Saudi's KAUST appoints TRSDC's Rusty Brainard to Red Sea research

The appointment will not affect Brainard’s TRSDC role, where he is ensuring The Red Sea Project’s carbon neutrality and biodiversity

Saudi's KAUST appoints TRSDC's Rusty Brainard to Red Sea research centre
Saudi's KAUST appoints TRSDC's Rusty Brainard to Red Sea research centre

The chief environmental officer at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), Dr Rusty Brainard, has been appointed as a courtesy professor of marine science at the Red Sea Research Centre at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology’s (KAUST) Division of Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering.

The appointment will not affect Brainard’s role at TRSDC, where he has been tasked with leading the effort to enhance biodiversity at the site by 30% during the next two decades, and implementing a range of industry-leading standards such as 100% carbon neutrality on a destination-wide scale.

During his 38-year career, Brainard has held a range of scientific leadership positions at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US.

He served as the founding director of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Hawaii; as the commanding officer of the NOAA research vessel Townsend Cromwell; the station chief of NOAA’s South Pole Observatory in Antarctica; and as Steering Committee member for the UN’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

The co-author of 136 published scientific papers, Brainard holds a BSc in Marine Science from Texas A&M University, and a MS and PhD in Oceanography and Physical Oceanography, respectively, from the US Naval Postgraduate School.

The four-year renewable professorship will facilitate active collaboration with international faculty and students on research and development that will support the vision for TRSDC’s environmentally-sustainable tourism development project.

TRSDC is developing Saudi Arabia’s flagship international tourism destination – The Red Sea gigaproject – which is setting new global standards in sustainable development through targets including a reliance on renewable energy, and a ban on single-use plastics.

The Red Sea project’s vision includes habitat and biodiversity enhancement of reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, and native land vegetation during the next 20 years, as well as sustainable food production, ecological assessment and monitoring, and the establishment of a joint TRSDC-KAUST Marine Station for field research.

The Red Sea gigaproject is being developed on an area spanning 28,000 km2, and includes more than 90 islands, mountain, canyons, dormant volcanoes, as well as cultural and heritage sites, and will feature hotels and residential properties, and leisure, commercial, and entertainment destinations.

Commenting on the appointment, the chief executive officer or TRSDC, John Pagano, said: “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. He is responsible for ensuring that all development is undertaken without negatively impacting the Red Sea’s globally important coral reef and coastal ecosystems.”

Pagano added: “This appointment recognises 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 organisations that support our sustainability aspirations.”

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