Growing up in Egypt, I was exposed to the mesmerizing beauty of reefs and mangroves, one of the richest known species diversity of any marine ecosystem, in the Red Sea. When I was twelve years old, I regarded my fish tank as my lab and delved into understanding the interaction among fish, breeding, and health. However, my views expanded when I investigated an illegal sea turtle trade case in Alexandria, Egypt. For that case, I interviewed a number indigenous people from my hometown. These interviews illustrated how their low awareness, poverty, and traditions thrived turtle trade. As such, my focus shifted to look at the big picture, which is the cohesion of socioecological systems.
It all started when I witnessed sea turtles kept alive emaciating until slaughter in a public market in Alexandria, Egypt. I directly contacted the Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles (MEDASSET), an international NGO, to document this illegal trade from boat to buyer. In my attempt to expose the practices by two major turtle traders, one chased me with his slaughtering sword, the other kicked me out of the public market. However, I secretly took the photos that documented their violation on another occasion. The interviews with the fishing community shaped my perception of the deep-rooted economic, social, and health problems of the community. I concluded that the inclusion of such marginalized local community in marine conservation projects will dramatically ameliorate the situation and empower them. This experience pinpointed the pivotal role marine conservation plays, especially in developing countries. As a result, I decided to dedicate my life as a marine biologist and conservationist.
Through cooperation with my colleagues, we presented a poster on the illegal sea turtle trade in Alexandria, Egypt at the 35th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in Turkey. We also published a full survey report on MEDASSET’s website. I gave my colleagues, who work for MEDASSET, the data needed to prepare a comprehensive report on the locations of the illegal trade. Then, we encouraged the Egyptian Minister of Environment to halt this trade. Consequently, the two major turtle traders were inspected. Nine turtles were confiscated alive and released back into the sea. Our survey reconfirmed Egypt’s importance as a priority area for marine turtle conservation in the Mediterranean.
I aimed to carry out an ecological study to investigate the effects of the illegal trade on marine turtle population. But, the lack of a background in marine biology hindered me. Thus, I aspire to attain a master’s degree in Marine Biology at the University of Hawai?i at M?noa to gain a comprehensive understanding of the marine ecosystems with its constitutive parameters. As, I aspire to become academically prepared to assess the human impact and restore marine ecosystems.
Studying Pharmacy and Biotechnology developed my research interest. The cell cycle speed with its complex controlling mechanisms has captivated me since its discussion in my first college year. When I attended the Fundamentals of Cell Culture Techniques and Stem Cells workshop at the German University in Cairo, Egypt, the proliferation of mammalian cells in-vitro and succeeding in cell culture protocols filled me with enthusiasm to molecular and cell biology research. Then, pathophysiology and immunology courses introduced me to disease pathogenesis and differing responses of host defense mechanisms. Since then, I became interested in investigating the physiological mechanisms responsible for differing levels of responses to the same disease by different individuals.
As such, I aspire to study the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on coral’s health and their differing level of responses and recovery under the supervision of Dr. Cynthia Hunter. More specifically, my interest focuses on revealing the molecular pathways contributing to coral resilience. Additionally, I am interested in investigating coral reef disease prevalence and their pathogenesis. Lastly, my third interest concentrates on developing techniques for coral disease management. The research in the Hunter Lab will equip me with the essential background, which will be integrated into policy in my future career in marine conservation.
As a graduate from UH M?noa, I would aim to conserve the threatened marine life in Egypt. The Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, the Nile, and wetlands are subjected to pollution, climate change, invasive species, overfishing, and unregulated tourism. Wetlands and the Nile systems have been degraded in the past 50 years which lead to a substantial reduction in both fish and migrating bird species. The Egyptian coral reefs system has been subjected to 600 violations during the past 10 years by tourism activity which caused assessing 60% of it at risk. Marine birds, sharks, grass beds and marine mammals have been declining over the past decade. However, marine biology and conservation are still relatively understudied and underestimated fields.
Therefore, I would aim to become a marine biologist and conservationist for the Egyptian Ministry of Environment or an international NGO working in Egypt. Then, I will utilize my gained knowledge, networks, and leadership skills to establish my own foundation to promote marine biology research and conservation in Egypt. It will target conservation through forming a group of dedicated conservationists, scientists, decision-makers, volunteers, and entrepreneurs. Moreover, it will promote the preservation of aquatic endangered species and engage the locals in developmental projects such as ecotourism, awareness campaigns and clean-up projects. Finally, it will help in enforcing the laws, empowering ex-situ conservation, ensuring sustainable management of marine resources.