Research at Qatar University to focus on microbes in Qatar Sabkhas

Qatar University research has demonstrated that there are microbes residing in the Sabkhas (salt flats) in the country. These microbes are essential to the formation of minerals and sedimentary rocks. In turn, these microbes contribute to research in sedimentology, microbiology, oil geology and material sciences.

Sabkhas refer to coastal, supra-tidal mudflat or sand flats. These flats are filled with evaporite-saline minerals, which accumulate over the year due to the arid climate. The microbes residing in the Sabkhas are responsible for creating uncommon sedimentary structures. These sedimentary structures are said to be found in fossils in Mars. Hence, this research can potentially help scientists understand how life operates in Mars.

On the other hand, the Sabkhas are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Hence, they can be preserved for tourist attractions, geoparks and natural reserves in Qatar.

The project began in 2015 and professor in charge is Prof. Hamad A Rahman Al Kuwari. It is called “Geobiological Processes in the Sabkhas of Qatar”.

The project recovered its fund by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) and is under National Priority Research Program (NRRP). The research project is a collaboration between QU, ExxonMobil Research Center in Qatar, the ETH Zurich, Space Exploration Institute in Switzerland, Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the United States and University of Toronto in Canada.

This research project is the first research project that uses a physicochemical perspective to look at Sabkhas. It emphasizes on how biology can contribute to the environments.

Professor Al Kuwari’s project has stated that it viewed Qatar’s sabkhas as “natural laboratories to test hypothesis and implement new proxies useful for the technical challenges of the energy industries and answering fundamental scientific questions.”

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