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The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research: A New IAEA Collaborating Centre for the Environment

KISR has been designated an IAEA Collaborating Centre to help advance the understanding of the impacts of climate change and other human activities on marine ecosystems.

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Various dignitaries were present at the signing.

The signing of the collaboration agreement took place on October 4th, 2019 at the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco, in the presence of Mr Sadiq Marafi, Resident Representative of the Permanent Mission of the State of Kuwait to the IAEA, Dr Samira Omar, Director General of KISR, Dr Osamah Alsayegh, Executive Director of KISR, Dr Nader Al‐Awadi, Executive Commissioner for International Cooperation, National Liaison Office for the IAEA, as well as Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Applications and David Osborn, Director of the IAEA Environment Laboratories.

After several years of cooperation, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) was designated an IAEA Collaborating Centre. The collaboration will focus on promoting the use of nuclear and isotopic techniques to improve the understanding of the impact of climate change and other human activities on marine ecosystems. The research will further contribute to the understanding of the carbon cycle, including the effects of high levels of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, as well as the possible implications of ocean acidification on environmental sustainability.

“The Gulf is a lifeline for the countries along its coast. Understanding the marine ecosystem will help our ability to maintain this vital resource in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner for the benefit of the country, the region, and the world” said Sadiq Marafi, Kuwait’s Ambassador to Austria and Resident Representative to the United Nations in Vienna at a signing ceremony at the IAEA Environmental Laboratories in Monaco today. “The State of Kuwait looks forward to implementing this agreement and will continue working closely with the Agency and the international community towards a better understanding of the environment”.

Climate change will have far-reaching consequences on the environment – some of these are still poorly understood. To address this gap in knowledge, new and innovative research is needed. Part of the collaboration between KISR and the IAEA will focus on applied research to help develop realistic future scenarios for countries to be able to anticipate and prepare for changes that are likely to occur in the environment. The collaboration will also seek to further knowledge on climate change impacts like ocean warming. Kuwait’s location on the Persian Gulf means researchers are in a prime position to examine the unique resilience of Gulf corals and other warm water ecosystems. Whereas some corals are very sensitive to temperature increases, the corals in the Gulf seem to have adapted well to higher water temperatures.

Many studies on ocean acidification have shown that it will negatively impact the development of some species by thwarting the growth of their skeletons and bones. However, just like humans can be more prone to certain ailments when their body is weaker, early research is indicating that some marine organisms which are already under stress due to pollution and other changes in their environment, may absorb more contaminants. KISR and the IAEA will broaden the research to see what consequences this could have for seafood safety.

The two organisations will continue their cooperation on improving the identification of harmful algal blooms (HABs) which in recent years have increased in severity, frequency and geographical range. HABs can produce biotoxins which have been linked to mass mortalities in fish and birds and cause foodborne illnesses in humans through the consumption of contaminated seafood. KISR and the IAEA Environment Laboratories will continue fine-tuning the radioligand receptor binding assay (RBA), a nuclear technique which enables a rapid and precise identification of these toxins and can be used by relevant national organisations as a basis for seafood safety initiatives.

“KISR is the first collaborating centre in the region on this important topic which is the environment. It will add value to the work we are contributing on these issues “ highlighted Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Applications.

KISR, founded in 1967, benefits from state-of-the-art facilities with a staff of 580 researchers and engineers spread across 100 laboratories. These include oceanographic laboratories, phytoplankton and zooplankton laboratories, soil testing laboratories, as well as a fleet of research vessels. It works with the public and private sectors to address environmental challenges. It is the UN Environment Regional Centre for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and is a member of the network of Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity (ALMERA).

With the recently designated institutes, there are now 41 active IAEA collaborating centres worldwide.

The Gulf is a lifeline for the countries along its coast. Understanding the marine ecosystem will help our ability to maintain this vital resource in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner for the benefit of the country, the region, and the world
Sadiq Marafi, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Austria and Resident Representative to the United Nations in Vienna

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