Active since the opening of KAUST in 2009, the Red Sea Research Center is well-positioned and well-equipped to study the Red Sea with state-of-the-art facilities and world-class researchers. With its striking blue waters in our backyard, the Red Sea represents KAUST's most unique 'laboratory'. The Red Sea Research Center undertakes a wide variety of research to formulate a comprehensive understanding of the Red Sea's rich ecology. This knowledge is crucial to ensure sustainable use and conservation of its natural resources.

This unique sea supports enormous diversity in the form of many species of fishes, invertebrates, seaweeds, phytoplankton, and bacteria. The Red Sea hosts coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, brine pools, and other important ecosystems. The incredible biodiversity of the Red Sea holds untapped potential for understanding globally-significant questions, particularly with regard to evolutionary biology, stress tolerance, and adaptation to extreme environments.

Studies conducted by scientists within and in collaboration with the Red Sea Research Center have already broken the boundaries of current marine research and are making waves in the field.

Photo credits: Morgan Bennett-Smith

Vision and Mission

The Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) vision is to provide scientific knowledge of how the Red Sea can sustainably support the Kingdom’s goals for growth and economic diversification. The RSRC aims to be a global player in many aspects of marine science, particularly with respect to how climate change impacts marine systems. The RSRC broadly supports and facilitates Red Sea work by KAUST faculty.
The RSRC mission is to provide scientific guidance to key Saudi stakeholders, as well as to conduct translational research and enabling technologies towards sustainable human-sea interactions. The RSRC trains and educates future leaders in marine science, including Saudi nationals.
The Red Sea is KAUST’s biggest and most unique “laboratory”. Saudi Arabia has made clear that the Red Sea is one of its most strategic assets (evidenced in the Vision 2030 projects and ambitions, the G20 Presidency outcomes, ministerial priorities, and more). The Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) vision is to provide critical scientific knowledge of how the Red Sea can sustainably be used in support of the Kingdom’s goals for growth and economic diversification.

Further, the RSRC aims to be a global player in many aspects of marine science, with notable impact already in studies of coral reefs and other critical coastal habitats, such as mangrove stands and seagrass meadows. The Red Sea is well known as one of the saltiest and warmest seas, providing insight into environmental stressors the rest of the world’s seas will face in the near future. KAUST researchers thus have globally significant opportunities to understand how climate change is impacting marine systems. The marine life of the Red Sea has adapted to these challenging conditions, and we seek to understand the mechanisms facilitating this adaptation - ranging from genes and genomes to unique behaviors and physiologies.

Finally, as KAUST evolves and grows, the RSRC aspires to broadly support Red Sea work done by KAUST faculty and to enable others to open lines of research in the Red Sea for those who have not previously done so. Our physical proximity to the sea offers opportunities for a wide range of KAUST faculty to apply their specific expertise to the marine environment. 

The RSRC mission is to provide solid scientific guidance as Saudi Arabia’s stakeholders embark on an unprecedented journey to rewrite the playbook for sustainable coastal development. RSRC researchers play numerous roles, including as advisors, collaborators, consultants, and partners, with Saudi stakeholders, including the Kingdom’s GigaProjects, numerous ministries and other governmental entities, educational institutions, and industry partners (such as Aramco and Boeing). Translational research from RSRC projects contribute to Blue Economy initiatives, habitat resilience and restoration, mitigation of pollution and other stressors, and development of new enabling technologies to improve the sustainability of human-sea interactions. Careful management of Red Sea ecosystems is fundamental for conservation and to ensure that this national treasure remains as healthy as possible for generations to come. The lessons learned from the Red Sea can be transferred to many other regions of the world. In line with KAUST’s educational objectives, the RSRC facilitates the training and education of future leaders in marine science through student and postdoctoral support. The RSRC is actively engaged in programs for Saudi nationals, including high school students from Thuwal, to inspire young scientists to pursue careers that will continue stewardship of the Red Sea for generations to come. ...

International Collaboration with a Regional Focus

The combination of extraordinary biological, physical, and chemical diversity within the Red Sea makes it a challenge to research, but worthwhile as models for ecosystems around the world and potential for pharmaceutical and biotechnology applications. Academic and private-sector collaborators come from around the globe.