2013 - 2014 Talks

 2013-2014 Talks:

 Date: Wednesday 4 June 2014

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Tim Makower

Title of Presentation: Doha Edge and Centre

Summary of Presentation

What makes Doha Doha? A look at its centre and its periphery, including Al Rayyan Gate, the location of the proposed Qatar Bio-Hub, a botanic/tourist research destination being planned adjacent to the Mall of Qatar.

Speaker Bio: 

Tim Makower is an architect and urbanist. He was educated at Cambridge and the Royal College of Art and worked in the UK for 25 years on many major projects of architecture and urban design. Tim has been involved with the Mshereib Development Project since 2008 and is principal of Makower Architects which he founded in 2012, a practice specializing in architecture and and urbanism, based in Doha and London.  From 2011 to 2012, he held the co-chair of architecture and urban design at Qatar University. His current projects include the Al Rayyan Gate Masterplan at Al Wajba, the Qatar Bio-Hub, the Regeneration Framework for Old Doha and a vision for the Doha Corniche. Tim is deeply engaged in culture, history and academia and is also the founder and lead facilitator of the Old Doha Prize, a competition and week-long design residency for UK and Qatari architects.  In his book Touching the City, which will be published later this year, he discusses his belief that ‘getting the scale right’ is a fundamental part of urban design and architecture. 


Date: Wednesday 7 May 2014
7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr Cromwell Purchase

Title of Presentation: Saving the Rarest Parrot on the Planet: the Spix’s Macaw

Summary of Presentation

Dr Purchase will give a general overview of the work being done with rare birds at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, with a detailed look at one of the world’s rarest birds. The Spix’s macaw is in a critical position, considered extinct in the wild since 2000. The captive population is genetically handicapped, needing some serious work to get through the bottleneck. Fertility is at 10 %, mainly due to the serious genetic problems, but there are other factors. Al Wabra has dedicated much time and money to research on trying to help this species to survive, and the presentation will give an idea of the serious predicament this macaw is encountering, and how scientific barriers are being crossed to ensure that the species will recover and eventually be released back into its natural habitat in Brazil. On a recent trip to the area of forest purchased in Brazil by Al Wabra, which was previously the Spix’s habitat, Dr Purchase could see the difference that land restoration work has made, the amazing impact on the environment and the species that have returned to the region. He will conclude his presentation by showing photos of the region and other species that are returning and breeding in the area.

Speaker Bio: 

Cromwell Purchase is a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg South Africa with a BSc degree majoring in Biochemistry and Physiology, an honours degree in Molecular Medicine and Medical Biochemistry and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He went on to gain a Masters in Veterinary Science at Onderstepoort concentrating on Avian Diseases, Medicine and Vaccine Technology, and a PhD at the University of Pretoria in Zoology specializing in Avian Nutritional Physiology. He has been involved in aviculture since 1987 (aged 10) and has more than 25 years of self-taught avian incubation and handrearing experience. He also has more than ten years of hands-on reptile/arachnid husbandry and large mammal husbandry and training experience. In December 2010, Cromwell took up a position as the Blue Macaw Captive Coordinator at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, and was later promoted to Head of Birds, he has also been placed in charge of all the reptiles and research.Cromwell is currently Acting Director at Al Wabra.

Date: Wednesday 2 April 2014

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr Robert Carter

Title of Presentation: The Origins of Doha Project

Summary of Presentation

Like many modern capitals along the coast of the Arabian Gulf, Doha is founded as a pearl fishing settlement. When the oil era began, development was so rapid that little or no recording took place as old buildings were razed to make room for the new. The Origins of Doha Project has been excavating in central Doha, down to the foundation levels of the town, and aims to explore the growth of the city and the experiences of its people using historical research, and by taking oral histories from older generations who can  remember the changes that took place.

Speaker Bio: 

Dr Robert Carter is Senior Lecturer in the Archaeology of the Arab World, at UCL Qatar, a campus of University College London, and part of Hamad bin Khalifa University (Education City, Doha). An archaeologist and historian who specialises in Arabia and the Gulf, he also has interests in the archaeology of Mesopotamia and Iran and has worked for nearly 20 years in the region, in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. 

His interests are broad, including the Neolithic of Arabia, the Ubaid/Chalcolithic of Mesopotamia, ancient seafaring, the Bronze Age of the Gulf, archaeological ceramics, Christianity in the Gulf and the Early Islamic period, Late Islamic archaeology, urbanism and state formation, and the history and prehistory of pearl fishing. He has numerous publications on these topics, including a major book on pearl-fishing in the Gulf.


 Date: 5 March 2014

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Neil Morris

Title of Presentation: The Joys and Perils of Birdwatching in Qatar

Summary of Presentation

A presentation about how and where to find birds in Qatar, what to expect
and when to find it. It’s about the challenges of being a bird – and of
being a birdwatcher – in the extreme climate of Qatar. There’ll even be a
little bit about the science of birdwatching and the importance of birds
as bio-indicators.

