Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat receives a grant from the National Geographic Society

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, professor at the Faculty of Science of Saint-Joseph University of Beirut (USJ), received a grant from the National Geographic Society, to explore the endemic flora of Lebanon. As National Geographic Explorer 2021, she will study the genetics of irises endemic to Lebanon, with the aim of taking adequate measures for their conservation.

Royal irises are characterized by their extraordinarily large and colorful flowers. Their life cycle depends on wild bees for pollination, and ants for seeds dispersion making them rare and confined to small geographic areas. The Lebanese royal irises are strictly endemic and in need of genetic taxonomic revision. The project entitled “Restoring the luster of the rainbow goddess : Oncocyclus irises” is about the genetic exploration and conservation of the 7 endemic royal iris species present in Lebanon and classified as endangered or critically endangered.

Prof. Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat has a contagious passion for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration. Academically, she has published several peer-reviewed articles on endemic species in Lebanon, the innumerable threats they are facing and proposed solution to preserve them. She uses DNA barcoding and metabarcoding advanced technology to explore the biological diversity and unravel the complex interaction linking the species. These interactions are at the heart of ecosystem restoration approach that she implemented through the NGO Jouzour Loubnan she co-founded in 2008. She has been very successful in engaging the students and the public at large mainly under “Operation 7ème Jour” with her quest to promote biodiversity and its importance to Lebanon.

Prof. Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat will carry out this project within the Faculty of Sciences (FS) of USJ. The ultramodern practical training laboratories of the FS, its numerous state-of-the-art facilities and its innovative teacher-researchers, allow the FS to quickly adapt to new realities, in order to favorably combine its training and research activities for the benefit of the society. Protecting the environment is one of its prerogatives.

In addition, Saint-Joseph University, founded in 1875 by the Jesuit Fathers, has always placed at the heart of its mission: the creation of new knowledge through research, the transmission of this knowledge through teaching and putting this knowledge at the service of society. The flora of Lebanon has long been of interest to botanists around the world, many of whom were faculty members at Saint-Joseph University. Let us remember the famous botanists Father Léon Vincent s.j, first holder of the Chair of Botany at the Faculty of Medicine (around 1883), Father Louis Bouloumoy (...- 1926) and Father Paul Mouterde (1892 –1972).

The research to be conducted by Prof. Bou Dagher Kharrat, as part of the project funded by the National Geographic Society, will continue this tradition of highlighting our Lebanese heritage, which is a part of USJ's strategic vision.