Dr. Albeldawi received his B.Sc. (Civil Engineering) from Mosul University, Iraq, and M. Sc. (Environmental Engineering) from Baghdad University, Iraq in 1978. He received his Ph.D. (Environmental Engineering System) from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Albeldawi has over 30 years of experience in teaching, research and environmental engineering and management system services to oil and gas industries. He worked with the Water Technology International(Canada). One of his achievements during his employment is the development of protocol criteria for the Environmental Technology Verification program He worked for Qatargas Company at the capacity of Senior Environmental Engineer for more than six years. He is currently working with Qatar Petroleum in Ras Laffan Industrial City (RLC) at the capacity of Head of Environmental Engineer, managing the environmental engineering department since 2005. In addition to his responsibilities Dr. Albeldawi is member of Greenhouse Gas working group, Global gas flaring reduction committee, the RLC focal point with both Qatar Foundation (National Research Priorities), Ministry of Environment, and Qatar National Food Security Program. HSE Department focal point for both port reception facility and hazardous waste management study projects. He is the EMS (ISO 14001) management representative. Dr. Albeldawi’s also leading the legal requirements of environmental compensation, monitoring and reporting implementation program of RLC port expansion project.
Speaker bio: Steff Gaulter graduated in Natural Science (Physics) from Cambridge University before joining the UK Met Office. There she trained in meteorology, becoming the first ever person to be awarded a distinction in the final forecasting exam. Whilst at the Met Office, Steff was sent on secondment to the BBC where she began her presenting career. She has since presented the weather on Sky News, Sky Sports, Channel Five, and Sky Sports News and most recently at Al Jazeera English, where Steff has been the Senior Weather Presenter since its launch in 2006.
The story behind the Yale University and Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage Baynunah fossil project, which is helping to reconstruct the environment and the animals and plants which lived in Abu Dhabi's western region between 6 to 8 million years ago. Examples of some of the important fossils discovered will be presented, as well as information about some of the fossil animal trackways which are currently being studi
A Summary of the Lecture in March by Dr Mark Beech
First published in Gulf Times on 4 March 2011.
Not so long ago – in geological terms that is – the lands bordering the western coast of what is now the Arabian Gulf were watered by a network of reed-fringed rivers, up to 40 metres in width, amid a lush, forested landscape. It was an age not only of plants, but above all of mammals. Bizarre-looking ancestors of modern elephants and giraffes wandered through the forests, browsing on the rich vegetation. Not all were peaceful herbivores: giant sabre-toothed cats crouched amid the bushes and acacia-type trees, watching for their chance to spring out upon an unsuspecting antelope or a primitive three-toed horse. Crocodiles lurked in the rivers, waiting for the animals coming to drink
Dr Mark Beech, Cultural Landscapes Manager in the Historic Environment Department at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, was in Doha at the invitation of the Qatar Natural History Group to give a talk on the latest prehistoric findings by himself and his colleagues.
Fossil remains range from the largest ever found anywhere in the Arabian peninsula – an elephant tusk measuring an impressive 2.5 metres in length – down to the tiny tooth of a cane rat, hardly bigger than a grain of rice. The speaker was at pains to dispel any images the audience might hold of fossil-hunters casually strolling around the desert locating and digging up spectacular specimens. Much of the work, he said, involved hours of patiently fine-sieving gravel and sand, looking for such small remains as teeth. Remains of larger fossils are so fragile that they cannot be excavated in the normal way. Instead, they are first covered in fine sand, then wrapped in wet plaster bandages which harden to form a rigid case. Only then can they be carefully lifted from the ground and conveyed to a laboratory to await years of research.
Intriguingly, three species of elephants roamed the landscape of the Miocene UAE. One, Stegotetrabelodon syrticus, had four tusks adapted to forking out vegetation from the upper branches of trees – 'Rather like chopsticks,' commented the speaker. Another species had tusks apparently more adapted to browsing on lower vegetation. In this way each species had its own niche feeding zone, and avoided competition. The archaeologists and palaeontologists rely for many of the discoveries on the sharp eyes of bedouin rangers, who are trained what to look for and instructed to report anything they see without disturbing it. A system of financial rewards for exceptional finds helps to fuel the enthusiasm of the rangers! A recent very rare discovery was the pelvis of an ostrich, ancestor of the Arabian ostrich which only became extinct in the last century, once hunters had access to vehicles and guns.
'We never find complete skeletons,' said the speaker, 'because the dead animals were usually washed down in rivers and the bones were scattered. Or carnivores gnawing the remains contributed to the disturbance. We use palaeomagnetic dating to try and determine the age of the fossils. Over many millions of years the field of polarity changes. When samples of rock from the area surrounding the fossils are cut the position of magnetic north is recorded, and this assists in dating.'
