It’s finally come to the end of the expedition for the Egypt team. It’s been six and a half weeks of data collection, circle times and lots of team bonding. We asked each of the team members an insight into their thoughts on the whole trip as well as asking them what they were looking forward to when they finally reached the comfort of their home. Here’s what they said!

Dani (Third Year) – Red Sea Clownfish Honours project, Co-leader

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How did your project go?
My project went very well. It didn’t happen without its challenges; starting a new project out here that had never been tested before meant that there was quite a lot of pilot work that needed to be done, to ensure all the data I collected was going to be usable. Diving on a site that I’ve only dived on once before was quite challenging, but as a whole, it’s gone pretty well. I’ve managed to overcome all the problems that I’ve had to deal with and I’m happy with the data that I’ve collected.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat is a skill that you’ve gained from the expedition?
Coming back to Egypt this year as the co-leader has been a very different experience for me so I’ve definitely learned a lot from that role. It’s not always gone swimmingly, it’s been quite a difficult role to come to terms with but I’ve definitely learned a lot more people skills and organisation and just trying to be somebody who can lead a team but also a friend to people.

What has been your favourite dive site this time around?
It was great to get back on the house reef because that’s where I’ve done the majority of my scuba diving and there’s always great stuff to see. One place that I tried out that I’ve never been to was Bet Gohar which was absolutely stunning. The coral there was incredible, there was lots of canyons and other exciting things to see.

What are you going to miss the most about Egypt?DSC00756.JPG
The weather probably… and sitting next to the pool. Also the team; we’ve been together for such a long time now and even though the time has flown I think it’ll be really strange to go back to reality.  And also diving where a dry suit isn’t involved.

What is the first meal you want to eat when you get back home?
I don’t think that I’ve missed that many things in terms of food, but I’d really like a good pizza – Paesano to be specific

Rachel (Third Year) – Camera-Drop Honours project, Co-leader

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How did your project go?
My project’s gone really really well, I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve managed to get 24 transects around the Red Sea surveying at different depths, from both the liveaboard and also the harbour near Roots. I was able to do the drop cameras at loads of offshore sites which haven’t been dived much before, and to depths which haven’t been explored before, which was really cool.

P7214912.jpgWhat is a valuable skill that you’ve gained while you’ve been out here?
Probably that things don’t always go to plan, especially with data collection because this is the first proper project that I’ve done by myself. Originally I was hoping to get a drop on each transect for every 10 metres depth but that just wasn’t possible because of the contour of the seabed or even time constraints and weather. Also working with the cameras has been a bit tricky because, on some days when I thought I had a really good day of data collection, I’d come back to the lab and have nothing. So yeah, it’s just been adapting the plan to technical issues with the cameras and working around unexpected snags.

What was your best moment on the trip?
I’m going to say it was when we saw the shark at Elphinstone just cruising by. I also saw a lot of dolphins on this trip…. But I saw a lot of dolphins on this trip and while they’re really cool, one shark just swimming along trumps hundreds of dolphins.

DSCN2614-1What is your favourite creature you can find here?
I like the whitespotted puffer (Arothron hispidus) because they look cool when they swim; they wag their tail like a dog! I also like that they lie on the coral or sea bed and look like they are done with life. Also you can see some really big ones and really small ones and they always look they are smiling.

What is the first food you want to eat when you get back?
As soon as we arrive at Gatwick airport I’m going to walk right into that Marks & Spencers and I’m going to buy a punnet of raspberries and maybe even blueberries if I feel like treating myself. Then I’m going to sit and just scoff them.

Kris (Masters) – Coral Diversity Masters project, Fundraising co-ordinator

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How did your project go?
It was a good wee trip; a good bit of data collection. It’s always good to brainchild your own project and put it into action. I enjoyed using my rig from 2016 again and getting validation from Charlotte and Neil (PHDs) that the methodology had potential – it just needs to be made from something that didn’t used to be a shower. Having Charlotte and Neil to give guidance and reassurance and to nurture my mindset has been great as well; when you’re doing a project you have a lot of anxiety and questions and you’re almost shooting in the dark so having them to help was good. Data turned out alright, but I’m a bit overwhelmed with the amount of data collected, which is no bad thing. All in all, really good.
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What do you think is the most valuable thing you’ve learnt while you’ve been here?
It’s been good to meet different people. I was quite anxious before coming out here, but all of that went away in the first couple of days. I’ve never seen a group of people congeal so naturally. It’s had its ups and downs but overall there isn’t anyone I could fault. Made some good mates, which will hopefully continue on when we get back to Glasgow. It was nice to have the support of the team – whenever it hits the fan, members of the team have helped to uplift my mood and make it all bearable and I really appreciate that.

What was your best dive site?
Being on the liveaboard was a great experience. Being able to dive places that have never been surveyed before is every Marine Biology student’s dream. Abu Galawa Kebir was day one on the liveaboard. I’ve never seen coral quite like it, and me being a coral enthusiast, that was quite amazing. Porites porites and dome coral that was two, three, four stories high was quite breathtaking. It’s a bit of a shame I didn’t get to enjoy it to its full extent doing science and looking down a tiny camera, but when I had the opportunity to just sit back and take it in, it was quite emotional.

