Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Knauss Fellowship Experience: Ayman Mabrouk

This has been a magnificent year for me! What a great experience my Knauss fellowship has been! Now, after the completion of my fellowship, I would like to share how this experience changed my life. As an Egyptian scientist working in marine conservation and marine protected areas (MPAs) with the Egyptian Ministry for Environment for more than 15 years, I always have had a high regard for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I was overjoyed to get the opportunity to work for them through the Knauss fellowship.

As a fellow, I was hosted by the Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment/Bio-geography Branch. The goal of the Branch is to improve ecosystem management by developing information and analytical capabilities through research, monitoring and assessment of the distribution and ecology of marine and estuarine organisms and their habitats. I was assigned to work primarily on three projects based on my experience and interest. Throughout these projects and my time as a fellow I was led by wonderful supervisors who assisted and guided me.
Ayman with NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan
The first project was “An Ecological Assessment of the Choptank Complex to Support NOAA’s Habitat Focus Study Area.” For this, I developed an inventory for a geo-database of the Choptank watershed. I also mapped the Choptank Water Quality Assessment and wrote a chapter on Choptank water quality as part of the team report on the ecological assessment for the Choptank watershed.

The second project was “Integrating Bio-physical and Socio-economic Metrics to Characterize and Couple Ecological and Coastal Community Resiliency for the Gulf of Mexico.” This challenging project uses a multidisciplinary research approach that includes social and ecological components, to develop a framework to define and characterize ecosystem and community resiliency. Part of my role was to assist the team leader in the administrative work. This included writing a proposal, budget and implementation plan, and preparing agendas for meetings and follow-up progress reports. I also gathered the environmental and social data for the study area, which consists of the coastal counties of the Gulf, and processed and analyzed it. I provided reports on the results from the analysis to the project team. This project still continues.
Ocean Marine Policy Training, Monterey Bay, August 2015
For my third project, I took the lead on “Linking Coral Reef Complexity to Fisheries Economic Value in the U.S. Virgin Islands: A Tool for Coral Reef Prioritization.” The project objective is to quantify and map the economic fisheries value of coral reefs in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, based on the distribution of observed fish biomass across the seascape. Additionally, the project will quantify the relationship between the direct economic value of observed fish biomass and the topographic complexity and benthic composition of hard-bottom habitat. This work will help in the development of a predictive model for the value of commercial fish across the seascape of St. Croix.
Coral Reef Monitoring Training 
Training was an important part of my fellowship experience at NOAA. Some of the training — including communication, facilitation and team-leading skills — I gained from working with my supervisors and colleagues. Another part included classes and formal instruction that were essential to my working on these projects. I became more familiar with ArcGIS (ArcMap), received a NOAA diving certificate, and studied project design and evaluation.

While a fellow, I also gave a series of six seminars as part of NOAA/NOS Science Seminar Series. These helped me communicate my scientific research, experiences and the lessons I learned in marine conservation and MPAs in the Red Sea. As a result of all of this, I received a certification of recognition. However, the best recognition and reward was that I was hired by the Bio-geography Branch as a marine biologist after my fellowship. Finally, my dream came true and I am officially working for NOAA!