High school students embark on Red Sea adventure

US students join Living Oceans Foundation International Expedition

WASHINGTON, D.C.--U.S. high school students will partner with an all-star team of U.S., U.K., Canadian, Austrian, French and Saudi Arabian scientist divers as virtual participants in an unprecedented high-tech expedition to the Red Sea. Only five schools in the nation were selected to work with the expedition team as they study the Red Sea's famous coral reefs.

"This will be some of the most advanced coral reef environment research, with the fastest turnaround and major international impact, to date," said Philip Renaud, executive director of Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, the organization leading the expedition.

"In addition to conducting groundbreaking research, we will provide the nation's leading students with unique opportunities to gain knowledge and develop skills necessary for a career in marine science," said Renaud. "We hope our work will raise their awareness of the importance of coral reefs and threats to the long-term survival of the rainforests of the sea."

The Foundation selected the following participating schools for their excellence in marine science education:

  • Bellarmine Preparatory School – Tacoma, Washington
  • Kamehameha School – Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Montgomery Blair High School – Silver Spring, Maryland
  • South Broward High School – Hollywood, Florida
  • Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – Alexandria, Virginia

Students will follow the team's progress and participate in near-real time Q&A with the scientists. Findings from the expedition will guide international policy on coral reef management, and Living Oceans Foundation will use footage from the voyage to produce a professional documentary film.

The Red Sea expedition, beginning May 3, will focus on threats to coral health such as global climate change, ecotourism, over-fishing, pollution and development. Scientists will map and survey the Farasan Islands Marine Protected Area, off the coast of Jizan, Saudi Arabia. The team's high-tech equipment will allow them to do years of coral reef research in just three weeks.

"The implications of the expedition are far-reaching," said Renaud. "The health of coral reef ecosystems is a good indicator of the general health of the world's oceans."

Coral reef health also has economic and social consequences:

  • Coral reefs support more than 25 percent of all marine fish species.
  • Reefs provide fisheries with 6 million metric tons of fish and millions of jobs each year. They are also a primary source of new drugs and biochemicals.
  • The total value of the world's reef resources is approximately $375 billion each year.

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Media Note: Call Patrick Slevin at (850) 906-9888 to schedule an interview with Philip Renaud, executive director of Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, or arrange a visit to a participating high school. Visit www.livingoceansfoundation.org to follow the progress of the expedition and learn more about Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.

ABOUT THE EXPEDITION

The Red Sea expedition will concentrate on coral reefs in and around the Farasan Islands Marine Protected Area off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The team will assess the impact of:

  • Ecotourism – including souvenir collecting and booming diving resorts; the Red Sea hosts more than 3,000 divers and snorkellers a day during peak diving season
  • Pollution – particularly from oil spills and plastics associated with maritime transport; also from desalination plants
  • Over-fishing – including commercial and artisanal fishing, which alter the local ecosystems o Climate Change – the result of excessive carbon emissions; leads to coral bleaching and possible coral death
  • Dredging and Anchor Damage
  • Landfilling and Development – causing severe damage, changing sedimentation patterns and water circulation; altering the distribution of plants and animals

The research team will travel on the Golden Shadow, a recently refitted 67-meter yacht that is part of a four-vessel fleet used by Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. The yacht can travel at a maximum speed of 17 knots and includes several speedboats, a 60 mph racing boat, satellite telephones, worldwide internet connection, an array of flat screen technology, digital charts and satellite navigation.

Other organizations partnering with the Foundation for the Red Sea Expedition include:

  • Saudi Arabian National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD)
  • Regional Organization for Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA)
  • Lantra: the UK Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the Environmental and Land-based Sector
  • Trident Trust, U.K.
  • Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, University of Cambridge, U.K.
  • National Coral Reef Institute
  • University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

ABOUT KHALED BIN SULTAN LIVING OCEANS FOUNDATION

The Red Sea expedition is the most recent in a series of international expeditions by Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation:

  • Sumatra Tsunami Coral Damage Rapid Assessment Survey (2005) – The Foundation partnered with Reef Check and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to assess reef damage along the northwest coast of Sumatra following the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004.
  • Expedition to the Seychelles Islands (2005) – The Foundation partnered with scientists from the U.K and Seychelles Islands to conduct aerial mapping of islands and surveys of marine environments in the Indian Ocean.
  • Expedition to the Sea of Cortez (2001) – U.S. and Mexican scientists joined to collect samples from 12 research sites across the Sea of Cortez in a search for natural products from marine organisms.
  • Expeditions to the Mediterranean I & II (2001) – Scientists from the U.S., France, Canada and Monaco studied the Northwest Mediterranean south the French-Italian border. The Foundation also sent U.S. and Greek scientists to the island of Anaphi to study one of the most devastating ancient volcanic eruptions in human history.
  • Expedition to Tahiti (1998) – This study was the genesis of the Living Oceans Foundation. It focused on the effects of the 1998 El Nino ocean warming event that alarmed scientists around the world.

Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is a 501(c)(3) American Public Benefit, Private Operating Foundation founded by His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia. The Foundation, headquartered in Washington D.C., is dedicated to conservation and preservation of the living oceans with a focus on international partnerships and programs to advance the concept of "Science Without Borders". For more information on Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation or the Red Sea Expedition, visit www.livingoceansfoundation.org.


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