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QU Establishes the First National Marine Macroalgae Database | Qatar University

QU Establishes the First National Marine Macroalgae Database

2023-07-20 00:00:00.0
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Qatar University's (QU) Environmental Sciences Center (ESC) takes a groundbreaking step in marine research by spearheading the establishment of the "QAlgae" database, the first national marine macroalgae database in Qatar. This interdisciplinary project, led by Dr. Noora Abdulla Al-Naimi, Senior Research Assistant at the ESC, will bring together the fields of environmental sciences and computer science to create a comprehensive digital resource that will revolutionize the understanding of marine macroalgae in the region.

Located in the Arabian Gulf, Qatar's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) presents unique challenges and opportunities due to its warmest water bodies in the world and high sea temperatures and salinities. Despite these extreme conditions, the coastal waters of Qatar are home to diverse macroalgal communities, including chlorophyta (green algae), rhodophyta (red algae), and ochrophyta (brown algae). These marine macroalgae play a crucial role in the marine coastal ecosystem's food web, acting as primary producers and providing nourishment for various organisms. Additionally, they possess compounds of great commercial value that are utilized in the pharmaceutical, medical, agricultural, biotechnological, food, and biofuel industries.

Recognizing the immense potential of marine macroalgae in Qatar and the scarcity of research on the subject, QU’s research team took the initiative to create the "QAlgae" database. The project, supported by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) as part of the Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP), involved five undergraduate students, fostering their growth in environmental and computer sciences. Ms. Kholood Sheryr, Ms. Raneem Mohamed, Ms. Somaya Eltanbouly, Ms. Muraam Abdel-Ghani, and Ms. Wassia Al-Sanadi actively participated in the collection, examination, and classification of marine macroalgae samples from various sites along Qatar's coastal region.

During the year 2022, the research team collected samples from Dukhan, Umm Bab, Al-Shamal, Al-Khor, and Al-Wakra, considering both winter and summer seasons to study seasonal changes. The project not only focuses on taxonomy and scientific classification but also records essential environmental data like temperature and salinity. This detailed information will be accessible through an online electronic portal, serving as an interface for interested researchers, both regionally and globally.

The establishment of the "QAlgae" database is anticipated to have numerous positive outcomes. First and foremost, it will serve as a valuable tool and reference for taxonomists, researchers, and scientists nationally and internationally. Moreover, the database will enhance the research experience of students and raise awareness of the significance of marine macroalgae as a natural resource. It will also facilitate various research endeavors, including ecological studies, biodiversity assessments, resource management, and climate change studies.

In a significant contribution to Qatar's National Vision 2030, QU takes on the vital role of meeting the country's research needs. This project aligns with the "third core priority" of basic research, focusing on the environment and biodiversity within the energy and environment pillar of QU's research priorities. The interdisciplinary nature of the project encourages capacity building in multidisciplinary research fields and provides students with invaluable research cooperation experiences. It also fosters their professional development, opening broad horizons for their future careers and education. Through this initiative, QU aims to promote future cooperation at the local, regional, and global levels in the domains of scientific research, education, and environmental consulting.

Dr. Noora Al-Naimi, the Senior Research Assistant at the Environmental Sciences Center, emphasized the importance of the project and its potential impact on marine research in Qatar. She stated, "The 'QAlgae' database will provide a reliable and comprehensive resource for marine macroalgae data, benefiting researchers, conservationists, and industries alike. This initiative aligns perfectly with QU's commitment to advancing knowledge and contributing to Qatar's sustainable development goals."

The preliminary results of the project were showcased as posters at the QU Annual Research Forum and Exhibition (QUARF 2022), garnering significant interest from attendees and participants. The team's hard work and dedication are driving the project towards completion, with the online database portal expected to be launched in 2023.

The establishment of the "QAlgae" database represents a significant milestone in marine research and biodiversity conservation efforts in Qatar. With QU at the forefront of this groundbreaking project, the nation is poised to make strides in understanding and utilizing its rich marine resources more sustainably.