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RIYADH: The National Center for Wildlife has announced a partnership with the nonprofit ocean exploration organization OceanX and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to embark on an unprecedented scientific research expedition in the Red Sea.

Scientists will join two scientific research and exploration vessels, OceanXplorer and Al Azizi, to study marine life in the relatively unexplored and little understood region. The four-month mission will cover the entire expanse of the Red Sea, beginning from the Afifi brine pool in Jeddah in the southern Red Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba in the north. The expedition will produce the first-ever comprehensive survey of the area.

The research teams will conduct habitat characterizations, biodiversity inventory and extensive mapping of the Red Sea, with a special focus on shallow-water habitats (corals, mangroves and seagrasses), environmental DNA and metagenomics, seafloor mapping, megafauna and deep-water corals.

“The four-month mission will be carried out in collaboration with the NEOM project, the Amaala and the Red Sea projects, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, King Abdulaziz University, and King Abdulaziz University of Science and Technology,” said Dr. Mohammed Ali Qurban, CEO of the NCW.

Qurban told Arab News that each moment of discovery will be documented with OceanX’s advanced underwater filmmaking tools, and updates from the expedition will be shared with local schools as well as OceanX’s global audience. The mission aims to provide a clear view of Red Sea environments and underscores the extraordinary biodiversity of this invaluable ecosystem, he explained.

He added that the trip will study mammal species, biodiversity and environmental characteristics, both physical and chemical, as well as produce bio-maps of coral reefs, seagrasses, sea turtles, and other organisms found in the Red Sea.

Qurban said that the center is interested in training its newly graduated Saudi marine researchers in the best scientific practices, adding that it will coordinate with schools to organize a live broadcast of the trip and direct dialogues with specialized scientists.

The center has prepared a plan to preserve and publish the data obtained from the exploratory trip and share these data with the appropriate authorities for use in research and business development, Qurban explained, adding that the trip’s output will include a documentary film about the Red Sea.

“The Red Sea is one of the least explored bodies of water, yet it is rich with scientific data and information of great global significance,” said Vincent Pieribone, vice chairman, OceanX. “We are excited to return to the Red Sea and capitalize on our previous research of the region, which we hope will have a meaningful impact on local conservation efforts and also bolster marine research and ocean awareness and education worldwide.”

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