Greeting from the Cradle of Civilization

Guest blog by Salwan Ali Abed from Iraq

Black-crowned Night Herons Nycticorax nycticorax are a familiar bird of the Mesopotamian Marshes

I started my ornithological adventure in 2005, when I did my first bird survey visit to the marshes of southern Iraq. It was the first time I was introduced to the grace of Mesopotamia. Then I studied and researched on biodiversity in general and birds in particular and in 2007, I was fortunate to get a fellowship to complete my Environmental M.Sc. in India. Then I was really lucky to have a chance to be trained in the Bombay Natural History Museum (BNHS), which was very valuable to me.

Hypocolius breed widely in Mesopotamia

I have been very lucky. In 2008, I came back to Iraq to participate in Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) surveys organized by Nature Iraq, the BirdLife Partner in Iraq. This resulted in a very important book that OSME helped sponsor: The Key Biodiversity Areas of Iraq, which was published in 2017. In 2011, I finished my Ph.D. on the ecology and biology of the vulnerable Marbled Duck  Marmaronetta angustirostris and now I am an assistant professor in the College of Science, University of Al-Qadisiyah. I am teaching Animal Ecology for undergraduate students and advanced bird ecology for postgraduate student. So I am very fortunate to be passing on all I have been so fortunate to learn in a country that has had many difficulties and conflicts. My lectures focus on conservation and biodiversity and in particular endangered species of which one of our most famous is the Basra Reed Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis.

Salwan studying wildlife in the marshes of Iraq

I remember in 2016 I was so happy to be one of the winners of Fulbright Program that was held in the USA. This program was very useful for me and focused on capacity building. I participated with a Poster (that received an award) on the Basra Reed Warbler in Iraq.

My interest in this little-studied warbler continued and in 2018, a scholarship enabled me to go to Sweden to complete my Postdoctoral study and my research on the Conservation Genetics of Basra Reed Warbler in the marshes of southern Iraq.

Today I am working on a project funded by my university, the Conservation of the endangered species in Iraq’. This project involves a training course, workshop, education and awareness program, field work and bird ringing. In addition, the project will host international experts to deliver a training course along with various other activities. It is my hope that, with the help of OSME and others, we can develop a comprehensive research project to study the breeding ecology of the Basra Reed Warbler which is Iraq’s most famous bird and so dependent on the health of our Mesopotamian Marshes.

Salwan presenting studies of Basra Reed Warbler in USA

Nature conservation in Iraq requires much more effort and support and I am determined to play my part in achieving that with help of national and international organisations. Inshallah!

Salwan Ali Abed

[Richard Porter comments: I am always amazed at what is being achieved in ornithology and conservation in Iraq given the problems of working in a conflict zone. What Salwan hasn’t said, as it is still under discussion, is that he hopes to come to Britain to train as a bird ringer courtesy of his university in Iraq and with the full support of others, including OSME. We will be posting more about this exciting development in a future blog. So watch out for it.]

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