Research into the fossil terrain of the UAE began some 50 years ago, said Dr Beech, and new discoveries constantly change the image of that ancient landscape. Until very recently the accepted picture was of asavannah-type landscape watered by rivers, but discoveries of large networks of tree roots and branches, and the teeth of squirrels which inhabited the trees, make it clear that there was more forest than was originally believed.
As in Qatar, archaeologists and researchers into the past of the UAE have to compete with the demands of developers. However, strenuous efforts are being made to preserve the most vulnerable of the prehistoric landscapes. Sites that are under threat are fenced off against bulldozing and damage by vehicles, said Dr Beech. These include prehistoric animal tracks, one of which is the longest set of elephant tracks in the world. 'The Baynunah Formation is now on the Tentative List for nomination as a World Heritage Site, he commented, 'and this makes developers more cautious.'
Dr Beech's visit to Qatar was sponsored by the Rayyan Mineral Water Company.
|A sneak peek at stunning films on Qatar’s wildlife|
By Fran Gillespie/Doha
Film director Mark Strickson had the audience either laughing or gasping in horror at his stories of his adventures while making documentaries on wildlife. Addressing a packed audience of Qatar Natural History Group members at its monthly meeting on Wednesday evening, Strickson showed some enthralling footage from the series of Qatar wildlife films he is currently making for the National Day Committee.
Strickson began his career as a film and TV actor, including a role in the BBC cult TV series Dr Who, before emigrating to Australia where he took a degree in zoology and turned to making wildlife documentaries for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, BBC and Channel 4, including The Ten Most Poisonous Snakes in the World.
For much of the past two years he has been based in Qatar and has made a full-length film on birdlife and shorter films on the Lesser jerboa, the Oryx, Sand skinks and marine life.
Appropriately it was the jerboa that was chosen as the mascot for the AFC Asian Cup last month. In 2011 there are plans to make five more films, including one on the big Spiny-tailed Agama lizards usually known by their Arabic name dhub.
The Lesser jerboa, a tiny rodent with a long tufted tail often known as a ‘kangaroo mouse’ because of its metre-long leaps, was difficult to film because of its shy nocturnal habits and its speed: “They cover as much as 10km a night in search of food,” said the speaker. “To film this little animal,” he continued, “we constructed a huge enclosed set and put together two lines of rocks with a channel in between them and a camera at each end. When released the jerboa headed down the channel and that’s how we got the unique footage – no one has previously filmed it making its spectacular leaps.”
He explained that they used several animals but never filmed an individual for more than five minutes at a time, to minimise stress.
It was the film crew, however, who suffered from stress and heat exhaustion as the film was made in July in temperatures of well over 50 degrees C!
Another desert film, and one of which Strickson is particularly proud, is a superb footage of rolling sand dunes in the south of the peninsula and the intriguing little lizards which inhabit them, the Sand skinks, also dubbed ‘Porcelain skinks’ for their beautifully marked shining bodies or ‘Sand fish’ for their habit of diving into the sand at the first hint of danger and ‘swimming’ beneath the surface.
The footage included a unique shot of a skink actually locating and nabbing its prey – a grub or insect – in what appears the be the most barren and sterile terrain imaginable.
Strickson quoted the greatest of all wildlife documentary film makers, Sir David Attenborough, who once remarked of his long series of highly acclaimed films, “If people don’t see nature how can they care for it.” This, he said, is the feeling here too and the reason why the National Day Committee has commissioned these films: to make the people of Qatar more aware of the unique beauty of their landscape and the astonishing diversity of the animals which inhabit it.
Only then, he said, can people be expected to truly care about and take action to protect Qatar’s fragile environment.
In his research Professor Agius shows that objects are active agents helping to shape people the way they are. It is this people-object-world combination that is integral to the human mind and language. The key question to his study is why objects are called the way they are? His search into the use of Arabic and Materail Culture is an inquiry into communities, social, technical, political and religious conditions. It is about the identity of a people, their language and culture, demonstrating their specialised skills and artistic imagination to produce objects of use within their community and the outside world. With this in mind his research for the past thirty years has been devoted to the study of ship-types of the Arab Mediterranean and Arabian Indian Ocean, the language of the coastal and seafaring communities, ship-building, navigational techniques and winds and currents; in addition, his study entails a great deal of archival work, pictorial evidence and maps.
Was a talk on Dragonflies and Damselflies in the State of Qatar by Michael Grunwell a member of the QNHG and the Qatar Bird Club. Michael took us through all the species of Onondata in Qatar including 2 types of Damselflies and 10 types of Dragonflies, with pictures and descriptions of most. Members were encouraged to go out on their own and look for these and possibly other species not yet sighted in Qatar. Click on the link above to go to his paper on the subject published in the QNHG Journal.
|Zoologist gives talk on Qatar dragonflies|
Oasis Bluetail damselflies mating
By Fran Gillespie/Doha
The audience at the November meeting of the Qatar Natural History Group were given an illustrated account of every aspect of a dragonfly’s life and habits by zoologist Michael Grunwell.
