American University of Beirut

EduBioMed - ​Capacity Building For Education And Applied Research In Mediterranean Unesco's Biosphere Reserves

  • ​​Project Description

The project, which is being implemented with the support of the Erasmus and the European Union, aims to strengthen, ameliorate and upgrade academic activity at four Moroccan and Lebanese Higher Education Institutions in the context of Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves, in collaboration and through networking with Biosphere Reserve (BR)s’ stakeholders, public administrations and EU Partners.

The idea is to build an infrastructure for the flow of knowledge made of (i) IT systems for data management and sharing; (ii) ‘citizen science’ tools to engage civil society as co-producer of knowledge; (iii) training for teachers from the South at a Winter School in Europe; (iv) international mobility and internship schemes for teachers and learners to conduct collaborative case study research in BRs; (v) scientific and education materials –including a MOOC course; (vi) curricula upgrading.

  • AUB Students Field Visit to Jabal Moussa UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
The first student mobility event of the Edu-BioMed project took place last September in the Jabal Moussa UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (BR), in Kesrouan District, Lebanon. On this occasion, students of the America​​n University of Beirut accompanied by architect Mr. Nicolas Fayad of the Department of Architecture and Design, Mr. Moustapha Itani of the Nature Conservation Center and Ms. Takla Khoueiry, field guide and civil engineering student, went to the Jabal Moussa BR as part of a class field visit on the 6th of September 2019. 

Design research and outcomes of this field trip were shared with the Association for the Protection of Jabal Moussa and the Edu-BioMed project. Those could afterwards serve as documents for  more senior undergraduate or graduate students to pursue their theses and final design projects on the Jabal Moussa BR, as well as for future workshops focusing on the practical implementations of those theoretical possibilities. 

The Edu-BioMed provided these students with a unique Biosphere Reserve experience in the lebanese BR of Jabal Moussa, allowing them to develop their projects' reflections while participating in​ the overall integration of sociocultural practices in conservation management. 

During 2021, and despite the Covid19 outbreak and the crisis that Lebanon was passing through, teachers, staff, and students of various departments at AUB focused their academic activities on biosphere reserves in Lebanon. Some of the projects are listed below.

  • Pond rehabilitation in Jabal Moussa

This is a community-based project in the Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve (Qehmez entrance, straying aside from the Feytroun main road), involving namely the rehabilitation of an existing dilapidated pond in the reserve to become a viable aquatic living/livable part of the natural setting.  Noting here that the reserve site, previously used for a quarry (now abandoned by decree) is located on one of the most visited trails by school students and families, the “Peony trail" that starts at the entrance of Qehmez.  A project descriptive brief with basic information/background and objectives is attached for quick reference. This real/to-be-implemented project is initiated by the Association for the Protection Jabal Moussa (APJM) in partnership with AUB Nature -Conservation Center (NCC), and looking now to further involve from AUB: The Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS), the Department of Landscape and Ecosystem Management (LDEM) at FAFS – faculty, assistants, and interns, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at MSFEA – faculty and interns; and from external partners, the Association for Bird Conservation in Lebanon (ABCL). The work will involve several disciplines working together, mainly civil (surveying, water/hydrology, geotechnical, structure, construction) and landscape/agriculture (space rearrangement, aquatic living features, planting, irrigation, furniture around, etc…), as well as nature/conservation aspects (including wildlife and bird observation points), with community engagement of the surrounding; all working together to develop a sustainable setting for activities that ca run throughout the year (with water reserves to sustain throughout the dry summers).

  • The Use of VR headsets to involve the stakeholders and communities in the design process of the pond in Jabal Moussa

The topic of this project is to include participants and local communities in the pond rehabilitation project that is already taking place in Jabal Moussa from Qehmez side. This project aims to include local voices in projects, design projects in collaboration between stakeholders and communities, and test validity of VR as a tool for participation.

  • A comparative analysis between the air quality in urban and natural reserve areas to foster eco-tourism in Lebanon

We monitored H2S, NH3 and CH2O concentration in real time in Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve. The aim is to compare a background side in the reserve where there is no emission of pollutants, with another polluted location in the city. Therefore, a 1-month data measurement was recorded with 5 field visits.

