Having sprouted some roots in Egypt, the day has come to say our goodbyes and shoot back to reality and civilisation. Some of the team reflect back on their adventures of the past 7 weeks.


Rachel Mawer:

19956027_1595830220458231_3247331955391339138_oEgypt 2017 marked Rachel’s 2nd trip to Root’s Camp. Having overseen the social media aspect last year, Rachel was looking forwards to increased responsibility as a leader and although stressful at times she feels she’s learnt a great deal. Despite the many new challenges, Rachel has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Being a leader has involved plenty of decision making and fast thinking, and has helped make Rachel more comfortable and confident in her decisions. As a returning team member, Rachel was heavily involved in preparing the new team members for life in Egypt and making sure they got as much out of the expedition as possible. Before even leaving Glasgow, Rachel was busy organising outreach events, fitting in numerous fundraising events for the team, sorting out transport and visas for the everyone as well as setting up team meetings every week. Rachel particularly enjoyed speaking with the kids at Sunnyside primary school at the start of June about marine conservation and loved the great enthusiasm they had for marine life.

Out in Egypt, Rachel enjoyed the day to day life. With most days spent monitoring coral with Duncan, searching for hawkfish with Max or on the boat dropping cameras with Bella, Rachel loved being back in the field and getting hands on with the nitty bitty bits of scientific research once again. In the lab, Rachel helped analyse data, split 3D videos and learnt a little bit about statistics along the way, and hopes this will make some of her remaining time at university a bit easier. Every morning Rachel was responsible for holding a meeting with the team, making sure everyone was well and fit for work and knew their jobs for the day. Although it could be an awful lot like herding cats at times, she enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and banter of the team. Rachel also enjoyed being able to work with Ali Sayeed and Roaya again, and found the outreach events a highly rewarding experience. She admired the determination of some of the teenagers at the NGO during the mangrove clean up and loved everyone’s enthusiasm for hermit crab racing and tyre chair making.

Aside from all the hard work, Rachel loved diving on the scenic reefs on the Red Sea once again and observing many different species in their natural habitat. From fan-tail stingrays flip flapping along the reef to finally seeing turtles in Abu Sauatir a grand total of 5 times (5 more than last year!), Rachel was always in awe at the sheer scale of biodiversity on offer. However, without a doubt her favourite moment of the expedition was a very close encounter with an oceanic whitetip shark cruising past – something she doesn’t think she’ll forget in a hurry. She was also able log over 70 more dives, hurdling way past the 100 mark, and Rachel feels her skills as a diver, both recreational and scientific, has improved greatly by her time spent here. Looping a transect line around rocks and dead coral, maintaining perfect buoyancy during video transects and getting that perfect hawkfish photo has been a challenge at times but overall highly beneficial.

Returning to Roots for another summer was a rewarding experience, and Rachel was once again struck by the kindness and warmth displayed by all the staff at the camp and dive center.

Duncan Fraser:


Duncan has found the 2017 expedition to be a fantastic challenge and a fulfilling experience. After being part of the 2015 expedition, it was always a goal for Duncan to return and conduct his own honours project back in the Red Sea. He can now proudly say he has achieved this goal. His project, much like all the projects conducted has presented many challenges to face and hurdles to jump over, but with great help from the team and academic advisors the process was made a lot smoother. He feels that not only has he built on his knowledge of scientific research in the field, he has advanced his diving experience that he wishes to further even more in the future.

Duncan has marveled at the opportunity the Red Sea has provided for him. Not only for scientific research but producing documentary-style footage of the research being conducted. As this is a big passion of his he hopes he can use the footage to further his videography portfolio whilst documenting the work that is being done as a form of outreach.


Overall Duncan will leave the 2017 expedition with fond memories of the team and the Roots camp staff who have been most helpful and welcoming. Diving with Hawksbill turtles on the house reef, a dugong at El Quseir harbour and three oceanic whitetip sharks at Elphinstone will stay with Duncan for a very long time, making the Egypt expedition an unforgettable experience.


Daniella Laing:


As this was Dani’s first expedition, she was unsure of what to expect but has thoroughly enjoyed her time in Egypt.  The staff at Roots Red Sea were very welcoming and helpful throughout the whole trip which has made the expedition easier to conduct and more pleasant. Dani has gained so much knowledge from other team members whilst in Egypt and it has also provided her with the opportunity to learn how to dive. Dani arrived as an open water diver with 4 logged dives and will leave as a sports diver now with 90 logged dives. Scuba diving is something she has always wanted to do and she is very grateful to have the opportunity. Dani was a buddy to Max, conducting an honours project on the bold-shy continuum of Hawkfish, and has gained much experience in the field of scientific diving as a result. She has been on many fun dives whilst on expedition and has been able to dive with a dugong and three oceanic whitetip sharks which have been incredible experiences. Dani was the treasurer for the expedition and so it has not been without its challenges, she is looking forward to avoiding spreadsheets for the next few weeks. She has gained many new friends in her team members and is very grateful to them for making the expedition that much better and more enjoyable due to the support they have provided. The Egypt expedition has been extremely rewarding and beneficial and Dani will greatly miss it on her return to Glasgow.


