Improving Biofouling

Maryam Almemari is a Kawader Fellow currently working as a research assistant at the Center of Interacting Urban Networks under the supervision of Associate Professor of Biology John Burt.

Maryam Almemari is working on conducting comprehensive research on the accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, or small animals on submerged surfaces, such as ship hulls and oil platforms. 

This undesired accumulation of marine microorganisms, also known as biofouling, causes degradation of surfaces, often leading to structural instabilities. This in turn warrants increased fuel consumption in ships, causing additional hazard to sensitive marine ecosystems. 

While antifoulant paints are widely used in the marine industry to protect boat hulls and fixed underwater infrastructure from colonization by marine flora and fauna, these paints typically comprised of a number of toxic biocidal organic and inorganic contents that can have a particularly detrimental effect in enclosed environments such as urban marinas.

In a collaboration between an international paint manufacturer and CITIES, tiles painted with commercial antifoulants as well as several proprietary experimental coatings designed to have substantially reduced impacts on the environment while maintaining efficacy in reducing fouling were trialed. 

Maryam will test these protective tile coatings installed on submerged surfaces in the waters of Abu Dhabi, and compare their performance to those installed in Oman.

Through her project, Maryam aims to investigate how the performance of protective coatings could be improved, with the goal of reducing pollution impacts within urban marinas around coastal cities. 

“I wanted to further build on my research, and learn how to make effective policy recommendations for coral reef preservation efforts in the Gulf region”, Maryam said. 

Maryam and her team performed a systematic review of peer reviewed studies in the GCC states spanning the last 90 years, identifying participating female researchers, their positions, and contributions to their studies. 

These researchers were surveyed to better understand their perspectives as women in the field. The project filled the knowledge gaps on gender parity in marine research within the region, and Maryam was invited to present her research at the Gulf Research Meeting in 2022, held at the University of Cambridge.

Reflecting on her involvement with the Kawader program so far, Maryam is appreciative of getting to work in a supportive and collaborative environment like NYU Abu Dhabi. "I am grateful to be a part of the Kawader program, as no other program could provide such a nurturing environment for early career researchers. When it comes to academic research, there is always someone on campus who shares your interests, and is eager to help."