marsa Abu Dabbab. We got to conduct 2 turtle surveys and practiced our free-diving and photography skills, gathering data on 8 different individuals. In the afternoon, we received a lecture by Kate about the RED SEA TURTLES PROJECT™, a citizen science based project of the RED SEA PROJECT™ that focuses on monitoring and ensuring the health of the turtle population in the Red Sea.

 

We were then introduced to the iNaturalist platform and Coral Watch, non-invasive methods for collecting information about marine biodiversity and monitoring coral reef health. Our second day with the RED SEA PROJECT™ allowed us to gain further experience in snorkeling, free diving, data collection on turtles, and data submission.


Integrating Citizen Science in Coral Health Monitoring and Cetacean Conservation: A Day of Fieldwork at the RED SEA PROJECT™


During our third day, we focused on using CoralWatch to gather information about corals and learning and understanding the specific traits and lifestyle patterns of the local cetacean population. Our morning started with a snorkel exploring the Marsa Abu Dabbab North reef, identifying the different coral types, such as boulder, branching, plate and soft corals. Later, we then analyzed their color, using the coral health chart by Coral Watch, to determine their health level.

While one of us was monitoring the coral’s health, the others were photographing the fish and corals to later identify the different species. In the afternoon, we uploaded our pictures to iNaturalist, learned how to categorize and identify the different marine species, and broadened our knowledge of the Red Sea ecosystem. In the evening, we received a lecture by Ahmed about the cetaceans, more precisely dolphins and whales as well as the Sha'ab Samadai reef, known as "The House of Dolphins”. Overall, this third day taught us a lot about the Red Sea biodiversity and showed us the patterns of use of the environment.


Conservation Through Education: A Day of Ecotourism and Monitoring in Sha'ab Samadai with The RED SEA PROJECT™


The fourth day of our internship was in Sha’ab Samadai with Alice, where we joined a boat trip and explored the reef. When we arrived, we went on our first snorkel of the day, in the zone B of the reef (home to many dolphins).

On the way to Sha'ab Samadai


We got to observe the dolphins while also paying attention to the tourist’s interactions with the dolphins, watching for any violations of the code of conduct we learnt on day 1. Later, we went on a second snorkel, this time in zone C, where we explored the coral reef. We learnt how divers, instructors, and local people utilize the natural parks for tourism, whilst also educating the people and preserving the area. Our fourth day allowed us to see how The RED SEA PROJECT™ goes beyond just monitoring biodiversity. It also focuses on raising public awareness and educating people on how to discover marine life without endangering it.


From Turtles to Ancient Gardens: Our Adventure in The RED SEA PROJECT™ Comes to a Close

During our fifth and last day as part of the The RED SEA PROJECT™ we collected data on both turtles and birds, evaluated the quality of the sea water, and explored the gardens of Wadi Sabarah. Our day started off with a snorkel turtle survey on transect 3, crossing the bay from the North to the South side, collecting data on any turtles we saw. We then went to Wadi Sabarah where we learnt how to conduct a bird survey using binoculars, spotting scope and a high-definition camera.

Bird watching at Wadi Sabarah


We used an ID book to identify each bird we sighted, helping to broaden our understanding of local bird species. In the afternoon, we collected phytoplankton and observed it under the microscope, then examined the water quality by analyzing pH, acidity, and hardness.


After, we headed to the gardens of Wadi Sabarah where Dr. Irina Springuel took us on a tour of the Pharaonic, Salvadora and desert gardens. She taught us about the specific traits of each different plant species as well as their uses in ancient Egypt. This last day was full of new experiences and gave us the chance to develop new skills and interests and to fully comprehend The RED SEA PROJECT™ as a whole.


"It has been a huge pleasure and an honour to contribute in small part to the development of these young interns. At the RED SEA PROJECT™ we firmly believe in enabling the young to take full control of their future and use their knowledge to protect theirs and our planet. Seeing these passionate and dedicated young people in action gives us hope that they will contribute to creating a fairer and healthier world, and protect their rich heritage with courage and strength." Programme Manager/ Alice Piller Roner

Report by:

Catarina Silva

Mahaullt George

Mathieu Messmer


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