The growing role of women in coral reef research in the Gulf Cooperation Council

Amal Al-Gergawi, Maryam Al-Memari, Grace Vaughan, John A. Burt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


As the most biodiverse and productive ecosystem in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), coral reefs have supported coastal communities for millennia. Demands for improved management and conservation following rapid development in the 1970s have led to a dramatic growth in science seeking to document and describe the status of regional reefs; however, the role of women in this field remains understudied. Using an explanatory semi-sequential mixed-methods design, in which a systematic review preceded semi-structured interviews, we address this gap by investigating the prevalence and perspectives of women conducting reef science in the GCC. Of the 852 reef-related publications included in the review, the majority (53 %) were exclusively authored by men, with no female authors occurring in the literature until 1985. The six-fold increase in female-inclusive publications that occurred in the subsequent three decades did not eliminate the substantial gender divide in publication output and the senior authorship position. Moreover, over half of published female scientists were researchers from the Global North, while Khaleeji researchers (citizens of GCC nations) were a minority - a trend with implications for knowledge leaks and ineffective conservation efforts. Six themes emerged from the interviews (n = 47): 1) history of female contributions to reef science in the GCC, 2) success factors for scientific productivity, 3) barriers affecting professional practice, 4) author collaboration and credit, 5) growing presence of Khaleeji researchers, 6) parachute and neocolonial science. Our results highlight the need to sustain diverse gender and local voices in research shaping conservation efforts. Considering that the region remains densely populated in coastal zones and dependent on the surrounding marine provinces, member states must propagate greater inclusive and indigenous representation in science to support advancement of reef research and conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110411
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Gender
  • Inclusion
  • Marine science
  • STEM careers
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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