  • Floatation Unit

Dr. Claire Joanna Malleson and Dr. Salma Talhouk have agreed that it would be interesting to promote the field of archeobotany research conducted in Jabal Moussa by displaying research method through a publically accessible unit. The floatation method is used for more precise extraction of animal and plant materials trapped in the soil, which are sometimes hard to distinguish in a dry sieve. When one loosens the soil, with the help of water these materials separate from the soil and suspend in the water. With the help of the first year students in LDEM department, a structure was designed and built using spare resources available on campus. Society of the Friends of the Museum for example organize activities related to archaeology. Programs like this and AUBotanic activities can take place on several occasions in the Archaeological Museum premises. Activities near the museum fosters children's interest in history and archaeology by teaching them through the flotation unit and games, arts and crafts using the clay produced by the unit.

  • Documentation of Sheep of the Future project

The Sheep of The Future is an interdisciplinary project that takes the dual catastrophes of current economic crisis and pending environmental collapse in Lebanon seriously, exploring the possibility that longstanding transhumant practices in the Levant may represent the most sustainable modes of dairy and meat production for both the current crisis and the difficult times to come. The practices and struggles of transhumance have made for compelling cinema since nearly the dawn of the art, with Cooper & Schhoedsack's Grass (1925) marking a milestone in ethnographic film. This interest factor remains vibrant today in works such as Kazim Öz's The Last Seasons Shawaks (2009) and Lucien Castaing-Taylor's Sweetgrass (2009). SFTF draws on the traditions of such documentaries in its focus on shepherding and its respect for traditional modes of life but, unlike various documentaries in the “salvage" tradition—capturing a lifestyle on the verge of disappearance—SFTF orients towards a future in which the effects of climate change are ever more obvious, and factory farming is clearly not a sustainable option for dairy and meat production. The film focalizes the global ecological crisis through the localized question of sheep and their impact on the Lebanese highlands asking, along with the researchers and the shepherds that it follows, what medium might be reached between the demands of diet, tradition, economy, and ecology. SFTF draws cinematic inspiration from Orlowski's Chasing Ice (2012) in its focus on the Anthropocene, Errol Morris' Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (1997) in its weaving the stories of specialists from disparate fields, and Kotevska & Stefanov's Honeyland (2019) in terms of its choice of characters who attempt to balance age-old practice with the economic demands of the 21st century.

  • A social media approach to communicating BR.

Mrs. Leila Khauli, lecturer of marketing at AUB, assigned her senior students to work in groups for their final project to develop an online/offline integrated marketing communications campaign to promote Jabal Moussa or Shouf Biosphere reserves to local and foreign visitors. Four teams worked on the Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve and four teams on the Shouf Biosphere Reserve. Each team consists of five students. The major educational objective is to give students hands-on experience with the challenging task of positioning and promoting a destination brand using a minimal budget. At the end of the semester, Mrs. Khauli shared the students' insights with the biosphere reserves to help them develop a marketing communications strategy that meets organizational objectives.

  • Mapping ecosystem services in Jabal Moussa as a mean to enhance the management of the biosphere.

Comparing the two types of protected areas and discuss how they started, how they were established and their status. For Jabal Moussa, Christina Majdalani conducted 7 interviews with stakeholders using the reputational approach, meaning that she approached those who know best about the reserve, its history and its function today. Based on her IRB proposal, she started by interviewing the managers of each of the reserve who, in turn, provided her with contacts for the rest of the interviews.​

  • Historical overview of biosphere reserves and protected areas in Lebanon

Rhea Majdalani's, a graduate from the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science, thesis attempts to map the ecosystem services in Jabal Moussa as a mean to enhance the management of the biosphere. She used ArcGIS and Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) maps as well as many other tools to map these ecosystem services. She then to verified her data through site visits and through interviews with various stakeholders in Jabal Moussa.

  • Edu-BioMed application

Since 1971, UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserves as laboratories for sustainable development and for mapping interactions between humans and the environment. This app was developed within the Edu-BioMed project, and it aims to encourage undergoing research in Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves. With this app citizens, academics, and Biosphere Reserve managing bodies collectively gather data from, and about, various territories. 

Register now and be part of our journey!

Download the Edu-BioMed app on Google Play Store and AppStore using this link or by scanning the QR code ​

  • Edu-BioMed Database

The Edu-BioMed Research Database aims to provide a reliable platform where updated information on Biosphere reserves can be found. This Platform offers a portal that holds all information related to Biosphere Reserve researchers and their recent work and publications. Researchers are also enabled to communicate with each other for the purpose of scientific discussion and collaboration. 

Visit to learn more about the project and to register!

  • ​A series of webinars​
A series of 10 webinars were organized in the framework of Edu-BioMed project to disseminate AUB activities in Lebanese Biosphere Reserves. To access the recordings, please use this link.

To learn more you can visit the project's website​.​

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