Lebanese Receives National Geographic Society Grant To Protect Lebanon’s Endemic Royal Irises


Lebanese botanist Magda Bou Dagher-Kharrat has just received a grant from the National Geographic Society to discover ways to protect Lebanon’s highly-threatened endemic irises.

The 7 species of Lebanese royal irises range from endangered to critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Diversity of Lebanese royal irises, illustrated by some of the studied taxa. A: Iris sofarana subsp. sofarana, B: I. sofarana subsp. kasruwana, C: I. cedreti, D: I. westii, E: I. bismarckiana, F: I. lortetii, G: I. antilibanotica. (M. Bou Dagher-Kharrat)

As a Lebanese National Geographic Explorer, Bou Dagher-Kharrat’s work will focus on boosting conservation efforts to reverse this.

Funded by the non-profit, she will research and explore Iris genetic diversity and study methods of conservation.

Bou Dagher-Kharrat is the head of the Department of Life and Earth Science and the director of the Biodiversity and Functional Genomics laboratory of the Faculty of Science at the Saint Joseph University of Beirut (USJ), where she will carry out her research.

In a press release, the university lauded her “contagious passion for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration.”

The university also announced that her project is entitled “Restoring the Luster of the Rainbow Goddess: Oncocyclus irises.” This is inspired by the mythological Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris.

It is worth mentioning that Bou Dagher-Kharrat is the president of the local NGO Jouzour Loubnan as well as the founder of the online database “Lebanese flora,” for which she received the UNESCO-L’OREAL award for “Women in Science” in 2008.