College of Engineering

Khalifa University Participates in Youth Focus Group Workshop on Environmental and Climate Policy

August 11, 2020

Khalifa University faculty Dr. Hector Hernandez, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. Riaan van der Merwe, Assistant Professor of Civil Infrastructure and Environmental Engineering, represented the University in an online workshop on Wednesday, 1 July 2020, organized by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) to discuss the Ministry’s upcoming UAE National Environmental Policy. 

The main purpose of the focus group was to meet with academic research faculty and students to: (1) understand what research programs are currently in place in the respective universities’ research groups and departments; (2) find out what are the potential future areas of academic research for the UAE; and (3) identify what programs need to be supported and implemented by the MOCCAE to achieve these academic research objectives. 

During the meeting, they discussed the MOCCAE’s commitment to developing a data-driven approach to addressing emerging climate change challenges in the UAE. The Ministry’s national environmental policy will focus on the following:

  • Biodiversity
  • Marine and coastal environment
  • Climate change
  • Air quality
  • Food safety
  • Agriculture
  • Animal welfare and development
  • Chemicals management
  • Waste management

The attendees were also asked to share research programs they are currently working on in their laboratories and institutions, as well as identify emerging areas of research that would specifically support the MOCCAE and benefit the UAE. Dr. van der Merwe and Dr. Hernandez were able to highlight several of their projects during the workshop. 

Dr. van der Merwe mentioned that he is currently developing projects on marine and coastal environment, including projects titled “Shifting the discharge mindset from harmful to habitat: exploring inventive designs and benefits of underwater discharge structures for fish habitat enhancement” and “Use of unmanned aerial systems to promote water resources management in the agricultural sector”.

Dr. Hernandez also shared his current projects, including one that is focused on establishing a halophyte breeding program in the UAE; the Green Barjeel project, which he is working on in collaboration with the MOCCAE; and Green Chemistry 2.0, which focuses on remediation of persistent environmental organic pollutants and in which he is Co-PI with Dr. Sharmarke Mohamed, Assistant Professor of Chemistry. He also talked about future projects under development in agriculture, including a project titled “UAE native microalgae as a renewable source of feed stock for animal feed in the United Arab Emirates and “Mining UAE-native halotolerant microorganisms for promoting plant salinity resistance.”

At the end of the workshop, the participants were asked to provide recommendations of programs that both the Ministry and academia can implement to be able to support the UAE National Environmental Policy. 
The focus group was also attended by other faculty from the American University Sharjah, Sharjah University, and United Arab Emirates University. 

Ara Cruz
Creative Writerr
09 August 2020