Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat receives National Geographic Society grant to study Lebanon’s endemic irises
Photo credit: Ziad Rahme
March 30, 2021

iBOL’s Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, a professor at l’Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut and a member of iBOL’s Science Committee, has been awarded a National Geographic Society grant to study Lebanon’s endemic flora.

As a National Geographic Explorer in 2021, Prof. Bou Dagher Kharrat will study the genetic diversity of irises endemic to Lebanon. By collecting data on these species, she aims to support conservation efforts.

Royal irises, characterized by their large flowers with shimmering colours, have a life cycle that depends on wild bees for pollination and ants for seed dispersal meaning the irises are typically found in small geographic areas. Lebanon’s royal irises – listed as endangered or critically endangered – are strictly endemic and require genetic taxonomic revision to better tailor conservation approaches. The National Geographic Society-funded project, “Restoring the Glow of the Rainbow Goddesses: Oncocyclus Irises”, focuses on the genetic exploration and protection of the seven royal iris species that are endemic to Lebanon.

Prof. Bou Dagher Kharrat has long led many biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration projects and campaigns. She is the author of numerous scientific publications on Lebanon’s biodiversity. She also works with her field teams to rescue endangered species and create protected areas. She also uses DNA barcode and metabarcoding technologies to explore biological diversity and unravel the complex interactions between species. These interactions are at the heart of the ecosystem restoration approach that she implemented, through the NGO Jouzour Loubnan, which she co-founded in 2008 and currently chairs.

Sujeevan Ratnasingham, chief architect of BOLD Systems
Dr. Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat examines an endemic iris specimen – Iris cedreti – in Bcharré at the foot of Mount Makmel, the highest peak in Lebanon.
Photo credit: Ziad Rahme

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The International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Consortium is a research alliance with a mission to develop and apply a globally accessible, DNA-based system for the discovery and identification of all multicellular life. Our vision is to illuminate biodiversity for the benefit of our living planet.

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