2014 - 2015 Talks

 2014-2015 Talks:

Last talk of the 2014/2015 season at DESS
Date: Wednesday  3rd June 2015 at 7.00pm

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Steffen Bach, Marine biologist, Environmental Team Lead at the Maersk Oil Research Centre

Title of Presentation: Giants meet in the Gulf – the whale sharks aggregations in Qatar

Summary of Presentation

The central part of the Arabian Gulf is a highly productive marine environment due to a combination of high nutrient loading, strong currents and high temperatures. The Al Shaheen offshore oil field, operated by Maersk Oil, hosts a rich and diverse marine ecosystem exemplified by one of the world largest aggregations of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). Often more than 100 whale sharks can be spotted around the platforms. The whale shark, listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, can be more than 15 metres in length and weigh up to 20 tonnes making it an unchallenged representative of the world largest fish. However, the whale sharks is a gentle giant that feeds mainly on zooplankton, fish eggs, and the occasional small squid or fish. Whale sharks are known to be migratory and travel thousands of kilometres, but their breeding grounds have still not been identified.

      So why are they here and in such numbers? That is what the Qatar Whale Shark Research project is trying to answer. Over the next five years the scientist will attach satellite tags onto the sharks that will reveal their migration patterns.  A more low-tech but still very efficient method of tracking whale sharks is photo identification. The spot pattern behind the 5th gill slit is unique for each shark and can therefore be used as a ‘finger print’. The pictures are entered into a global database to see if it is matched with other observations from around the world. The Ministry of Environment laboratories will conduct genetic analysis of whale shark skin tissue in order to  reveal if the Al Shaheen sharks are related to other whale shark populations outside of the Gulf. Furthermore, the laboratories will analyse water samples to establish the diet of the whale shark. The project is also supported by the Qatar Coast Guard and Qatar Emiri Air Force who provide invaluable logistic support in the form of speed boats and helicopter surveys.

Speaker Bio:  

Steffen Bach is a marine biologist from the University of Copenhagen and the Environmental Team Leader at the Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre in Doha. He has a background in marine ecosystem impact assessments and has worked with oil and gas activities around the globe. The Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre recently signed a 5-year research agreement with the Qatar Ministry of Environment with the purpose of describing the marine ecosystems in Qatar and the Al Shaheen oil field in particular. The annual gathering of whale sharks around the Al Shaheen platforms made Maersk Oil an obvious partner and sponsor of the Qatar Whale Shark Research project. Steffen Bach is now coordinating the offshore observations and is initiating research with the facilities provided by the Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre. It is the policy of Maersk Oil to be an environmental prudent operator and it is therefore essential for the company to understand the environment they operate in.

Date: Wednesday  1st April 2015 at 7.00pm

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Neil Morris, Consultant Ornithologist

Title of Presentation: The Birds of Qatar (and Why Einstein Got it Wrong)

Summary of Presentation

Neil's presentation will explore the diverse avifauna of Qatar … past, present and future. It will be illustrated with many of his own photographs capturing the spectacular and colourful birds he saw - and some he didn't see - during his time in Qatar. As well as describing the typical birds to be found in Qatar, where to find them and how to identify them, Neil will discuss the amazing evolutionary adaptations of birds that help them survive Qatar's formidable environment. He will also describe why Einstein got it wrong when it comes to the marvels of bird navigation, and how our understanding of how birds navigate during their epic migrations across the globe has radically changed in just the last two years.

Speaker Bio:  

Neil started birdwatching at the age of eleven in his home county of Sussex in England. He graduated from Bristol University with BSc (Joint Hons) Botany and Zoology, then spent his first six years of gainful employment at the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Sandy, Beds.
While keeping his hinterland firmly centered on his passion for birds and birdwatching, Neil's 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). From there he consolidated his marketing interests by helping to establish The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM), an independent educational trust which became the world’s leading body for the professional development of direct, data and digital marketing. As Director and General Manager of the Membership Company, Director of Digital Marketing Training Services and Deputy Managing Director of the overall organisation, Neil was a frequent commentator in the marketing press and a member of a number of UK national steering committees for marketing education and professional practice.
After eighteen years of triumphs and recessions, Neil left the IDM and moved to Qatar with his family in September 2012. Here he was able to continue his long-standing passions for wildlife and photography in general and indulge his love of Middle Eastern bird life 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. In Qatar, he discovered nine new species and eight new sub-species for the country list.
In September 2014, Neil and his family moved to the cooler and wetter climes of the Isle of Man. He is currently writing a book on the birds of Qatar, which will be the first ever complete avifauna for the State of Qatar. 