Clara Collins:


After just over six weeks of intense grafting Clara is exhausted; it has been a hell of an experience for her. It was a bumpy start having to completely change her honours project but with the help of experts she pulled it together and managed to design and develop a solid project, working on the beautiful shores of Abu Sautir. It has been a pleasure to carry out her own project, using various techniques to measure variables that may have an effect on species biodiversity on the reef flat. Although not the most complicated of projects, it required much effort withstanding heat for long periods of time and took a lot of willpower! Clara’s invertebrate ID skills are now on top form after finding and identifying almost 50 species. As well as carry out her own project, Clara has been working with the team on outreach sessions. Within the weeks that she has spent here she feels that working with the local children has been a rewarding experience, and incredibly important, teaching them the importance of marine conservation. She has enjoyed the various activities spent with the children, teaching them about keeping the environment clean, recycling, fish identification and more; she hopes that her input has provided them with inspiration to become more connected with the natural world. Clara has also had the best first experience diving in the incredibly biodiverse Red Sea, intending only to do her PADI Open Water at first but taking it to the next level and completing her Advanced Open Water as she enjoyed it so much. She was first very apprehensive to the idea of diving due to her lack of experience, and being a weak swimmer she was extremely nervous for her first dive in the sea. However her confidence and enthusiasm grew as time went on, Clara embraced the eye-opening experience of entering a whole new world full of beautiful creatures and underwater gardens. Her love for animals also grew as she got up close to many of them. Clara had the fantastic opportunity to swim with a dugong which was one of her favourite moments, they are truly remarkable creatures! Never has she experienced anything like it and so she is confident that she will continue her adventures underwater! Whilst in Egypt, Clara managed to witness some of its Ancient treasures as she spent a day in Luxor with the team. They ventured out in the roaring heat to visit the Valley of the Kings, temple of Hatshepsut and the temple of Karnak. Looking past the unbearable heat at the imposing temples Clara could envision what Egypt once was. As well as all of this Clara has met some fantastic people; volunteers, workers at the camp, guides, mentors or just passers by, many will not be forgotten as she returns to Glasgow, and her experiences will stay with her forever. Clara has also had the pleasure of making new friends who have undoubtedly made a mark in her life. Overall it’s been a fantastic experience that she will never forget.


Sarah Neilly:


Sarah has gotten a lot from the expedition. Egypt appealed to Sarah initially because of the opportunity for more diving – after completing her Open Water in Madagascar last year, she was hooked. The Red Sea has not disappointed – the beauty of the house reef and diversity of its creatures have provided much opportunity for fascination. In just under 2 months, she has gone from 4 dives to just under 60. She has gained another diving qualification and is now a BSAC Sports Diver, meaning she has been able to participate in scientific diving with the purpose of Honours project data collection. She feels that working on the projects has been rewarding, as whilst having fun on dives and exploring the numerous wonders of the house reef, she has also been collecting worthwhile data that contributes to marine conservation. Sarah has found the fish and invertebrate identification work very helpful, as spotting various different organisms during a dive and being able to know what they are makes the dive much more enjoyable. She has learned how to cope with the intense heat of the Sahara desert, which was particularly challenging when working on Clara’s rockpool project in the hottest hours of the day. She has enjoyed being part of a team of like-minded students and having fun on day-off dives, the most notable of which was at Elphinstone, where she dived with oceanic whitetip sharks. This had been a dream of hers since the first team meeting back in Glasgow. Another highlight was the sombre dive in the Salem Express wreck. Diving the wreck and seeing beds and tables from what was the restaurant was a completely new experience, but also very sad as they were exploring the site of a tragedy in which many people lost their lives. Sarah also enjoyed the outreach work (though not so much sifting through the rubbish) that the team did with the NGO Roaya whilst in Egypt, and found it very rewarding to watch both children and young adults engage in aspects of marine conservation. The expedition has been incredibly challenging at times, but the benefits by far outweigh the drawbacks, and she can say that she has thoroughly enjoyed her summer here.


Stacey Hanley:


Stacey has found this year’s expedition both academically and personally challenging due to being far from home for an extended period, whilst immersing herself in new experiences. A major personal achievement was in the first week when she gained her PADI Open Water certification, fulfilling a long-held ambition to become a diver. Stacey has also completed her PADI Advanced Open Water certification and has logged over 25 dives during her time in Egypt. Throughout her time here Stacey has benefitted from the guidance and mentoring of experienced divers enabling her to gain confidence and improve her skills.  Her new diving skills have allowed her to explore a truly beautiful underwater world and experience breath-taking sights.           

Academically Stacey has gained experience of the practicalities and realities of scientific research – as not all goes to plan, adaptability and problem solving were crucial skills to gain. Stacey’s knowledge of tropical fish and invertebrate species has greatly improved, by helping with species identification in projects, reading scientific papers and learning the binomial names of fish families. Stacey has been involved in two of our four projects, primarily helping with data collection in the intertidal area of the beach in Clara’s biodiversity study and assisting Bella on the speedboat with camera drops. Stacey has also benefitted from being around those who are academically further ahead than herself – from one year ahead to senior lecturer and everything in between – each person has given their own perspective and advice on the path that lies ahead of her.

Stacey has found the team’s outreach work with a local NGO Roaya extremely rewarding and has enjoyed working with young people and children from the local community. The educational activities day at camp was a particular highlight with Stacey using a microscope to show marine microorganisms to the children. Participating in the mangrove clean-up was extremely rewarding and Stacey enjoyed working alongside Roaya volunteers to restore the site’s natural beauty.

Stacey feels that this expedition has been an extremely valuable experience that has given her confidence in proceeding to second year at Glasgow. She has made new friends and had many incredible experiences that she will never forget – swimming with turtles and a dugong were highlights of her trip.  Stacey has gained many skills and has soaked in knowledge that she hopes will benefit her in the years to come. While the work has been hard due to long days and hot weather she feels it has been fun, rewarding and very worthwhile.