For the past 15 years, AUBNCC (American University of Beirut - Nature Conservation Center) has been the dynamic platform at AUB for faculty members to lead, innovate, and serve hand in hand with citizens in Lebanon's diverse communities. The NCC's mission is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and to help reinvent individuals' relationship with it through the use of research, education, community outreach, and knowledge dissemination. This bottom-up interdisciplinary approach accomplishes our vision of helping people become guardians and beneficiaries of nature.
The center's novel approaches to public participation address public concerns and provide solutions that adapt to the shifting socio-political and natural environments of our times. In collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Interior and Municipality, NCC has evolved in the past four years from developing aerial green maps of 80 villages to creating a digital platform, “Daskara," with the goal of establishing longstanding relationships with local communities, visitors, and both public and private entities. A citizen science framework that defines the university-community collaboration process has been developed and tested on water and integrated solid waste management in several villages. Another successful model is the reforestation program, which ensures sustainability by allowing professional groups like writers and media to adopt reforested areas. In brief, the Nature Conservation Center leads Lebanon and the region in a public participatory approach that confronts local challenges and addresses them with research and evidence-based sustainable environmental solutions.
We are leading a multidisciplinary drug discovery research project, taking endemic medicinal plants from their natural forest habitats to the horticulture lab for cultivation and domestication; to the chemistry lab for isolation, identification and derivatization; to biology and medicine labs for anti-inflammation and anti-cancer testing; and to the nanotechnology lab for drug formulation. AUBNCC has also extended its expertise to the Center for Drug Discovery at AUB-Medical Center (AUBMC) for collaborative projects.
Through IBDAA (International Biodiversity Day At AUB), an unconventional teaching approach developed and implemented by the center, AUB students from all disciplines are asked to think outside of the box and take on real-world problems in harmony with nature. Anchored in experiential learning, it invites professors to enroll their classes in a competition to raise awareness of ecological issues by proposing innovative and sustainable solutions.
Our education projects are not restricted to AUB students. With the support of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, AUBNCC published in 2014 the School Guide for Extracurricular Nature-Related Activities for children of 8-14 years of age. Around 300 public and private schools tested the guide before it was disseminated to all schools in the country.
The work we do has attracted funds, generated peer-reviewed publications, and trained a great number of undergraduate, graduate and PhD students. As we look into the future, AUBNCC is keen to continue promoting its innovative research, education and service programs and will remain the reference Center from which local citizens and peer scientists seek data and sound environmental solutions.