Elise Marquis took over as director of Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue two years ago. The institution is touted as the Middle East and North Africa region’s first integrated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation, return, and education center, and is located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, near to the Seaworld amusement park.
Marquis spoke with Arab News en Francais about her 20-year experience in marine research and consultation, as well as her vision for the institute and the obstacles it faces.
She stated that she has worked on a wide range of projects all around the world, particularly in the MENA region. Her research in marine ecology has concentrated on subjects such as planktonic variety, carbon and nutrient cycling, pelagic (upper layers of the sea) food web dynamics, ecosystem functioning, and coastal habitat restoration.
“My motivation is to understand how marine ecosystems work, how they are influenced by external factors, and how they can demonstrate resilience,” she explained.
She stated that since starting her employment in Abu Dhabi, she has built a research program for her firm and chosen the team that would contribute to its success. She stated that a lot of planning is needed to guarantee that the center is ready for the numerous initiatives it will undertake, which will entail the use of field equipment, experimental tank systems, and laboratory equipment, among other things.
Furthermore, the center’s continued expansion includes relationships with government, academic, and stakeholder entities, particularly for its rescue and research initiatives.
“Our vision at Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue is to lead marine conservation and environmental protection throughout the UAE and the wider region,” Marquis stated.
She noted that the center is a one-of-a-kind institution capable of developing completely integrated programs concentrating on education, research, rescue, rehabilitation, and return to benefit the Arabian Gulf’s marine ecology as a whole.
“We hope to become a hub where knowledge is shared and passed on to the next generations of marine scientists by joining forces with the already well-established scientific community and supporting the UAE’s marine conservation efforts,” she said, adding that one of the goals is to increase public engagement and inspire people to help preserve marine biodiversity.
This ambition, according to Marquis, will be realized through the efforts of a team of marine conservation experts and specialists, as well as the use of cutting-edge facilities and equipment.
An experimental marine ecology laboratory and a 345-square-meter aquaculture facility with live feed culture rooms, brood stock, and grow out and larvae tanks are among the facilities. A 12.5-meter research vessel provides direct access to the Arabian Gulf for research teams.
As part of three major projects, the center is active in a wide range of activities, including teaching, research, and rescue/rehabilitation/return.
“The public will soon be able to witness it as we prepare to receive pre-booked visitors in our facility,” Marquis stated.
Through its rescue, rehabilitation, and return program, the institution is also assisting the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi’s animal rescue network.
In terms of community engagement, and in accordance with the UAE’s announcement of 2023 as the Year of Sustainability, the center is hosting a number of beach clean-up events, two of which have already taken place.
“We hope to expand these types of activities in order to engage the public in educational initiatives,” Marquis said. “This year, the center will also hold public specialized workshops and scientific conferences.”
Engagement and the ability to connect with local communities are key pillars of the center’s work, ensuring that the initiatives it produces benefit Abu Dhabi and its citizens. Collaborations with various stakeholders in research and conservation are thus required to achieve a long-term positive impact.
“The best way to accomplish this is to collaborate with relevant government entities, such as the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment,” Marquis said.
She noted that the center wants to build long-term partnerships with authorities, colleges, and schools in order to encourage Emiratis and expatriates to study marine and veterinary sciences and become “the country’s future leaders of marine conservation.”
It features a fleet of rescue vehicles, including two custom-built rescue boats and a marine wildlife ambulance, as well as a team of professionals on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its veterinary facility is outfitted with cutting-edge technology to treat wounded and sick marine animals, including an on-site medical laboratory. There are also bird rehabilitation sites and rescue pools for marine mammals and reptiles.