Eco-tourism & Red Sea Environs

Latest update June 5, 2020 Started on November 11, 2018
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Eilat is an ecotourism town, most of which is Red Sea focused. Follow our Rabin High School students understand the effects of anthropogenic activities on coral reefs and sea grass in the Red Sea, and other wildlife in the surrounding desert habitats.

November 11, 2018
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Debriefing

Earth's magnetism affects the direction in which dogs face when they DEFECATE!!! :)
For two consecutive years, our students Niv Ben-Baruch and Liel Shmueli, studied the effects of earth's magnetism on the direction in which they face when they want to defecate or take a leak. Almost 2000 dogs were observed for this study and for some we also buried industrial magnets in the soil. We discovered that almost all orient on a north-south axis when they crouch to defecate or take a leak. This study was mentored with Michal Raz, also a biology teacher. The paper was published as: Yosef, R., M. Raz, N. Ben-Baruch, L. Shmueli, J. Kosicki, M. Fratczak and P. Tryjanowski. 2020. Directional preferences of dogs changed in the presence of a bar magnet: educational experiments in Israel. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 35:34-37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.10.003

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Preparation

I am happy to report and thank Sofar Ocean Technologies and National Geographic for donating to our project a trident rover!!!! I am ecstatic about it and hope to put it good use in the near future. All updates will be posted here. Attached are pictures of our first trials in a swimming pool.

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Debriefing

Food preference by the Egyptian Mastigure (Uromastix aegyptius)


Submitted by: Elad Aharoni Rabin High School

Mentor: Prof. Reuven Yosef Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Eilat Campus

The choice of food in nature tests an animal’s diet for a specific place and species. Selection of food is a phenomenon that exists throughout the world and among all animals. I studied the Egyptian Mastigure, one of the world's largest mastigure (length up to 75 cm, including the tail, weight up to 3 kg). My research question was - what is the natural food selection of the Egyptian Mastigure in the Dragonlands Nature Reserve? And what are the conditions for food selection? I investigated an area of about 50 m2 that includes 4 burrows of Egyptian Mastigure and 12-15 different plant species that vary seasonaly. I found that there are three main plant species that are preferred by the Egyptian Mastigure. The conditions for food choice is that the plants are non-toxic, are available for a long period of time, exist in large quantities and make up 12% -20% of the vegetation in the area, and are accessible. The most readily available species are Launaea nudicaulis (14%), Aizoon canariense (10%) and Zygophyllum simplex (16%) in the spring, immediately after the rains, and cover almost 40% of the area. An examination of the tufts shows that in the dry season of summer, when the annuals disappear, the Egyptian Mastigure are forced to eat only the leaves, the bark or the branches of the Acacia raddiana, Haloxylon persicum or an Cleome arabica.

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In The Field

We have been very lucky and successful in our student papers being published in peer-reviewed scientific journals!!


Our most recent ones are:

Yosef, R., Y. Poliakov, N. Ben-Harush, P. Zduniak. 2019. Effects of recreation on Acorn Barnacles (Tetraclita squamosa rufotincta) in the Red Sea. European Journal of Ecology 4:131-133.

Yosef, R., Y. Abergil, F. Morelli. 2019. Ecotourism affects reef ecology: a case study of breeding in the Sergeant Major Damselfish (Abudefduf saxatilis). Journal of Environmental Management 237:1-4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.01.099.

Yosef, R., O. Strutzer, R. Tabibi, L. Rozsa. 2019. Lice infestations of Steppe Buzzards (Buteo buteo vulpinus) markedly differ from those of Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo buteo). Journal of Raptor Research 53: 102-108.

