Posted on January 12, 2016

The Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences (DBES) at Qatar University College of Arts and Sciences (QU-CAS) held its 9th annual Qatar University Life Sciences Symposium (QULSS) on December 15-16. The forum themed “Global Changes: the Arabian Gulf ecosystem” was sponsored by Qatar Foundation and in partnership with QScience.com. It brought together researchers, experts, and scientists from Qatar, GCC and international academic and research institutions to exchange ideas and experiences with the aim to advance existing and emerging knowledge on the issue.

Also attending were faculty and students from DBES and secondary-education students from Qatar Leadership Academy, Ibn Taimiya Independent High School, International School of London-Qatar, and the American School of Doha. QU Vice President & Chief Academic Officer Dr Mazen Hasna delivered welcoming remarks at the opening ceremony followed by DBES head Dr Fatma Al-Naemi who opened the forum. Dr Carlos Duarte of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) delivered the keynote address on “Global Changes in Marine Ecosystems: Implications for Semi-Enclosed Arabian Seas”

Dr Hasna said: “This symposium has established itself as a leading forum that promotes dialogue and exchange of ideas among outstanding scientists whose research is focused on the Gulf region and similar environments. In its earlier editions, the forum addressed other important topics such as environmental health, the marine environment, mangrove habitats, and biotechnology, among others – all of which are of paramount importance and relevance to Qatar, the region, and the wider international scientific community”.

Dr Hasna noted that Qatar resides within the heart of the Arabian Gulf which, like most of the world marine environments, is experiencing critical environmental issues including a decline in natural resources, loss of biodiversity, and marine pollution. He added: “We also share the worldwide issue of global warming and rising sea levels. Two main priorities for the State of Qatar are economic development and protection of its environment and neither should be sacrificed for the sake of the other. As the country’s first national academic institution, Qatar University is committed to tackling environmental issues in general and in the coastal waters and surrounding environments in particular by supporting research and engaging multidimensional efforts and collaborations with decision makers, stakeholders and the general public”.

Presentations were delivered by faculty and researchers from Qatar University, Texas A&M University, NOVA Southeastern University, Bangor University, University of Copenhagen, University of New York at Abu Dhabi, Aarhus University, KAUST, Maersk Oil Research& Technology Center (MO-RTC), ExxonMobil Research Qatar, Qatar Ministry of Environment, Qatar Natural Museum, and University of Wales. Dr Al Naemi said: “QULSS presents a platform for discussion on current and relevant topics in life sciences. This year, for the first time, we are partnered with QScience, who has already published online 38 abstracts that will be presented during the symposium”.

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She added: “This year, we are pleased to have the participation of students from the 4 international schools. Our aim is to increase the awareness of Qatari society on local, regional and global environmental issues threatening our resources. We also aim to attract prospective students to our marine science and environmental sciences programs and to build capacity in Qatar”. CAS dean Dr Eiman Mustafawi said: “Over the years, the Life Sciences Symposium has established itself as a platform for exchanging ideas and perspectives. It attracts experts from the scientific community to share their knowledge on Gulf-related issues. The theme of global changes and the Arabian Gulf ecosystem is an important issue that encourages scientists and experts to seek effective and adequate solutions for current environmental challenges”.

Presentations were delivered by faculty and researchers from Qatar University, Texas A&M University, NOVA Southeastern University, Bangor University, University of Copenhagen, University of New York at Abu Dhabi, Aarhus University, KAUST, Maersk Oil Research & Technology Center (MO-RTC), ExxonMobil Research Qatar (EMRQ), Qatar Ministry of Environment, Qatar Natural Museum, and University of Wales. 

Day 1 included Session I on ‘Functioning and Strategies for Survival in Extreme Environments’ Session II on ‘Monitoring of Long-lived Marine Vertebrates in the Arabian Gulf’, and Session III on ‘Responses of Living Organisms to the Gulf Environment’. Presenters touched on coastal foodwebs, Gulf corals, mangroves, whale sharks, Hawksbill turtles, dolphins, reef fish, fish assemblages and yeast assemblages in the Gulf. A poster session included studies presented by researchers from DBES, QU Environmental Science Center, University of Paris, Anti-Doping Lab Qatar, and EMRQ

Day 2 included keynote address by UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) chair and University of Bergen professor Dr Peter Haugen on “Global and Regional Oceanography - The Role of IOC”. In Session IV on “Monitoring and Managing Stressors in the Arabian Gulf”, presenters addressed ‘The Status of the Harmful Algal Blooms in the Arabian Gulf’, ‘Toward the Development of a Remote Sensing and Field Data Framework to Aid Management Decisions in the State of Qatar Coastal Environment’, and ‘If It Is Possible to Create and Manage a Marine Ecosystem in a Desert, Why Is the Whole Gulf Ecosystem under Threat?’

A discussion panel moderated by assistant professor of environmental sciences Dr Yousra Souliman looked at “Priority Information Needs and Gaps Toward Integrated Ecosystem-Monitoring and Management Strategies in the Gulf”. The forum concluded with a field trip to Al Khor Mangrove as an opportunity for science students and scientists of other disciplines to interact with the conference experts on various aspects of Qatar’s marine and coastal ecosystem.

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