P6280736.JPGWhat is the first thing that you’re going to do when you get home?
Obviously, to see my dogs. I’m a bit scared for his reaction because I’ve never been away from him before. My mum’s making me homemade steak pie which is my favourite. There’s also a tradition in my household that whenever I go travelling my dad goes out to our local and gets me a pint of tenants poured. I’m looking forward to a freshly poured glass. The stella here is quite nice but it ain’t quite got it.

MG (Masters) – Fish diversity masters project, Scientific co-ordinator

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How has your masters project gone?
How am I supposed to answer that? Haha… data collection went really well. As with any scientific project there will be bumps in the road and highs and lows but I think overall I got what I came here to collect and I had a good time doing it.

What is the best thing that you’ve learnt from the expedition?
How to co-operate and work together with multiple different personalities and also the ins and outs and all of the hard work that goes into making an expedition possible.P7255566.jpg

What was your favourite dive site?
My favourite dive site was probably the whole of the Wadi el Gamal national park because the offshore islands were so pristine and I saw so many different awesome species. There was so much biodiversity.

What’re you going to miss the most about Egypt?
I’m definitely going to miss the biodiversity on the house reef and having coral reef just across the street from you that you can hop into every-day and see so many cool fish – I’ll miss that a lot.

What is the first thing that you are going to do when you get back?
Get a giant cheese pizza from dominos and then crash on my bed and take a looong nap.

Lucy (Third Year) – Freckled Hawkfish Honours project, Publicity

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How did you find the experience?
Amazing! I’ve experienced so much out here in Egypt – learning to dive from scratch up to my sports diver qualification, how to conduct my very own research project, visiting the ancient attractions that Luxor has to offer… the list goes on! I’ll be so sad to leave.

What was your favourite moment of the trip?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
In between dives on our first day off when we spotted a turtle coming up for air. Everyone instantly flopped in the water half-dressed to follow. We managed to swim alongside it for a good 10 minutes.

How did your project go?
It went well, but not without its ups and downs. I’ve definitely realised that science doesn’t always like to cooperate but that has certainly made the expedition more interesting. With the help of the other expedition members and Neil, Charlotte and Guy, I’ve been able to collect a solid data set which I’m now ready to sit down and analyse. I’ve really enjoyed all the opportunities to see amazing sights when on my data collection such as a massive pod of dolphins, octopus, squid, titan triggerfish (albeit a bit scary) and so much more. Thank you to all my helpers for accompanying me on my snorkels…especially the early rises!37940106_2306107929414422_94147143417200640_n (1).jpg

What was your favourite dive site?
El maklouf. We entered the dive site from the shore by diving into a cavern system before emerging in an amazing reef. It was just a super fun, relaxing & interesting dive & we managed to see loads of cool stuff.

What are you looking the most forward to?
HOUMOUS!

 

Mark (Third Year) – Freckled Hawkfish honours project, Fundraising co-ordinator

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 How did your project go?
My project went very smoothly. After following on from 4 years of similar projects, I took a change in direction in terms of my aims. I used the data that has been built up over the previous years as well as database loaded on I3s (Identification software) to my advantage. Data collection itself was pretty successful with only a few snags. But overall I would say I’m happy with my project and how I’m going to develop it when I get back to Glasgow.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learnt while out here?DSCF9412.JPG
I came to Egypt only having 30 or so dives under my belt. Learning to be competent to lead a dive, with full confidence that I could deal with any problem that arose, is probably the most valuable skill I’ve gained. Improving my diving to a level where data collection was possible to a good scientific standard was one of the first goals while out here in Egypt and knowing that I’ve reached that and improved my dive skills beyond that is great.

What was your favourite moment of the trip
My favourite moment would probably be during a standard data collection dive, looking to the blue to see an Eagle ray gliding past. Just to know that kind of thing is going on without you even realising, while you’re so focused on the reef is cool. One of the best parts is learning to keep an eye on the reef for data collection and keeping one on the blue because that’s where the action is at.DSC00741.JPG

What are you going to miss the most?
Probably getting the chance to build up a data set that is going to be used in a published paper. Being a part of a project that has been ongoing for a while and adding my own zest to a bigger picture.

What is the first thing that you’re going to do when you get home?
I’ll get a standard home decorating set, get the paintbrush that comes with it, put some after-sun on it and just lather up my whole body.

Melanie (Second Year) – Dive Officer and Publicity

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What was the best moment on the trip for you
The best moment was seeing a Spanish dancer on the night dive for the very first time. I’ve waited 8 years to see one and my dream finally came true.

P7225003.jpgWhat have you learnt from this expedition
I think whats been most valuable to me has been the opportunity to learn the different scientific methods and to get an insight into what it’s like to conduct these projects before going into my own honours project.