Date: Wednesday 4th March at 7.00pm

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Laura Wrede, Falconer

Title of Presentation: The Art of Falconry

Summary of Presentation

Falconry, which is recognized by its practitioners as part of their cultural heritage, is a social tradition which stretches back centuries. Falconry skills, which are passed on from generation to generation, respect nature and the environment and provide falconers with a sense of belonging and identity. While falconers come from different backgrounds, they share common values and practices such as methods used for the training and caring for birds. They develop a strong spiritual bond with their falcons, and commitment is required to breed, train, and fly the birds.

Speaker Bio:  

Born and raised in South Germany, Laura Wrede was given a young German hunting dog on the day of her birth. The dog would accompany her father on his hunts. Wrede began horse-back riding at an early age. At the age of 16, she obtained her German hunting license after a year of training. She began hunting in the areas between the Black Forest and the Bavarian Forests. 
After obtaining a Bachelor in International Business Administration in Madrid, Wrede actively took up hunting rabbits, partridge and pheasants as well deer and wild boars. In 2010, while driving home to Munich, she stopped at the sight of an injured falcon. She picked up the raptor, which turned out to be a peregrine falcon, hoping there was time to save it, but it died of its injuries. The experience re-sparked her passion for birds of prey. 
Wrede moved to Qatar four years ago. She has since sought out a network of Qatari friends who have trained her in traditional falconry skills. One night at a dinner party her Qatari friend Fatma, brought her a falcon as gift. Wrede could not have hoped for a better gift. She has since trained her own lanner falcon as well as two peregrine falcons. Wrede has also participated in falconry and hunting festivals around the Gulf and was recently featured on the cover of Qatar Happening. 

Date: Wednesday 11th February 2015 (this is the second Wednesday in the month due to half term at DESS)

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr. Alex Amato, Head of Sustainability at Qatar Green Building Council 

Title of Presentation: Designing Qatar’s Urban Ecology

Summary of Presentation

Qatar is rapidly urbanising and in this process little attention has been paid to date to consider what Qatar’s Urban Ecology could or should be.  Although connected to Qatar’s rural existing ecology this new urban environment is separate and distinct from current traditional habitats.  But what should this urban ecology be?  Should it be a suburban vision of parks, grass and regimented flower beds or a pale reflection of rural ecology, sanitised by design.  The former might please a conservative parks authority, the latter the smug eco-warriors amongst us.  It is the speaker’s contention that the future character of Qatar’s urban ecology is as as yet undefined.  Moreover it is not inhibited by the same environmental constraints as the rural ecology and in particular there is abundant water.  So what could it be?  If this question is left unaddressed then its design will be by default.  An amalgam of spaces designed by traffic engineers, landscape architects and parks authorities, that may or, more likely, may not be shaped by a strong and scientific vision that is both popular and has an ecological integrity appropriate for Qatar.

Speaker Bio:  

Dr. Alex Amato has over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry.  He has worked in both the private and public sectors in the UK, SE Asia and now in the Middle East.  
His work covers a wide range of design, construction product development and research experience; in architectural practice, academe and in both the constructional steel and concrete sectors where he worked on the development of new steel and concrete systems. 
Since 1992, his research has focused on the application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to assess quantitatively the environmental impact of buildings, construction systems, and products.  
He has also taught architectural design, construction technology, and sustainable construction in the departments of Architecture and Real Estate and Construction, at the University of Hong Kong and also wider afield in China.  
In Qatar he has spent the first three years providing sustainable consultancy within Davis Langdon but has recently became Head of Sustainability at the Qatar Green Building Council where there is an expanding research and education programme.  In particular the development of the first Passivhaus in the GCC Region, which now has a burgeoning research agenda, and research with Texas A&M University funded through the National Priorities Research Programme of the Qatar National Research Fund.  
He is also a GSAS Certified Green Professional.

