Dr. Tamara Huete-Stauffer is a Spanish postdoctoral fellow in the University's Red Sea Research Center (RSRC). Huete-Stauffer joined KAUST in 2016 after completing her Ph.D. in Biogeosciences at the Universidad de Oviedo, Spain. She originally came to KAUST at the invitation of her former Ph.D. supervisor at Oviedo, Professor Xosé Anxelu G. Morán, associate professor of marine science in the RSRC.
"I came here during my Ph.D. studies for a month to carry out some research. I saw the very impressive labs of the RSRC, and I learned about the research direction of the center. Prof. Morán contacted me when I finished my Ph.D. and asked if I wanted to join his group here. I thought it was a good opportunity, so I did," Huete-Stauffer noted.
At KAUST, her current research focus is marine prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) and their distributions in the ocean. Her work seeks to examine the connection between the distribution patterns of microbes to the latitudinal environmental gradients of the Red Sea.
"We focus on the heterotrophic prokaryotes and their interaction with dissolved organic matter, which is the base of the whole food web. The microbial metabolism fuels the rest of the processes taking place in the marine systems. Subsequently, if you know what is happening at that first level, you could potentially predict what can occur at higher levels of the marine food web in the Red Sea," she noted.
Huete-Stauffer believes that the research being carried out at the RSRC can create a positive impact for its host country, in particular, in the fields of marine monitoring and conservation. She feels that the presence of the RSRC within the region can help inform the Kingdom when it comes to deciding what areas of the Red Sea in which to develop tourism, and what areas to protect.
"In any modern country, there is some kind of monitoring of the waters and coasts. I think KAUST can add something to the Kingdom that wasn't there before - or at least was not as advanced. Saudi Arabia has joined the marine conservation picture at a time when science has become quite advanced, and that is a serious advantage.
"The good thing is that the cutting-edge research here in Saudi Arabia and KAUST was achieved in the space of five to ten years. Research that takes years and decades to figure out in other places. Through our research, we already have a pretty good idea of the key processes taking place in the Red Sea, and how this system works overall. Our work can contribute positively to Saudi Arabia and to initiatives such as Vision 2030," Huete-Stauffer acknowledged.
The one commonality that fuels Huete-Stauffer's research is discovery. Knowing that a previously unknown discovery could be waiting just around the corner, or more aptly, in the depths of the Red Sea. "Here in the Red Sea, there are still many things that are unknown. So every little thing that you do is new, and that is very exciting. However, it takes time and work to construct this research puzzle and connect the small pieces because each marine environment is unique," she concluded.