What’s been your favourite dive site and why?
I really really enjoyed the El Mina harbour dive site that we did the other day for the line clearing. Although it was covered in fishing line which was quite sad, muck diving is really really interesting for me because there are a lot of creatures down there for you to hunt and see, like all the juveniles.

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What is your favourite creature that you can find on the house reef?
I really liked seeing the spotted eagle ray, because they’re quite rare in many other places. I also like the Nudibranch (Nudibranchia). There are so many different colours and patterns and they’re so small that trying to find them is like a treasure hunt every time.

What is the first thing that you’re going to do when you get home
I’m probably going to go to KFC and have a genuine mini fillet with cheese.

 

Shion (Second Year) – Secretary and Publicity

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What was your favourite moment of the trip?
I really liked seeing the shark. I’ve been wanting to see a shark for a long time now and I finally got to see one so I’m absolutely buzzing about that. I was hoping for a blacktip reef shark because they’re my favourite, but Oceanic whitetip is just as good!

What is a new skill that you’ve learnt while you’ve been out here
I’ve learnt a lot more about scientific method and putting method into practice, which is something that I haven’t really done before since I’m in second year. I’m really looking forward to the future and my honours project where I’ll be able to implement skills that I’ve learnt in these past 6 weeks. CPC and that

37812364_1668316413297617_7072778110977966080_oWhat are you going to miss most about Egypt
I’m going to miss the hot weather. The weather in Glasgow is grey and dull and I like the sun and being tanned and glowing. And also, I’m going to miss everyone here. It’s weird to think that we’ve spent the past 6 weeks day in day out together and then suddenly we will be going back to our day-to-day life and not living it up in Egypt.

What is your favourite creature on the house reef?
I like the pulsating xenid (Heteroxenia fuscecens). I really like getting up close and having a look at the detail on the reef, because I’m more of a coral person than a fish person, and I find the pulsating xenid really mesmerising because of the way the pink pinnate tentacles wave rhythmically, like they’re dancing.

Picture1.pngWhat is your favourite dive site
The house reef. I’ve been lucky enough to clock up over 50 dives while I’ve been here in Egypt on the house reef. I’ve seen some really really cool stuff like spotted eagle rays and spinner dolphins on the house reef even just when I’ve been snorkelling and it’s very conveniently just down the road.

What are you looking forward to at home? 
I’m really looking forward to not having the fear of an ant infestation or constantly having flies landing on my face. Also, I can’t wait to be rid of my nappy rash from my bikini that’s plagued me since day one.

Helen (First Year) – Treasurer

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What was your favourite moment of the whole trip?
Definitely near the start of the expedition when I went out with Dani and Rachel on the boat, and we saw a pod of around fifty dolphins. I jumped in the water like speedy Gonzalez and I swam with them and it was great – I loved it.

P6220319.jpgSeeing as you’re in first year, how has that shaped your future career? And how has it been being the only first year on the trip?
Being a first year on the trip has been good, I don’t feel I’ve been excluded from anything and I also think that now I have a big leg up on other people that maybe didn’t get to go on an expedition. I’ve learnt a lot about data collection, scientific writing and stats, and also about honors projects and masters projects from everyone here. I’ve also got an insight into about how the expeditions are run, especially from my role as treasurer, which will be good in the future when I want to do more. Definitely feel good about it.

What is your favourite Red Sea species?
I like the lyretail anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) because I like watching the way the shoal moves in such a co-ordinated way. They’re a lovely vibrant orange and their eyes are bright blue. When you go deeper on a dive you tend to lose colour but you don’t really with them. For example, at Elphinstone, we were around 35m deep and they still looked just as beautiful.  There’s also a lot of them which means you’re always guaranteed to see them on a dive here.
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What is the first thing you want to eat when you get back home?
A Chinese takeaway

What’s your order?
Sweet and sour chicken, and noodles. Oh and chicken noodle soup and wontons. Whatever I can get my hands on really.


 

It has been an absolute pleasure being able to undergo data collection in one of the most pristine water bodies in the world. The Red Sea offers a wide variety of marine species, an estimated 20% of which are endemic, and to be able to come out here on student expedition has been an absolutely unforgettable experience.

The Egypt team would like to thank everyone who has made this possible; in particular we would like to extend a massive thank you to David Bailey, Shaun Killen, Neil Burns, Charlotte Hopkins, Guy Henderson, Steve Rattle, Clare Meadows, Moudi and the rest of the team at the Pharoah Dive Club and Roots Red Sea, Richard Pooley, Dan and Julia Reynell.

We would also like to thank The Glasgow Natural History Society, The Carnegie Trust, The Gilchrist Meers Grey Travel Scholarship, The Lindeth Charitable Trust, The Percy Sladen Trust for their generous grants towards our expedition.

Finally, we would like to thank all of our friends and families and everyone else back home who donated at our fundraisers.  The whole team are extremely grateful for their support without which all of this would not have been possible. Thank you so much! Over and out!

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