Most of all, you are invited to come along and share an evening of
photographs and conversation as I present and discuss just some of the
three hundred and fifteen species of bird observed in Qatar to date.
There’ll be a quiz and prizes as well!

The presentation will be supported by two birdwatching trips led by Neil,
details of which will be circulated.

Speaker Bio: 

Neil started birdwatching at the age of eleven. He graduated from Bristol
University with BSC (Joint Hons) Botany and Zoology and dreamt of life as
the protégé of Jaques Cousteau.

His first six years in employment were spent at the headquarters of the
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). While retaining his
passion for birds and birdwatching, his professional career at the RSPB
moved in the direction of marketing.

After the RSPB, Neil became Marketing Manager at the Royal National
Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), helping to establish The Institute of Direct
and Digital Marketing (IDM), which became the world’s leading body for the
professional development of direct and digital marketing. While at
Institute, Neil held the roles of Director and General Manager of the
Membership Company, Director of Digital Marketing Training Services and
Deputy Managing Director of the overall organization.

After eighteen years, Neil left the IDM and moved to Qatar with his family
in September 2012. Here he has been able to continue his long-standing
passions for birdwatching and photography in general and his love of
Middle Eastern wildlife in particular.

Neil's birdwatching credits include finding 'firsts' for three different
counties in the UK, including the famous Red-flanked Bluetail at Winspit,
Dorset in 1993 which attracted more than 3,000 birdwatchers (and newspaper
reporters) from across the UK. He has also discovered a clutch of new
species and sub-species for Qatar, most recently an Intermediate Egret
which was only the fourth ever to be recorded in the Gulf region. 

Date: 5 February 2014

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Jacques LeBlanc, Geologist and Oil and Gas Data Management Specialist at Qatar Petroleum

Title of Presentation: Surface Geology and Palaeontology of Qatar

Summary of Presentation

The surface geology of Qatar is represented by Tertiary rocks starting with the Middle Eocene Rus to the Pliocene Hofuf Formations.  The more recent Quaternary rocks are represented by Pleistocene lithified dunes and beach deposits together with consolidated and unconsolidated Holocene sediments.  The fossil content of all the formations involved, spanning a time period of 50,000,000 years, reflects the marine past of the country.  Shark teeth, echinoderms, nautilus, gastropods and bivalves can be found in various locations if one knows how to look for them.  Minerals such as quartz, gypsum and salt are also available.  This presentation will introduce the surface geology, environment of deposition and palaeontological and mineral content of Qatar.

Speaker Bio: 

Born in Quebec, Canada, Jacques LeBlanc studied Mining Geology at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi and graduated in 1986.  He started collecting fossils as an amateur when he moved to Calgary, Western Canada, to start his professional life as a petroleum geologist.  With his background in geology and his previous experience at rock hunting in the Eastern Provinces of Canada, the rich palaeontological deposits of his new home drove him towards fossil collecting.
In 1992 he was hired by a private firm in order to conduct a Geological Assessment of ammonite deposits on some land in the Province of Alberta.  His ammonite assessing contract lead to another one which involved exploring for a period of two years all over Colombia and South America for mineral and fossil specimens in order to provide museum and private collectors worldwide with the best specimens to display.
Later, his Oil and Gas and Mining career took him to Africa (Niger and Libya) where he continued exploring on his own for local fossil attractions.  In another twist to his career, he was hired in 2007 by Qatar Petroleum as an Oil and Gas Data Management Specialist.  Seeing the lack of readily available publications on the surface geology of Qatar, he endeavoured to correct this void by writing two guides on this topic; the first explaining the general geology and fossil content, and the second about the rich Miocene deposits of the Dam Formation in southwestern Qatar. 

 Date: 8 January 2014
7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr Hubert Bari, Director, Qatar Pearl and Jewellery Museum, Qatar Museums Authority

Title of Presentation: Pearls III 

Hubert Bari has twice given extremely popular presentations to the QNHG on his favourite topic, pearls. He is leaving Qatar next month so this is our final chance to hear an expert talk on a fascinating subject.

Summary of Presentation

In 2010, Hubert Bari organised a pearl exhibition at The Museum of Islamic Art. At that time, nobody had imagined just how successful the exhibition would be and how much interest it would attract. As a result of this the Qatar Museums Authority invited him to lead a new project: the adaptation of the temporary pearl exhibition into a permanent presentation : the Pearl and Jewellery Museum. The project will take many years so Bari will continue to research pearls and add to the collection rare pearl jewellery from Tibet, Ladak and Uzbekistan.  His presentation will explain how pearls are formed and feature images of the dazzling collection which will one day be on show in the museum.

Speaker Bio: 

 Dr Hubert Bari is a graduate of the University of Strasbourg, where he presented his thesis in mineralogy. As a lecturer at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, for 25 years he dedicated himself to designing and organising exhibitions. His goal was to find ways to explain, through exhibitions, complex subjects to a large public. He was the first to introduce audio-guide systems in exhibitions more than 20 years ago. 

