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Keynote Speakers

Catherine McFadden

Catherine S. McFadden received a B.S. in Biology from Yale University and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Washington. She has been a faculty member at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California since 1991, where she holds the position of Vivian and D. Kenneth Baker Professor of Biology. Her research interests lie in the patterns of distribution and mechanisms that generate biodiversity in the marine environment, with a specific focus on the anthozoan corals, especially octocorals (soft corals and sea fans). Her research group develops and uses molecular and genomic approaches to understand species boundary problems as well as deep phylogenetic relationships and trait evolution in anthozoans.

Greg Skomal

Dr. Gregory Skomal is an accomplished marine biologist, underwater explorer, photographer, and author. He has been a senior fisheries scientist with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries since 1987 and currently heads up the Massachusetts Shark Research Program (MSRP). He is also adjunct faculty at the University of Massachusetts and an adjunct scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a Ph.D. from Boston University. Through the MSRP, Greg has been actively involved in the study of life history, ecology, and physiology of sharks. Much of his current research centers on the use of acoustic telemetry and satellite-based technology to study post-release survivorship, ecology, and behavior of sharks. He has written dozens of scientific research papers and has appeared in a number of film and television documentaries, including programs for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, BBC, and numerous television networks. 

Gustav Paulay

Gustav Paulay is curator of invertebrates at the Florida Museum of Natural History and studies marine biodiversity and diversification.  Through large, collaborative efforts he surveys marine life in coastal oceans, especially on coral reefs, and has documented tens of thousands of species in Red Sea, Oman, SW Indian Ocean, Australia, Philippines, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Hawaii, Caribbean, Bahamas, South America, and both US coasts. The goal of these surveys is to make the overwhelming diversity of the sea more accessible to diverse audiences and applications, through rapid dissemination of taxonomic, image, and DNA sequence data. These surveys also fuel broad phylogenetic and biogeographic studies that examine how the diversity and distribution of marine life came about. 

Luiz Rocha

Luiz Rocha is the Curator of Ichthyology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. He is a National Geographic Explorer, marine biology professor, and has published more than 120 scientific articles and one book. Currently his main area of work involves the exploration of little known deep (mesophotic, between 60 and 150m depth) coral reefs throughout the tropics. Because this ecosystem is so unexplored, they are largely unprotected. Therefore, his work has mainly focused on describing the uniqueness of the fauna from those depths, and on advocating for both the inclusion of deep reefs into existing marine protected areas, and the creation of conservation areas dedicated to those reefs. In addition to scientific contributions, his work has been featured in many popular media outlets including the New York Times, Wired, National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, among others, and supported ocean conservation efforts across the globe.


Brian James

Brian James works at KAUST Health, Safety and Environment. He has been bird watching for the past 30 years. He worked as a teacher in Tanzania and soon started to take a keen interest in identifying the birds there. Since then he has watched birds throughout the world and has a life list of around 5200 species.

Brian came to KAUST when it first opened and worked as a teacher in the Primary School until 2016 when he retired. He is now working for the HSE department as the Biodiversity Coordinator.

His blog  reports on the birds seen at KAUST, He regularly organises Guided Bird Walks for community members and visitors. He has travelled widely within Saudi Arabia watching birds and recorded almost 400 species within the country.

Marie-Laure Boulot

Marie-Laure Boulot is the Enrichment Office director at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). She sets strategies, oversees program development and positions KAUST's enrichment programs in Saudi Arabia and in the international landscape. She graduated from Paris Dauphine University where she studied finances and marketing. Marie-Laure joined KAUST as a founding staff member in 2009. Starting with the inaugural 2010 Winter Enrichment Program, Marie-Laure has successfully spearheaded the development and expansion of the University's enrichment programs that expand the minds of not only students but also faculty, staff and community members and in-Kingdom guests.

Minds Hub

MindsHub is a startup created by KAUST scientist-duo Nabila Bounceur and Chak Man Andrew Yip. Their goal is to provide researchers with an easy to use mobile app based AI to optimally manage their networking during (big) scientific events; by facilitating the detection and targeting of potential connections (collaborators). Meet the creators and help MindsHub test two main features both considered drivers of participant engagement.

Rebeca Kent

Before embarking on a career as a kindergarten teacher, I studied Art/Design intensively in the UK. It has always been my passion and dream to write and illustrate picture books. I have taught kindergarten and primary internationally for nearly 20 years, so I know my target audience extremely well.  I have written and illustrated a number of children’s books. Literacy and art are my passion. Champions of the Mangroves is my first published and printed picture book. It is an inspiring story for 4-8-year-olds that emphasizes courage, loyalty, and perseverance.

The Art Perspective

The Art Perspective is a student group, sponsored by Graduate Events & Recreation. Our mission is to bring artistic expression to students in a campus of science and technology. We frequently host "open studio" sessions where students create art however they want with the available supplies. We also host exhibitions and competitions, and occasional workshops and special events.