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Saudi Aramco-KAUST Center for Marine Environmental Observations


 Visualising models of the Red Sea (credit: Ibrahim Hoteit)

Aim and Objectives

The aim of the Center is to develop an integrated understanding of Red Sea marine ecosystem including the physical, chemical and biological components. The Center will assess the present state of the coastal community and determine trends in the ecosystem over time to evaluate the comparative roles of natural and anthropogenic pressures. The initial phase of the Center will focus on 3 major efforts.

  1. Assess the baseline ecological status of the Red Sea with identification of the levels of sensitivity to human activities. This will be followed by long-term monitoring of the of the Red Sea ecosystem to evaluate trends and changes within the ecosystem. This effort will identify habitats that are unique, valuable, and sensitive to environmental perturbation.
  2. Development and implementation of an operational oceanographic system that provides real- time oceanographic observations and modeling for the Red Sea with enhanced efforts in specific target regions. Both the observations and the modeling will provide tools for evaluating environmental changes in the Red Sea, for tracking the trajectory of contaminants such as oil spills, and for evaluating impacts of various types of Aramco activities on the coastal environment.
  3. Creation of a Red Sea biogeographic information system coupled with a marine geographical information system (GIS) capability that will be used to acquire, store, analyze and display ecological information and oceanographic observations acquired by the Center and the output from real-time modeling. The marine GIS system will provide a tool for evaluating long-term changes in the ecosystem, and the ocean environment. It will also provide a mechanism for accessing real-time observations and modeling needed to aid the response to possible accidental oil spills, and other possible events.
Aramco Project concept.jpg

Operationalizing Oceanography at KAUST
Marine science research at KAUST already has significant experience with ecological assessment, remote sensing, moored observations, ship-based observations, and ocean modeling. As part of its basic research plan, the Saudi Aramco-KAUST Center for Marine Environmental Observations is adding surface current mapping and autonomous vehicle mapping to its capabilities. This approach to the observational oceanography provides several distinct benefits:
  1. The observations provide for basic research that allows the scientists to understand the fundamental processes the affect the physics, biology and biogeochemistry of the Red Sea.
  2. The observations and models provide tools that can be applied to multiple needs of Aramco and the Kingdom. These applications include providing of trajectory maps and models for response to contaminant spills, search and rescue tools for the Coast Guard, current, wave and wind products for marine operations,
  3. Establishment of long-term observations that provide for assessment of ecological responses to anthropogenic and natural processes.
Aramco Project schematic.jpg 
Figure 1. A schematic representation of the linkage between oceanographic (physical, chemical and biological) observations, modeling, and various types of output products that can be used for multiple applications.
Marine GIS and Database
An integrating framework for Red Sea research at KAUST will be through the conception of a Red Sea biogeographic information system coupled with a marine geographical information system (GIS) capability. This system will achrive data, make it available for future analyses and enable generation of visual, statistical and data management products.​​​ More information on the Marine GIS and Database can be found here​.


Saudi Aramco 
Professor Ibrahim Hoteit, Earth Systems Modeling and Prediction Research Group, KAUST
Professor Michael Berumen, Reef Ecology Lab, Red Sea Research Center, KAUST
Professor Christian Voolstra​, Reef Genomics, Red Sea Research Center, KAUST
Analytical Core Lab, KAUST