160 university and high school students and their mentors from across the UAE gathered at the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) recently for the inaugural Youth Earth Summit (YES!) – the first research-based enviro-competition of its type to be held in the UAE.
Organised by UOWD’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, the Summit saw 32 student teams present their research on how population growth is challenging the Earth’s resources and propose new alternatives to reduce its impact to a panel of expert judges from government and non-government organisations, including Wadi Wurayah National Park, Dubai Municipality’s Dubai Zoo, Al Ain Zoo, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, UAE University, Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency, the American University of Sharjah, Towheed Iranian School, EWS-WWF, Masdar Institute and Sharjah’s Environment and Protected Areas Authority.
Attendees were also joined by guest of honour HH Dr Majid al Qassimi, one of only four Emirati Doctors of Veterinary Science in the UAE and founder of Middle East and North Africa Tech Blog, The MENA Scientist.
UOWD student delegates had carried out a semester-long research project to prepare for the event. Haider Rizvi, Ramy Omran, Manka Dutta and Shravika Behl were awarded the Best Paper title for University students at the conference and were praised by the judges for their presentation skills, depth of research and focus on innovation in their discussion surrounding water shortage.
In the run-up to the event, high schools across the UAE had competed for a spot at the Summit. Involving a gruelling round of double-blind reviews by top environmental experts, the shortlisting process concluded with the top five schools attending the occasion and presenting their findings.
The team from Emirates English Speaking School was crowned high school winners for their study and suggestions surrounding the effects of costal manipulation on wildlife, whilst second place was awarded to Towheed Iranian School for their proposal to use solar powered energy to treat water supplies. Bronze medals were presented to the team from Abu Dhabi Indian School for their research into air quality. The commended high school teams were awarded with excursions to Al Ain Zoo and Resort, whilst the winning team bagged an overnight eco-fieldtrip to Wadi Wurayah National Park.
Addressing the Summit, HH Dr Majid al Qassimi said: “Our time on earth is fleeting… we are only custodians for the coming generations. Environmental literacy is critical in bringing the topic of the environment to the forefront of public consciousness and events such as the Youth Earth Summit are the right steps towards that goal… we must bring this subject to the rest of the people that share the environment and the earth with us.”
Ms Zeenath Khan, lecturer at UOWD and founding convener of the Youth Earth Summit added: “We organised the event in order to grow a culture of environment and sustainability research among school and university students and raise awareness of government and NGO environment initiatives in the UAE. The students who took part in this year’s Summit read academic publications, conducted field visits and put forward their findings and recommendations –preparing them for a future in academic research and helping them to believe that they have a voice when it comes to environmental issues.”
Dr. Mohamed Ali Reza Khan, a fellow judge and Specialist of Wildlife and Zoo Management at Dubai Municipality concluded: “The students identified the problems and came out with some plausible solutions that could be implemented in the future.”
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