With the aim of protecting and sustainably using Oman’s unique biological resources, a program on research cooperation was signed by Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and the Oman Animal Plant Genetic Resource Center (OAPGRC) of the Research Council on 1 May 2018. Dr. Rahma bint Ibrahim Al-Mahrooqi, SQU’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies & Research, and Dr. Nadiya A. Al Saady Executive Director of OAPGRC, signed the agreement. Dr. Sergey Dobretsov, Director of the Centre of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology, SQU, and Dr. Yaseen Al-Mulla, the Director of the Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System Research Center, SQU, attended the ceremony.
The Sultanate of Oman has diverse and unique genetic resources, including over 1,200 species of plants, more than 1,200 species of fish, 10 livestock species, 128 breeding species of birds, more than 130 coral species, 5 turtle species and an unknown number of microorganisms. Without a doubt, these rich, indigenous genetic resources have significant cultural, historical, social, health and commercial value, not only to the sultanate but also to the region and the rest of the world. The program between SQU and OAPGRC opens new avenues to investigate, protect and sustainably use Oman’s unique biological resources.
The Research Cooperation Program is intended to contribute to increased cooperation between the two organisations in relation to research, capacity building, joint research projects, and training. The Research Cooperation Program also encompasses several joint projects. The first of these concerns the mapping and assessment of changes in vegetation patterns due to urbanization in Oman’s Dhofar Mountains by using Remote Sensing and GIS techniques. Other projects include the identification of epibenthic communities associated with marine organisms in Oman’s waters. Additionally, the genetics and identity of corals inhabiting the shallow water environments of Oman will be investigated and their biological activity studied.
When asked about the potential impact of the research cooperation program, Dr. Rahma Al-Mahrooqi said, “SQU is one of the leading research institutions in the sultanate. We are always looking for opportunities to build research networks and develop Oman-specific knowledge and skills across fields and throughout the country to establish a stronger research culture in Oman and to deepen the effect of research output and value in diversifying the economy. OAPGRC has been a long-term partner of SQU, supporting numerous research projects. This cooperation program with OAPGRC will pave the way for further partnerships between the two organizations.”
Dr. Nadiya Al-Saady stated, “OAPGRC was established in 2012 in response to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s order to review Oman’s opportunities to protect its globally significant genetic resources. Our mission is to promote the recognition, sustainable exploitation and valuation of genetic diversity inherent in Oman’s animals, plants and microorganisms as a natural heritage resource. It is our vision to develop as a collaborative hub for all animal and plant genetic resources activities, promote the sustainable use of knowledge across economic sectors and social segments, create value from excellent research and practical innovation, and share our work with the world of international science. SQU’s expertise will help us to build recognized local capacity in the field of genetic resources and promote the sustainable use of animals, plants and microorganisms.”