 His exhibition Diamonds in Paris in 2001 was visited by a Qatari sheikh, who asked Dr Bari to come to Qatar. He arrived here in 2003, directed several exhibitions in Doha and prepared the first plans for a natural history museum. In 2009 he joined the staff of  Museum of Islamic Art where he was responsible for the opening exhibition, Beyond Boundaries,  followed in 2010 by the exhibition Pearls. His presentation to the QNHG on Pearls just before the exhibition opened was one of the most popular of the season, attended by over 200 members.

 Dr Bari organised the Pearls exhibition from Qatar that went to Tokyo in 2012 for the Qatar/Japan Year of Culture and to London for the Qatar/UK Year of Culture. In 2014 it is the turn of Brazil and Dr Bari is now working on the exhibition that will travel to San Paulo and open in July.   Dr Bari has published a book on diamonds and has also written a book on pearls, revealing the fascinating world of pearls, including the mechanism of the natural birth of a pearl and process of creating cultured pearls. He has a book in preparation on the jewellery of the Moghuls.

 His hobby is ethnology and he spends what free time he has on the island of Bali which became his new home in 2004.


 Date: 4 December 2013

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr Andrew Petersen, Director of Research in Islamic Archaeology at the University of Wales

Title of Presentation: The Hajj to Mecca: reflections on the Archaeology of Qatar.

Summary of Presentation

This talk will consider what the archaeology of Qatar can tell us about the annual Hajj. Unlike the ancient Hajj routes leading from the cities of Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo there was no official Hajj route from Qatar, and pilgrims would work out their own ways of getting to Mecca for the Hajj. There are, however, some material remains discovered through archaeology which may well be connected with people going on the Hajj and remind us that Qatar was not an isolated peninsula but an area fully integrated into Islamic trade and pilgrimage routes.

Speaker Bio: 

Andrew Petersen has carried out fieldwork in many parts of the Islamic world including Iraq, Oman, Jordan, Palestine, UAE and Qatar. His current research interests include Islamic urbanism, pilgrimage routes and fortifications. For the last three years he has been working on the archaeology of coastal settlement in northern Qatar in collaboration with the Qatar Museums Authority and the Qatar Islamic Archaeology and Heritage project.

Date: 6 November 2013
7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr Sabina  Knees - Consultant, Centre for Middle Eastern Plants (CMEP) and Research Scientist, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Title of Presentation: Extreme Botany – Investigating Plants in the World’s Most Challenging Environments

Summary of Presentation

For many centuries botanical research has involved expeditions to remote parts of the world, often requiring botanists and horticulturalists to spend months in the field collecting specimens and mapping plant distributions. Modern technology has revolutionised this process so that fieldwork is now concentrated and targeted on a particular focus, usually with a strong conservation element. These positive changes will be illustrated with examples of current botanical research in the region.

Speaker Bio: 

Dr Sabina Knees is a graduate of the University of Reading in the UK. Her interest in Arabian plants began when she was appointed as a research botanist on the flora of the Arabian peninsula and the Socotra islands at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh in 2005.  This post has involved extensive field work in Oman and Yemen.

Since 2005 Sabina has researched and edited the  definitive Flora of Arabia, which is being published in five volumes. Previously she was a principal editor on the European Garden Flora and spent seven years as editor of The New Plantsman for the Royal Horticultural Society. She was CITES officer at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew in London for two years.

Sabina’s expertise in cultivated plants has contributed to a number of recent projects, including the Oman Botanic Garden and the Socotra Botanic Garden.  She has also been involved in survey work in the Socotra archipelago.

Having worked at Kew and at other gardens, she developed an expertise particularly related to the establishment of botanic gardens. Her experience in training botanic garden staff has been gained through working with UK Darwin initiative projects iin Turkey, Morocco, Peru and Chile. This has ranged from instruction in field collecting techniques and conservation monitoring to plant database management and herbarium studies.

Date: 2 October 2013
7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Richard Roswell

Title of Presentation: Zoos – From Menageries to Conservation Centres

Summary of Presentation

Zoos have changed over the years from collections of animals taken from the wild, to institutions actively participating in conserving nature. Zoos have also raised awareness of animal issues, and this has now turned the spotlight on themselves, asking questions of relevance and welfare and if animals should be in captivity at all. But with the rate of habitat destruction and animal extinction, zoos heading into the future will have a more important role to play.

Speaker Bio: 

Richard has always been interested in animals and started at the age of twelve volunteering on weekends and school holidays with the keepers at Orana wildlife park in New Zealand. He then worked as a keeper there for seven years before moving to Australia and working at the Melbourne Zoo for five years followed by  nine months in South Africa, and then a zoo in the Bahamas for four years. He started at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation in October 2011.

He has mainly worked with carnivores, ungulates and primates, and has studied and travelled to gain experience with a variety of different species at over a hundred captive institutions and in situ projects, ranging from one day to many months in Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Sabah Borneo, South Africa, Thailand, U.A.E, UK and the US.