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Agreement Opens Door to Red Sea Research

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WHOI signed an agreement April 16 with officials of the planned King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia to consult on facilities and develop research projects on areas of mutual interest.

In consultation with the Washington Advisory Group and WHOI Trustee Frank Press, Saudi Arabia sent a visiting group from its state-owned national oil company, Saudi Aramco, to several U.S. institutions of scientific research and higher education in January 2006. Their charge was to explore establishing relations and developing research partnerships between U.S. institutions and the new Saudi university, to be built on the shore of the Red Sea, a relatively unstudied region.

Acting WHOI Director of Research Laurence Madin arranged a daylong program of talks by WHOI scientists on research topics applicable to the Red Sea location, as well as tours of WHOI facilities. During a second visit in March 2007, the Saudi delegation received more-detailed research proposals from scientists and later selected three areas of focus and proposed a memorandum of agree-ment.

The Saudi government agreed to fund three multi-pronged research projects by WHOI scientists: coastal hydrography, headed by WHOI physical oceanographer Amy Bower; coral ecosystems, headed by biologist Simon Thorrold; and fisheries and aquaculture economics, headed by Andy Solow, director of the WHOI Marine Policy Center. Other WHOI scientists participating in research in Saudi Arabian waters will include paleoceanographer Konrad Hughen, biologist Jesús Pineda, coral researcher Anne Cohen, and physical oceanographers Thomas Farrar and Steve Lentz. 

Aramco is managing construction of the new university, which is expected to be completed within five years. But WHOI scientists will begin research in Saudi Arabia in 2007.WHOI participants visited Saudi Arabia in June to meet with Saudi representatives, evaluate field research sites, and view the new university’s location.

Former chair of the WHOI Board of Trustees James Moltz and interim KAUST President Nadhmi Al-Nasr signed the memorandum of understanding.

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Officials of the planned King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia gathered with WHOI officials and scientists after signing an agreement to develop cooperative research projects. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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