KAUST researcher wins top award for global marine science work

Prof. Carlos Duarte with his father in law Vicente Agusti (age 97) who visits Duarte every year at KAUST. ‘I take inspiration from his perseverance in learning. My goal is that, through my research, the ocean will have, by 2050, an abundance of life as Vicente knew in his childhood.’ (AN Photo)
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Updated 10 February 2020

KAUST researcher wins top award for global marine science work

  • Carlos Duarte, a professor of marine science, Tarek Ahmed Juffali Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology, won the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in ecology and conservation biology
  • The award was made in recognition of his leadership role in research related to the problems of global marine science and his contribution to the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan

JEDDAH: A researcher at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has received a top international award for his contribution to global marine science and the Kingdom’s ambitious Red Sea tourism project.
Carlos Duarte, a professor of marine science, Tarek Ahmed Juffali Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology, won the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in ecology and conservation biology granted by the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Foundation (Fundacion BBVA) in Spain.
Prof. Duarte, who is of Portuguese origin, has taken part in several global research campaigns as part of his efforts to expand knowledge about marine biodiversity and its role in shaping environments around the world.
The award was made in recognition of his leadership role in research related to the problems of global marine science and his contribution to the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.
Expressing his delight at receiving the “prestigious” accolade, the professor highlighted the major role played by KAUST in promoting his work and supporting efforts to preserve marine ecosystems.
“It (the award) could be rightly called the ‘Nobel award’ of ecology and biodiversity, with a distinguished international jury selecting among the top ecologists in the world,” Duarte told Arab News
“For the award to be presented to me represents, therefore, a huge honor and a great recognition, not only of my work, but to that of the dozens of students and hundreds of collaborators that have contributed to my research over the years, as well as my institution, KAUST, for its unparalleled support and intellectual freedom to pursue the best research I am able to deliver.”
He pointed out that the launch of Vision 2030 had been an historic event setting the Kingdom on a path to a bright future.
“I was contacted in 2016 to provide advice on how the giga projects that are being developed in the Red Sea could become drivers of positive marine conservation outcomes.
“I was immediately challenged and captivated by the notion that development, which for decades has been a driver of destruction and biodiversity loss in the marine environment, could be reverted, with the right vision, motivation, commitment and scientific support, into a driver of a rebound of marine life in the ocean,” the professor said.
He noted that the commitment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to marine conservation was “a model for leaders worldwide.”
Duarte added that he was “proud” to have been involved in the Red Sea project and said that tourism development and a national transformation program, such as Vision 2030, could be drivers of a game-changing shift in the recovery of marine environments.
He said his work had “led to new thoughts on the role of the private sector in rebuilding marine life, which I am about to publish. It also makes me proud of contributing through my research to develop this aspiration in Saudi Arabia.”
Duarte also collaborates and supports sustainability, marine conservation, and design work on the Amaala and NEOM mega projects.
He is currently leading an initiative to enhance sea turtle conservation in the Red Sea that is jointly funded by the Red Sea Development Co., Amaala, NEOM and KAUST. “These sea turtles move all across the Red Sea and represent a shared asset that is everyone’s responsibility to protect,” he added.
He noted that global recognition of Vision 2030 would be taken to a new level in the run-up to the Kingdom hosting this year’s G20 summit of world leaders.
“The principles that drive and inspire Vision 2030 will not only propel the development of the Kingdom but will also help other nations adopt concepts developed within KSA, such as the use of development to drive ocean conservation, developed by the Red Sea project, or the circular carbon economy, a concept put forward in October 2019 by Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman as a new approach to solve the climate crisis while avoiding disruptive economic impacts to societies that could hurt the disadvantaged and create social unrest,” Duarte said.


Home alone: Saudis and expats try to beat the holiday blues

Updated 26 May 2020

Home alone: Saudis and expats try to beat the holiday blues

  • People celebrating Eid alone or abroad find ways to stay positive

JEDDAH: For different reasons many people living in the Kingdom have found themselves alone for the holidays due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, their spirits dampened as they are forced to stay home alone, away from loved ones.

As the pandemic enters its third month in Saudi Arabia, flights have not yet resumed, strict social distancing and safety measures are still in place and curfews have been reimposed to curb the spread of the virus during the Eid holidays.

Many families are stranded in cities across the Kingdom, while Saudis studying and working abroad are either stuck or have chosen to spend summer where they are out of fear they will not be able to return and start their new semesters.

Some people were able to move in with their families and quarantine together, while others were deprived of that chance.

A number of Saudi nationals, including students, have been repatriated in the past couple of weeks while others are still waiting for their turn.

Yousef Al-Ayesh, a 21-year-old senior student at Arizona State University, has been at home since late March as a precautionary measure.

He said that Eid with his family in Jeddah was one event that everyone looked forward to all year long. Under normal circumstances the first three days of Eid would be filled with events — family dinners at night and beach excursions during the day. Although he would be sleep-deprived, he would still make the most of the little time he spent with his family due to his studies.

“With all that’s going on, it doesn’t even feel like it’s Eid,” he told Arab News. 

“It most probably would have been different if I was back in Saudi Arabia but I still wouldn’t have been able to celebrate it the same way. It’s not that bad here (in the US) now since restaurants have reopened and my friends and I have the outdoors to enjoy, have a barbecue, or just hang out. I would have felt worse if I was alone. Ramadan was already odd enough, I don’t think I would have been OK if it were the case without them.”

Although his family lives 8,000 miles away he did not feel alone as his group of friends decided to celebrate together, even without the perks of new clothes and eidiyas from aunts and uncles.

It’s an exceptional year for us and one that is teaching us a lesson on various levels, but we must adapt either way.

Fareed Abdullah Fareed

Al-Ayesh hoped to be repatriated to the Kingdom soon and spend some time with his family after his mandatory quarantine.

Fareed Abdullah Fareed, a 29-year-old expat working and living in Riyadh, said this year’s Eid was tough without his family.

Although he is used to living alone because of his job, Eid was the one occasion he looked forward to the most every year because he got to travel to Cairo and be with his family.

“My family moved from Jeddah to Cairo about four or five years ago and Eid is a significant occasion in the family, Eid Al-Fitr is significantly more special than Eid Al-Adha even,” he told Arab News. “I look forward to traveling to see them every year since moving to Riyadh but wasn’t able to with the lockdown, so we all got together on FaceTime video call and spent the whole day speaking to family members.”

Like many expats, Fareed has spent the past months at home and said it was hard for him and his family but that communication had made the ordeal slightly easier.

“It’s an exceptional year for us and one that is teaching us a lesson on various levels, but we must adapt either way,” he added.