By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Dr. Omar Attum, associate professor of biology, has received a Fulbright Specialist Program award.
Dr. Attum will complete a project at the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan in Jordan that seeks to exchange knowledge and establish partnerships that benefit participants, institutions and communities in the U.S. and overseas through educational and training activities in biology education.
“I will be working and training dive guides in Aqaba, Jordan, on how to conduct coral watch surveys to monitor coral bleaching in the Red Sea,” Attum said. “They will then be able to lead students or tourists on trips to collect coral health data.”
The work follows up on past studies in which Attum and his teams, often including students, monitored the status of coral reef fish communities in the Aqaba area.
By educating dive centers, students and tourists, the project aims to dramatically increase the number of people monitoring coral reefs, and thus increase the amount of data available to scientists and policy makers as they develop strategies to protect these important ecosystems.
While coral reefs in tropical oceans, and the biodiversity they contain, are being devastated by coral bleaching events and other effects of warming seas, and are expected to decline by 70-90 percent by 2100, the reefs of Aqaba and the northern Red Sea are thriving, in part due to their location in cooler waters.
For Attum, now is not a time to celebrate, but to take action.
“The Northern Red Sea is the most resistant and last area of the of the Red Sea to be impacted by climate change through coral bleaching,” Attum said. “If there is widespread coral bleaching here, then it is game over.”
Crowdsourcing a database is a meaningful step toward conserving this natural treasure.