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Debriefing

The effect of abiotic factors on height of migration of soaring birds
By: Noa Vaknin, Yitzhak Rabin High School, Eilat Supervisor: Prof. Reuven Yosef, Yitzhak Rabin High School, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Eilat Campus I investigated the influence of abiotic conditions (ambient temperature, humidity, radiation, wind speed, wind direction) on the altitude of migratory soaring birds in the south east of Israel, in the Arava Valley. The bird species that I focused on were the European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorous), Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes), Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) and Common Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus). During autumn 2015 and spring 2016, I collected meteorological data along with that of the passage of the study species in the research area. The results indicate that abiotic factors affect the mode of migration differently in each of the soaring bird species. In addition, the autumn and spring migration results were different for the same parameters. The results show a clear influence of abiotic factors on bird migration. However, there are results that that indicate direct effects, while others the results are ambiguous, probably because of the relatively small sample size. This study has great importance because the study was conducted at the new international airport that is being constructed north of Eilat. Accidents between aircraft and soaring birds are known to result in fatalities not only to the birds but also to the aircraft. In Israel, this problem is very severe because of the small air space of Israel and the large numbers of soaring birds that migrate through the region twice a year. This creates a serious problem of flight-safety. This conflict is exacerbated when an international airport is built in just such a flyway. Therefore, the subject of bird migrations must be taken very seriously and work to reduce and to prevent future conflicts must be implemented in order to not only prevent harm to the soaring birds but also prevent damage to aircraft and to save human lives. In my study I compared between the abiotic factors to each of the soaring bird species, and calculated the autumn and spring migrations separately. For each species the results differed between the seasons and indicated that the same species are affected differently by environmental between seasons. A comparison of my work with previous research showed much similarity. These I have detailed in my work. Further, I evidenced a change that occurred at the new airfield. The construction of the new runways created areas with high-thermal activity resulting in the birds preferring to fly parallel to the runways instead of simply crossing from one side to the other. Some of the main findings of the study are the significant effect of abiotic factors on Levant Sparrowhawk in the spring; hour of day explained 45% of the observations, while wind speed ca. 33%, and radiation ca. 22%. This is one example of many of my findings and which are detailed extensively in my work.

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Soaring bird survey – a comparison of Radar data and a human observer
Student: Aviv Sasson, Begin High School, Eilat. Professor: Prof. Reuven Yosef, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Eilat campus. Bird migrations is a periodical phenomenon and concentrated in specific seasons of the year – spring and autumn. Birds, like other animals, migrate in order to improve their chances of survival. They migrate to areas that can supply them enough resources to survive the winter. Drying of water sources, their pollution, human-related development, and opening of new airports forces the birds to adapt to new staging areas in order to complete their migrations. Construction of the new airport north of Eilat, raises questions about its impact on the migratory bird populations in light of the fact that Eilat is an important site for many species that migrate between EurAsia to Africa in the autumn, and that return north in the spring. Recently a sophisticated bird-radar "Robin" was brought to the new airport site. "Robin" is able to detect all flying objects and supply detailed data on each of them. To date, most mitigation of bird strikes has been by monitoring by observers. In order to understand the efficiency of the human observer I compared the detection rate to that of the radar. I joined the research group of Professor Yosef for observations and collected information in February, March and April 2016. I spent a total of 30 days in the field and at the radar, a total of 240 field-hours. I hypothesized that the radar would be more efficient than the human observer. This was substantiated by the fact that the radar documented almost double the number of birds. In addition, I found that the biggest differences occurred during the morning and the afternoon hours and found that the observer had difficulties when the sun was in the middle of the sky, and at dusk. I hope that the data that I present in my research will help to prevent air-strikes, protect nature, and will help conserve the migratory route that is unique to our area.

Disassembly rates of tea bags in sea grass


Submitted by: Chen Farig Rabin High School, Eilat

Mentor: Dr. Gidon Winters R & D Arava and the Dead Sea

Accompnying mentor: Prof. Reuven Yosef Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University, Eilat Campus

The study is part of a global study examining the decomposition rate of red and green tea bags in various habitats. The aim of the study is to produce a global map of decomposition rates in various environments. The study itself will take three years. My participation in the study was only a year in which I dived four times (0 = June 2017, after 3-months, 6-months, and a year). The experiment included two types of tea - green tea made from soft materials compared with red tea which is woodier. The tea bags were buried in a sea grass bed at a depth of 5 meters at the northern shore. We placed them in two squares of 1m X 1m squares made of gray PVC pipes, 2 m from each other. We dived after 3, 6, and 12 months and examined how the biomass of the tea bags had changed after the decomposition in the sea grass. We calculated average dry weight for each tea type. The weight of the red tea decreased during the time it was in the sea grass - its initial weight without the bag was on average 1.804 g and after a year's stay at the bottom was an average 1.196 g, a decrease of 0.607 g. The weight of the green tea without a bag decreased significantly and the initial weight without a bag was on average 1.691 g and after a year's stay was 0.278 g, a decrease of 1.413 g. I conclude that the green tea breaks down 2.327 times faster than the red tea in the sea grass. This result is not surprising considering the different leaf content between green tea and red. Red tea contains more wood, which causes it to break down more slowly than the green tea whose structure is made up of materials that break down more easily by the organisms involved in this process. These results are similar to similar experiments made with the same tea bags but in terrestrial environments (Keuskamp 2013), where the red tea also decomposed more slowly. The use of tea bags proved to be an effective method for measuring carbon decomposition rates. The method is especially suitable for citizen science, where non-scientists can participate in collecting scientific data and makes it possible to replicate the experiment in many parts of the world at relatively low cost, which will contribute to our ability to predict the effect of climate change on carbon decomposition rates in particular and the carbon cycle in general.