QGBC and QNHG:  

The speaker hopes that from this presentation and discussion a serious course of study and investigation will ensue that jointly draws upon the knowledge and expertise of the Qatar Green Building Council and the Qatar Natural History Group to address this important question.  The proposal is for a truly collaborative programme of work between the two respected organisations to ensure a sustainable future urban ecology that befits Qatar’s National Vision. 

Date: Wednesday 7th January 2015

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr. Jennifer Dupont, Research Director, ExxonMobil Research Qatar

Title of Presentation: Past and Current Research on the Dugong Population in Qatar

Summary of Presentation

The talk will provide background on the biology, feeding behaviour, habitat preference, and significance of dugongs in coastal waters around the globe.  We will then focus in on specifics of past research projects in the region and our current state of knowledge on population abundance and distribution in the Arabian Gulf.  We will close with a discussion on an ongoing multi-stakeholder research effort, including details about how the public can assist with sample identification and collection to contribute to enhanced understanding of this iconic species.

Speaker Bio:  

Jennifer Dupont is Research Director at ExxonMobil Research Qatar (EMRQ).  Jennifer received her B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Richmond and her Ph.D. in Marine Ecology from the University of South Florida, College of Marine Science.
Jennifer joined the ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company in 2010 where she was responsible for managing technical projects including investigation of acoustic impacts on marine life, marine mammal bioenergetics, and environmental assessment of decommissioning concepts.  She joined EMRQ in December 2013 as the Environmental Team Lead and was appointed Research Director in August 2014. In her current role, Jennifer oversees research staff and contractors working in 4 primary areas: (1) Water Reuse, (2) Environmental Management, (3) Safety, and (4) Coastal Geology.

Date: Wednesday 3rd December 2014

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr Lisa Yeomans, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Qatar Islamic Archaeology and Heritage Project, 
University of Copenhagen

Title of Presentation: Fish Exploitation at Zubarah and Freiha: Zooarchaeological Evidence

Summary of Presentation

This talk provides an introduction to ongoing research into past fishing strategies at the archaeological sites of Zubarah and Freiha in Northwest Qatar.  Fish was a important resource during the occupation of these settlements  and, though the analysis of their bones which have been excavated, it is possible to gain a detailed understanding of fish exploitation. Numerous species of fish have been identified and their representation and estimations of fish size allow for an interpretation of fishing techniques. Information on the spatial distribution as well as cut-marks and burning patterns provides knowledge on fish processing and consumption practices.

Speaker Bio: 

Graduated from UCL in 1998, worked in commercial archaeology in London then completed a PhD on historical and zooarchaeological evidence of animal carcass processing industries in post-medieval London in 2006. Worked as a field archaeologist in Turkey (Catalhoyuk), Egypt (Giza, Luxor), Jordan (Wadi Faynan, Shubayqa), Iceland and Qatar (Zubarah) since completing my PhD and returned to working more in the field of zooarchaeology three years ago. Since then I have been concentrating on fish remains and worked on assemblages from Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE. Just started a Post-Doc at University of Copenhagen working on the fish remains from Zubarah and writing up my excavation area at Zubarah as well as analysing the faunal remains from Natufian site of Shubayqa in Jordan. 


Date: Tuesday 18th November 2014

7.00 pm meeting start, Sherborne School Auditorium
Speaker: Dr Nobuyuki Yamaguchi 
Dr Alec Moore has had to cancel his talk on Sharks as he was taken ill on Saturday & is in Hospital in Oman.
We are delighted to announce that Dr Nobuyuki Yamaguchi has stepped into the breach & will give a talk on The Hedgehogs of Qatar.  - Tuesday 18th November 2014 at the Sherborne School Auditorium.  The talk will start at 7:00pm, light refreshments & biscuits at 6.30pm 

 Date: Tuesday 18th November 2014 

7.00 pm meeting start, Sherborne School Auditorium
Speaker: Dr Alec Moore, Regional Vice Chair (Indian Ocean), IUCN Shark Specialist Group
Canceled. Dr Alec Moore has had to cancel his talk on Sharks as he was taken ill & is in Hospital in Oman.

