Return to Saudi

Two months ago, I was fortunate enough to have the time of my life swimming and studying in the Red Sea with a short summer course/workshop at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. This week, after boarding 3 planes that broke down on the runway and added 32 hours of travel time to my journey, I made my way back to KAUST to spend another 4 months working as a research intern with the university. After my initial stay at KAUST this summer, I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to the Red Sea or the amazing research facilities they have here, so I applied for their Visiting Scholars Research Program, and am now working in an environmental engineering lab on campus.
I am going to be working on a project that studies the microbes used in wastewater treatment plants and how these microbes can be optimized to treat wastewater. Specifically, I am going to be looking at how to use one kind of biotechnology called aerobic granular sludge (basically a community of microbes that thrive in the water when you bubble air through it and eat up nutrients like carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous) to clean up wastewater more efficiently. Although it is not quite marine (I don’t think that I will be able to jump in the ocean for this project) I have always been interested in problems of water quality, especially since I began studying marine ecology. Biology, ecology, and environmental science students are taught about the long list of anthropogenic impacts that are degrading the environment, and how things like eutrophication of coastal waters are damaging our seas. I would like to be on the problem solving end of these challenges, so I am excited to start adding to the body of knowledge on how to better clean the water that we are putting back into the ocean.
Of course, I’m not planning on spending ALL of my time in the lab; the corals are still just off the coast and I’m not about to miss out on the beautiful reefs that I only just got a taste of this summer. Check out the “Saudi Arabia” tab on the top of the page if you want to see pictures from my last trip to the reefs of the Red Sea. I’ll be sharing more about my research and the photos of the coral reefs when I next get a chance, stay tuned!

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