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Changes in phenology and morphology of Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) because of Climate Change
Submitted by: Idan Goler, Rabin High School Mentor: Prof. Reuven Yosef, Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Eilat Campus

Migration is one of nature's most spectacular events. The weather is of great importance for the dynamics of the bird populations, but only recently have we begun to understand and investigate the consequences of climate change on the birds. Migratory birds must move from areas of low or declining resources to areas of high or increasing resources. Annually, about 11 billion birds in the world migrate south in the autumn and back north in the spring. In my work, I studied two main parameters of the Blackcap - whether the date of the species's arrival at Eilat has changed in the past 30 years and whether the length of the wing has changed - indicating changes in migration distances of the different populations of the species on the breeding grounds. I concluded that there is indeed a change in wing length of the species during the season - at the beginning of the season wing length is relatively short and increases steadily until early May and then remains relatively constant. A difference of almost 3 mm. This is likely due to differences in the geographic distances from which the different populations of this species breed in the north across Europe & Asia. Average annual body mass indicate that the older individuals perform better on migration than the younger individuals because their mean mass is greater. I also found a significant change in the average number of birds/week - the majority of the population arrive in the second half of March, their number increases steadily until mid-April and the first half of May, and then drops sharply and the Blackcap migration ends towards early June. From all the parameters I have examined, it is not possible to say anything concrete about the impact of the climate. In my opinion, it is important to continue analyzing the data from different perspectives.

Changes in migration phenology and biometrics of Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) at Eilat
Submitted by: Yonathan Hershko, Rabin High School Mentor: Prof. Reuven Yosef, Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Eilat Campus

Bird migration is a natural phenomenon wherein the birds migrate north to south in autumn and south to north in the spring. By ringing we have succeeded in following the migration of birds and discovering their migratory routes. Many studies have investigated the change in bird physiology and morphology while on migration and as to how they adjust to climate change. I decided to investigate the Chiffchaff, a species that is common in winter in Israel. The research question was to examine whether there is a change in body mass, wing length and date of arrival at Eilat following the effects of global climate change on migration strategies of birds. I analyzed the data of the International Bird Watching Center's ringing station in Eilat for the last 33 years. I hypothesized that since the Chiffchaff migrate great distances, that climate change had influenced their phenology and morphology in the past 3 decades. My results of the spring season for the last 33 years show that the arrival of the Chiffchaff at Eilat is earlier by 6 days, but there was no change in their body mass or wing-length. The data did not support my hypotheses and show that the populations of the Chiffchaf that pass through Eilat has not changed significantly.

Three of my pupils worked with me for 5 years on bird migrations and eventually submitted their high school theses on the subject. Glad to say that 2 got a final score of 100 and the third 92.


Influence of climate change on phenology and morphology of Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) during spring migration Presented by: Avial Perpelovitz, Rabin High School Mentor: Prof. Reuven Yosef, Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University of the Negev – Eilat Campus Bird migration is the ability to move from areas with a diminishing supply of food to areas with greater abundance. Birds nesting in the northern hemisphere migrate to the south in fall and north in the spring. Migration occurs in a regular cycle and on a regular route between the breeding and the wintering areas. Many a study has been conducted on this subject and I decided to focus on the morphological and phenological changes in the Lesser Whitethroat that migrate through Eilat in large numbers in the spring, between March and the end of May. Lesser Whitethroat is a common Passerine, garden species in Europe and Asia. The Lesser Whitethroat fly long distances and there are individuals that migrate about 8,000 km each season. Using ringing data from 1983-2010, 2014 and 2016 (29 years), I investigated the possible changes in morphology and phenology. I hypothesized that because the Lesser Whitethroat was traveling long distances it would show a major change in the length of its wing because of the environmental effects of climate change. I concluded that the wing length had reduced by about 1 millimeter, contrary to my hypothesis. In addition, its body mass increased by one gram. Eventually they also changed the date of arrival at Eilat, in the 1990s, there was a delay of about a week but over the years, the date has returned to be as it was in the 1980s.

