Little did we know it but Oman has yet another impressive Marine Biologist and Environmentalist in its midst. Suaad Saleh Al Harthi, an Emirati woman making waves in marine conservation and management within the Sultanate’s marine territories, has turned heads most of her academic and working life with impressive qualifications from the University of San Diego, and the prestigious Duke University, both in the USA, prior to making her mark in the wet and wonderful world of marine science where much of the marine life suffers the consequences of what happens above, in what is almost an “out of sight, out of mind,” scenario for most of us.
“I was exposed to the outdoors and adventure from a young age, as my father has always been quite adventurous, so I can say it runs in my blood,” Al Harthi shared, adding “I have always been interested in biology and the sciences and I decided to go for the environmental sciences where I could mix my passion for the outdoors and love of the sea, with my interest in the science of nature’s wonder world.”
A stint based in the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi followed her initial studies, in 2005, as Al Harthi joined shipboard research cruises, gaining valuable experience in gathering oceanographic data, water samples, and conducting nutrient analyses, then the following year diversified into a coral reef monitoring project and establishing permanent monitoring stations across Abu Dhabi.
Subsequently, she completed her Masters Project, an integrated study of coastal zone management, with coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds as the key elements of her research, with added focus on marine policies, law, eco-management, economics, and the environment. She achieved further media prominence within the realm, as part of a multi-national team focused on researching coral reef rehabilitation, in the waters surrounding Saadiyat Island, during 2010.
Further research and conservation management opportunities were forthcoming for Al Harthi, in areas as diverse as Frankincense, Whales, Dolphins, the ubiquitous Sea Turtles, and that most impressive of birds, the Egyptian vulture, giving a unique depth to her scientific portfolio, given which, I asked what was her favorite sea creature.
“Coral reefs are my favorite,” she somewhat surprisingly responded.
“They are actually animals, although most people don’t realize that. They support an abundance of life, and are so beautiful. They also provide an intriguing and largely unrecognized variety of services to mankind, including the provision of the perfect balanced environment for the fish that we eat, also providing us with protection against storms.”
Since 2014, Al Harthi has held a high profile position as Program Director of the Environmental Society of Oman, engaging with public and private sector, technical partners, education and community groups. The ESO has a very broad role, but through its office offers technical and strategic advice, project and environmental management experience, and collaborative assistance in a growing number of environmentally conscious perspectives.
She is adamant that “conservation of key marine and coastal habitats such as the coral reefs, mangroves, sustainable management of fisheries resources, minimizing marine and noise pollution, and sustainable zoning for appropriate marine and coastal development,” must be prioritized if the marine environment is to be protected.
Al Harthi has an upcoming engagement to speak at the high profile Oman Field Science Lecture in London in October, at the Royal Geographic Society, where, as conference organizer Dr Nigel Winser said, “We are delighted that Al Harthi can join us as a keynote speaker. An experienced coastal manager and environmentalist, she will update us on the global importance of the turtles of Oman, and the remarkable research undertaken during the last 30 years.”
Suaad Saleh Al Harthi may only recently have come to the attention of the wider community in recent times, yet one would comfortably feel there is much more “to be written.”