Dr. Rusty Brainard has been appointed courtesy professor of marine science

31 March, 2020

Dr Rusty Brainard TRSDC Sept19 CROPPED

Dr. Rusty Brainard, the chief environmental officer at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), has been appointed courtesy professor of marine science at the KAUST Red Sea Research Center in the University's Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering division.

The appointment does not affect Brainard's role at TRSDC, where he will continue leading efforts to enhance biodiversity at the site by 30 percent over the next two decades and implement a range of industry-leading standards, such as 100 percent carbon neutrality on a destination-wide scale.

"Dr. Brainard is a valued member of the team at TRSDC, providing visionary leadership and coordination of all aspects of the project's environmental sustainability strategy," stated John Pagano, chief executive officer at TRSDC. "He is responsible for ensuring that all development is undertaken without negatively impacting the Red Sea's globally important coral reef and coastal ecosystems.

"[The] appointment recognizes both his personal passion and commitment to the health of the ecosystems at our Red Sea site and our wider commitment as a business to foster meaningful relationships with leading research institutions and other organizations that support our sustainability aspirations."

John Pagano 04 CROPPED

The four-year renewable professorship will facilitate active collaboration with the University's world-renowned faculty and high-caliber students on extensive research and development that will support the ambitious vision for environmentally sustainable tourism development at The Red Sea Project.

The vision includes habitat and biodiversity enhancement of reefs, mangroves, seagrasses and native land vegetation over the next 20 years; carbon neutrality; sustainable food production; ecological assessment and monitoring; and the establishment of a joint TRSDC-KAUST Marine Station for field research.

A courtesy appointment is typically offered to individuals who are deemed qualified to make a significant contribution to educational and research activities at KAUST outside of the normal professional track.

"Dr. Brainard brings extensive international experience and a vision for protecting the ecosystems of the Red Sea, which will play a significant role in the achievement of our mission," noted Carlos Duarte, KAUST professor of marine science and member of the TRSDC Global Advisory Board. "I am confident that he will provide strong guidance and mentorship to our research community and be a staunch advocate for the sustainable development of the Red Sea coast."


Brainard holds a bachelor of science degree in marine science from Texas A&M University and a master of science and Ph.D. in oceanography and physical oceanography, respectively, from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

Over his distinguished 38-year career, Brainard has held a range of scientific leadership positions at the highly respected U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These included serving as founding director of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division at NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Hawaii; commanding officer of the NOAA research vessel Townsend Cromwell; station chief of NOAA's South Pole Observatory in Antarctica; and steering committee member for the U.N. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. He is also a co-author of 136 published scientific papers.

"It is a tremendous honor to be appointed as courtesy professor of marine science at KAUST," Brainard said. "I am absolutely delighted to accept and look forward to working closely with many of the outstanding faculty, staff and students at KAUST over the coming four years."


TRSDC and KAUST are currently planning a comprehensive baseline assessment of fish populations and benthic communities across the site, and they previously teamed up to conduct a Marine Spatial Planning exercise. The results of the exercise informed the development of the project's master plan.

The two organizations also partnered on the Brains for Brine competition in 2019, which challenged participants to develop novel solutions to protect marine habitats from brine discharge created during the desalination process.

TRSDC is developing Saudi Arabia's flagship international tourism destination and is setting new global standards in sustainable development. Its sustainability targets include reliance on renewable energy, a ban on single-use plastics and complete carbon neutrality in the destination's operations.