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The Dorcas Gazelle (Gazella dorcas) as an environmental architect
Submitted by: Doron Sapir Rabin High School Mentor: Prof. Uri Shaynis University of Haifa, Oranim Mentor: Prof. Reuven Yosef Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Eilat Campus

The Dorcas Gazelle is a mammal that lives in the Negev Desert of Israel. In the Eilat region, most of the population is located in the Evrona reservation, which is about 25 km north of the city of Eilat. The Gazelle is considered an environmental engineer because it changes the micro-climate and enables the existence of other animals and plants. When the Gazelle walks on the sandy soils its feet break through the crust and create a small hole in the ground. The purpose of the study was to find out how the Gazelle's activity affects the microclimate in the pit. Also, I examined whether these deep tracks provide shelter for other animals. I used a Labdisc biochem (+ 0.1oC) to measure the ambient and in 500 tracks the temperature and humidity. I also measured the depth of the track using a metal ruler. My hypothesis was that the Gazelle’s trails would provide habitat for other species, such as ant-lions. However, I found that although the Gazelle tracks provide better living conditions than the ambient desert, i.e., lower temperatures and higher humidity, there were very few animals present in the tracks. In conclusion, during the course of the thesis I found that the deer's trails do provide better microclimate conditions, but nevertheless I did not find evidence of this being utilized by other species.

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In The Field

Yuval Abergil studied the effects of tourists on the breeding biology of the sergeant-major damselfish on the southern most reefs of Eilat.
Abstract.- We studied the effect of tourist activity on the reproductive success of sergeant major damselfish (Abudefduf saxatilis). We snorkelled at two sites – one with a bridge over the reef allowing access to the reef from the seaside (Princess beach) and further south where the number of tourists is very low (Taba beach). We identified 36 (65.5%) nests on the Princess reef and 19 (34.5%) on the Taba reefs. Average nest size at Princess was 11.8 cm2 (+ 2.68 SD) vs 19.6 cm2 (+ 3.9) at Taba. Further, at Princess although the number of nests found was not correlated to the distance from the bridge (R² = 0.352), average nest size increased with distance from the bridge (R² = 0.861). At Taba, nests on the continuous reef were on average 21.8 cm2 (+ 1.8, N = 13) while those on the loose aggregation reefs were on average 14.8 cm2 (+ 2.02, N = 6). Although reef tourism is increasingly being regarded a major source to generate income for human coastal communities, a better understanding of the consequences of human activities to the reef system is a must in order to enhance conservation initiatives and facilitate management implementation.

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This week we had the honour of seeing our research in print (https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1Y6KM1LenMClkY). Coral Gindi did her work on foot-preference in migratory Steppe Buzzards.
Abstract. - Asymmetries in handedness/footedness has been demonstrated in many vertebrate and invertebrate species, including humans, but its role and origins are still debated. We studied the ratio of footedness in migratory Steppe Buzzards (Buteo vulpinus). We hypothesized that during our raptor banding program we could observe the preferred foot used by the raptor when trying to access the lure in a bal-chatri trap, and that if there was no preference in the population then it would show a 50:50 use of the right or left foot. A total of 367 different Steppe Buzzards were identified and their footedness analyzed. Of these 196 (53.4%) preferentially hit the trap first with the right foot, 148 (40.3%) with the left foot, and 23 (6.3%) appeared to be ambidextrous. In the avian world, predominance is considered to be species specific but mostly right-footed. The migratory Steppe Buzzards also show a predominantly right-sided lateralization. This result could be due to the task/situation that was analyzed; perhaps in a different more tool-like manipulation activity lateralization could be different. We recommend all future researchers that deal in wildlife trapping to also pay attention to this very interesting aspect of wildlife biology. Yosef, R., C. Gindi and N. Sukenik. 2019. Footedness in Steppe Buzzard (Buteo vulpinus). Behavioral Processes 158:113-116.

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Dennis Pundik researched and submitted his final thesis in 2014. He studied the influence of salinity on the invertebrate prey base of the migratory (Arctic) Little Stint (Calidris minuta) while wintering at the Salinas in Eilat.
Dennis’s reflections on the process: At present mankind is facing a major problem because of our population expansion. In schools, there is a debate around the question as to who is the real victim - the teacher or the ever-growing numbers of students. But, in my eyes, this question does not prevent Prof. Yosef to be THE "educator". Out of four years of interactions with him and our work together I got many valuable tools which accompany me into life beyond the high school - I started to read, investigate out of curiosity, think and look for patterns, and the most important, I have started to ask questions. There is no doubt about the importance of the quality of the teacher/mentor. I am convinced that any student that asks question will someday find the answer no matter which teacher he has, but I am grateful for having become the student that Reuven molded me to be. I strongly recommend undertaking research projects under his mentorship because he equips you with tools for the future.