Title of Presentation: Sharks, rays and sawfish of the Gulf: a natural history

Summary of Presentation

 "Sharks and their relatives the rays and sawfishes, collectively known as elasmobranchs, are vital components of marine ecosystems, yet many species are threatened with extinction. Until recently, very little was known about these fishes in the Gulf,  but recent work has revealed exciting secrets. The Gulf is home to unique species, intriguing ecology, and a strong association with humans going back thousands of years. Sadly, there are also significant - and critical - challenges to conservation. This talk will touch on a wide range of subjects of this fascinating group in the Gulf, and highlight what work is needed to help better understand and conserve them. 

**NB Please bring any old photos you might have of sharks, rays, guitarfish or sawfish, which will be of huge interest to Alec!**"

Speaker Bio: 

Alec is a member of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group based in the UK who works on the diversity, fisheries and conservation of elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and sawfishes) in the Arabian region. He recently completed his PhD based on surveys of fish markets in Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE, which have resulted in exciting finds such as the 'rediscovery' of a rare shark species and the discovery of a new stingray species. Obsessed since an early age, Alec has worked with elasmobranchs all over the world including biological sampling of rays on board Korean trawlers in the South Atlantic, tagging sharks and sawfish in the Florida Everglades, surveying sharks in the North Sea, and being bitten by a (very small) shark off northern Australia.

Date: Wednesday 5 November 2014

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Dr Nick Pilcher

Title of Presentation: Understanding the biology of sea turtles in the face of climate change

Summary of Presentation

Sea turtles are endangered pretty much the across the planet. They are impacted by fishing activities, through direct harvests for food, and via industrial and coastal expansion. Being cold blooded they are also particularly sensitive to temperature. Importantly, gender is determined by temperature, so that cool eggs become males and warm eggs become females. How will turtles cope in the face of rapidly changing (warming) climates? Will they be able to evolve at a pace which matches global change patterns? Our research looks at turtles in the water to answer these questions.

Speaker Bio: 

Nick is a British marine biologist who has studied and conserved turtles for over 20 years. His passion has taken him across the entire Middle East and Southeast Asia, and out into the Pacific. He runs his own research and conservation Foundation based in Malaysia (Borneo) from where he directs projects in more than 15 countries. He has worked in Qatar on and off since 2004 and has published extensively on sea turtles of the region.


 Date: Wednesday 1 October 2014

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS
Speaker: Simon Wilson Technical Director, Five Oceans, Environmental Services, Oman
BA hons (Oxon.), MSc, PhD

Title of Presentation: The Value and Ecological Function of Mangroves in Qatar

Summary of Presentation

An introduction into the biology, ecology and value of mangroves in the tropics and compare this with the mangroves in the Gulf, specifically Qatar, where mangroves are at the limit of their global distribution. The talk will be illustrated with results from early research on mangrove reforestation in Qatar which began in the 1980’s and a mangrove rehabilitation project being conducted at the New Port Project site, and will conclude by setting out some strategies for enhancing mangrove colonisation rates in Qatar.

Speaker Bio: 

Simon is a marine scientist with over 18 years of experience. His passion for all things marine began as a child growing up in Mexico, Nicaragua and Kenya.
Simon read Zoology at Oxford University, and went on to do a Master’s degree in Tropical Coastal Management at Newcastle University.
He is an original founding member of ‘Five Oceans’ and is based at the Muscat office in Oman. His core experience lies in coastal zone management. He specialises in biodiversity management, particularly marine protected areas, coral reef and mangrove habitats. Simon also has a great deal of experience in delivering EIAs in the Middle East, which mainly relate to developments in the coastal and marine zone, but also include terrestrial projects such as renewable energy schemes. Simon has a keen interest in environmental technologies and product use/design and consistently provides master planning advice for implementing best practice approaches for developments. For the past 18 months Simon has lead the mangrove restoration project for the New Port Project in Qatar
Simon lives by the beach in Muscat with his wife and two children.
Specific Country Experience
Middle East: Jordan,Oman,Qatar,United Arab Emirates,Yemen
Africa: Eritrea,South Africa,Sudan,Tanzania
Asia: Maldives,British Ocean Territory (Chagos),Brunei,Indonesia,Malaysia,Thailand
Americas: Bahamas,Belize,Dominican Republic
Further information about Five Oceans can be found at http://www.5oes.com/