Too hot to handle? Studying the impact of climate change in the hottest sea in the world!
Hind Mohsen Al Ameri is a PhD student in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences investigating the effect of climate change on marine turtles in Abu Dhabi. Her supervisors are Professor Brendan Godley and Professor Annette Broderick and her work is funded by the Government of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Marine turtles’ life is a struggle for survival from the day they hatch. A minimal number reaches adulthood due to natural predators and obstacles. That minimum number also faces various anthropogenic threats such as hunting, development on nesting and foraging areas, and harmful marine debris. Climate change exposes marine turtles to even more significant existential threats. Sea-level rise and stronger storms destroy habitats while warming oceans will change ocean currents that harm coral reefs and introduce new predators. Our warming climate may be driving marine turtles into extinction. This is due to the beach sand’s temperature where females nest influence the gender of their offspring during incubation, thus creating a shortage of males.
The location of my research is in Abu Dhabi. It overlooks what has been recorded as the hottest sea in the world. We are hoping to understand the level of the impacts of rising sea levels and increasing temperature through this research. As Abu Dhabi and the region as a whole is already exposed to extreme heat and low-lying beaches, yet the marine turtles are surviving.
Our societies’ stability and productivity depend on a healthy environment as a foundation. The conservation of nature is essential as Earth has provided the basics to live like, but not limited to, water, air, and food. We must keep the environment clean and safe. The threats to our environment are numerous such as pollution, deforestation, illegal trade, and many more. The well-being of present and future generations depends on how we treat our environment daily. We must all participate in protecting, conserving, and sustainably managing our natural resources.
On a personal level, conservation has always been a part of my life since I was young. It was in the teachings we grew up within our home as well as our country. The UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had his heart on the environment and has been keen to inculcate the concept of sustainability and the culture of protecting the environment and its natural resources in the hearts and minds of everyone. He said, “On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognized the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live, and to preserve it for succeeding generations.”
I live by this quote as it reminds us of how the environment is rooted in our culture and history. It also reminds us of sustainably using its resources to conserve and protect it for the future.
Route to PhD
From Abu Dhabi University, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science in 2014, after which I started my career at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). At EAD, I started working in projects that concern threatened species and habitats such as dugongs and seagrass beds but took a particular interest in marine turtles. I returned to academic study in 2016, where I undertook an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of Leeds. My thesis then allowed me to conduct an in-depth analysis of the data that has been collected under the marine turtle conservation program, which has been running since 2000. This comprehensive analysis revealed vital research areas that need to be undertaken for marine turtles in Abu Dhabi, which fed into my initial outline for my PhD.
Upon deciding to embark on the PhD journey, I did not look ahead past my current supervisory team as they are highly reputable in this field. I consider myself fortunate to be working with them and having their support and guidance throughout.