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Noya Ben-Harush - reflections:
As a 12th grade teen, you don’t get a lot of chances to investigate in-depth things that really interest you, but I am happy to say that I did get such a chance. I wrote a research paper on a topic and an animal that I chose. This final paper has given me a lot: • I got to talk in front of an audience and to develop and improve my presentation skills. • I’ve expanded my knowledge. • I participated in national competitions. • I’ve learned how to write papers in a professional manner, • And of course, I have received extra credits in my high school diploma.

Looking back, that final paper has given me a lot of benefits even though writing it was hard, and the fact that I did not have any previous background with writing papers or research, makes me proud of myself for writing and having finished the process.

I could not have done it without the help and support of Professor Reuven Yosef and my other teachers and friends.

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Noya Ben-Harush, a final year high school student, studied the effects of tourist activities on Acorn Barnacles on the Red Sea shoreline.
Abstract.- Ecotourism and environmental recreation are one of the fastest growing industries today and result in urbanization. However, in many cases, the consequences for the environment are ignored. Eilat in southern Israel is just such a case wherein tourism is the mainstay of the city and the Red Sea shore the main attraction. Most of the areas are developed specifically for enhancing tourism in the form of hotels, roads, beach front restaurants, bars, etc. One of the most benign of creatures, that sits permanently on rocks and seashores and is trodden upon regularly by recreationists, is the Acorn Barnacle (Tetraclita squamosa rufotincta). This sessile, inter-tidal organism is ignored by most including those in charge of conserving biodiversity in the region. In Eilat, the Acorn Barnacle is found mostly on human introduced substrates along the shores. We surveyed ten sites with the same area for the number of barnacles from the three categories (live, dead and deserted). We compared between frequented by recreationists and from which they were denied access. We found a significantly greater number of individuals on the undisturbed than disturbed areas. Furthermore, the contribution of live barnacles in relation to all individuals presented on the studied areas was higher in undisturbed than in disturbed areas. Moreover, there were fewer deserted barnacles at the restricted sites and had a significantly bigger radius of operculum than at recreational sites. We conclude that the Acorn Barnacles in the undisturbed areas had 33 a significantly greater probability of survival and longevity, as suggested by radius of the operculum, compared to those exposed to anthropogenic activity. Authorities encouraging development through urbanization must take into account the most benign of creatures in order to ensure the biodiversity of any given region.

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Preparation

Our high school students are also actively involved in publication of their sccientific findings in professional journals. Recently, Gal Kroitero who worked on flight-initiation distance (FID) in waders cooperated with researchers from all over Europe and we published the collaborative paper on how through the year certain species of waders react to human approach. The findings can be read at: Adjusting risk-taking to the annual cycle of long-distance migratory birds. 2018.
Peter Mikula, Mario Díaz, TomášAlbrecht, Jukka Jokimäki, Marja-Liisa Kaisanlahti Jokimäki, Gal Kroitero, Anders Pape Møller, PiotrTryjanowski, ReuvenYosef & Martin Hromada. Scientific Reports 8:13989. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-32252-1.

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Debriefing

Habitat choice by the Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum)
Submitted by: Crystal Curtis Rabin High School Mentor: Prof. Reuven Yosef Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Eilat Campus

I live in the city of Eilat, which is known for its amazing Red Sea which has large colonies of underwater organisms that make up the reefs along the coastline. As a result of my closeness and love of the sea, I noticed the proliferation of black sea urchins that can be found hiding behind reefs and rocks. In my work I focused on the effect of water currents on habitat choice by the Long-spined sea urchin. I conducted my research in the open sea where I dived in order to search for sea urchins. I gathered data at 100 sites which included 3,875 sea urchins. After I photographed the sea urchins at each location, I calculated the drift distance and depth (cm), and calculated the current velocities in the different habitats in which the urchins were found. I found the nests not only in the reefs, but also large and medium-sized clusters at small intervals in the open sea, among rocks, etc. I found that most of the clusters were found at optimal depths of 150-300 cm below sea level. At these depths there is a large amount of organic matter in the form of algae on which the urchins feed. The other reason they tend to hide in rocky habitats during the day are predators. My results show that a combination of considerations – feeding areas, predation pressure, current velocity - determine the habitat choice of the sea urchins and it can be said that it has almost no relation to the beaches of Eilat.