He has studied dragonflies in many countries and is now concentrating on those of Qatar. Grunwell’s enthusiasm is such that he once drove 250 miles from London to the far west of Britain for a sighting of a single rare specimen, only to find it had been eaten by a bird shortly before he arrived!
Dragonflies and their relatives the damselflies both belong to an order of insects known as Odonata. They are easy to tell apart, said Grunwell – dragonflies perch with their wings held out at right angles to their body and damselflies usually fold up their wings along the line of the body.
Generally, damselflies are smaller and more slender than dragonflies, and their flight is weaker and more fluttery.
There are around 5000 members of the order Odonata worldwide. In Qatar, a dry, desert land, there are only 10 species of dragonfly and two of damselfly recorded to date, although Grunwell hopes to identify more.
Species of dragonfly in Qatar vary greatly in their habits – some stay around the area where they emerged as adult insects, others migrate huge distances. In fact some of the dragonflies in Qatar, he said, have flown here from other countries.
All members of the order Odonata must have fresh water in which to lay their eggs and go through their larval form before the larva crawls up a reed out of the water and splits open as the adult dragonfly or damselfly emerges. During the last 60 years, since the beginning of the oil era, lagoons and lakes of effluent water have been created in various part of the peninsula, attracting more species of dragonfly to Qatar.
A crucial aid to identification of species of dragonfly, said the speaker, is a small rectangular ‘window’ on the outer edge of the wing, known as a pterostigma.
Often it is pigmented, and no two species have the same shape or colour. Entomologists can quickly identify an insect from its pterostigma, and also by counting the segments of the body.
Males and females of the same species are often very differently coloured. The purpose of the pterostigma is not fully understood, but possibly dragonflies themselves use it for identification reasons.
Dragonflies are fierce and fast-moving hunters, constantly zipping back and forth over their territory, catching smaller insects in their powerful jaws and eating them on the wing.
The dragonflies and damselflies of Qatar have colourful and exotic common names: Oasis Bluetail, Lesser Emperor, Red-veined Darter, Violet Dropwing and Oriental Scarlet are among the local species.
Much remains to be learnt about the Odonata of Qatar, said Michael Grunwell, and he urged his listeners to look out for any unusual species and to contact him if they think they have spotted one.
|Study on Ethiopian Hedgehog|
By Fran Gillespie/
The Qatar Natural History Group’s opening meeting of the 2010-2011 season on Wednesday evening featured an illustrated presentation on the Ethiopian Hedgehog found in Qatar.
Dr Nobuyuki Yamaguchi of Qatar University’s Department of Biological Sciences spoke about the recent research carried out by himself and his students.
The Ethiopian Hedgehog is one of three Arabian species, and is found all over
One of the students caught several hedgehogs and kept them in a pen for study.
From this she was able to discover what time of day or night the animals are active, and that they do indeed hibernate during the coldest days, just as do hedgehogs in
Study then moved to the University Farm in north
Animals were weighed, sexed and their spines marked with nail polish in different colours before being released.
In three months, 48 different animals were caught and marked, all within the boundaries of the farm.
Baby hedgehogs were most numerous in May and June, and from this it was concluded that the parents mated in late March soon after emerging from hibernation.
The next stage was to track the hedgehogs’ nightly movements, using tiny radio antennae which were glued onto the backs of the animals, remaining there for about a month before being shed as the spines renewed themselves.
“This is the first time radio tracking of these animals has been conducted anywhere in GCC countries,” observed Dr Yamaguchi.
The distance travelled by these fast-moving creatures astonished the researchers: one animal travelled 1,500m in 15 minutes.
Male hedgehogs during the mating season covered enormous areas. And not only in search of mates – “word” spread among the hedgehog population that feral cats were being fed nightly at a neighbouring farm, and hedgehogs would travel to the farm to claim their share of the hand-outs.
Hedgehogs are omnivorous, and will consume anything edible that they can find.
“We also wanted to find out what type of ground surface is preferred by hedgehogs for their burrows and nesting chambers,” said the speaker.
“We realised that ground that has been disturbed by humans makes for easier digging, and therefore piles of building rubble, or earth moved by road building, are attractive to them.”
The Qatar Natural History Group was founded in 1978 and since then has held regular programmes of monthly lectures.
This year and the next there will be two field trips a month to places of interest, plus camping and dhow trips and overseas excursions.
For more information visit www.qnhg.org.