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Student: Agam Almogi
School: Rabin High School Advisors: Michal Raz, Prof. Reuven Yosef Academic Institution: Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University – Eilat Campus Influence of ecotourism on time-budget of Egyptian Mastigure (Uromastix aegyptius) The impact of eco-tourism on animals is a catalyst for a new, and relatively unknown, relationship between people and the environment. Humans consider tourism of any sort to be "good" meaning financially viable and profitable. The tourists gain new experiences and get to see special places. This led me to ask about the relationship between Egyptian Mastigure in its' natural environment and the human visitors. The city of Eilat is a popular tourist resort, a city where many come to vacation throughout the year, but mainly during the hot summer months and which are also the months of the activity of the Egyptian Mastigure. I conducted observations at the "Dragon Land" reserve in Eilat and where these large lizards can be seen relatively easily. I recorded 215 (59.6%) natural activities of the Mastigure during which they emerged from their burrow, or sunbathed in the vicinity of the entrance, or walked to plants to eat. I found that their activity according to degrees of response level is about 1.9 (+ 1.2). At disturbance level 2 (N = 44), the degree of disturbance was an average of 3.07 (+ 0.8) for each event and they responded from an average distance of 56.5 m (+ 23.6). At disturbance level 3 (N = 53), the disturbance level was an average of 2.68 (+ 1.05) for each event and a response was elicited from an average distance of 38.3 m (+ 19.7). At disturbance level 4 (N = 49), the mean disturbance level was 2.71 (+ 1.06) for each event and the Mastigure responded from an average distance of 38.27 m (+ 12.3). I conclude that the Mastigure are very concerned about motorized vehicles, but the biggest disturbance is by the people walking around - whether alone or in groups. I recommended that the reserve managers limit the visitor's hours at the site in order to allow for a semblance of a normal life for the Egyptian Mastigure population.

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Student: Reef Kadosh
School: Rabin High School Advisors: Yelena Poliakov, Prof. Reuven Yosef Academic Institution: Rabin High School & Ben Gurion University – Eilat Campus Influence of ecotourism on the time-budget of Dorcas Gazelle (Gazella dorcas) in the Evrona Nature Reserve The research I conducted over the past two years is how human activity affects the Dorcas Gazelles in the Evrona Nature Reserve. The gazelles, a mammal living in the Negev region of Israel, are part of an almost isolated population in the Evrona reserve, located north of the city of Eilat. I wished to understand how eco-tourism, which is supposedly environmentally friendly, affects the daily activities of the Dorcas Gazelles. The study was conducted at the Evrona Nature Reserve, which was damaged by a large flow of oil due to a failure of the pipeline four years ago, and therefore my studies are important for the continuation of a normal life for the gazelles. I observed the gazelles for a total of 266 hours in order to verify their natural activity and routine, and to compare that with their behaviors in the presence of various human activities and to understand the degree each maybe as a disruptive factor. My hypothesis was that eco-tourism has an adverse effect on the natural activity of the gazelles. I found that bicycling and motorcyclists, and people on foot, were the greatest disturbance to the gazelles than other vehicular traffic. As a result of my research, I recommend that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority should strictly limit the activities of cyclists and bikers in the reserve areas to (1) the marked path, and (2) and only in the evening when the activity of gazelles is at its lowest as compared to the rest of the day.

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Expedition Background

Eilat as a city is very tourism oriented with a lot of development that does not take the environment into consideration. Environmental awareness in the public, especially school children, ranges from minimal to non-existant. In an effort to rectify the situation and to bring the children to the environment, we initiated a program wherein they can opt to study scientific thought and research with a bonafide academic and field biologist - me. The high school students have conducted a wide range of scientific projects in order to try and inderstand the effets of tourism on wildlife. Owing to the proximity of the reefs many are marine focused and include survival of Acorn Barnacles, or the effect on breeding in Sergeant Majors, or the influence on courtship in Ghost Crabs, or the growth-rates of sea-grasses at 3 different sites - are some of the projects completed. Students have also done projects on carapace growth rates in lobsters, sexual selection in seahorses, mussel growth rates and marina pollution, effect of light on survival of Andromeda jellyfish, foraging capabilities of mantas (attached) and many others. The potential for continued marine research, combined with empowering environmental leadership capabilities, is substantial.

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