A Decade of Investigation for the Future

In just 10 years, NYU Abu Dhabi has contributed important knowledge about our rapidly changing natural environment.

By Andy Gregory, NYU Abu Dhabi Public Affairs

Rising Seas

Greenland and parts of Antarctica are disappearing at an alarming pace. Scientists have trekked to the ends of the earth to measure and witness polar ice loss first-hand. 

Glaciers have cracked apart and icebergs larger than cities plunged into the ocean while their cameras recorded. 

The impact on global sea level could be catastrophic because 40 percent of the world’s population lives near water.

Monsoon Predictions

Climate scientists have discovered a growing teleconnection in a warming world between summer monsoon rainfall in India and year-to-year variability of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Climate models also show a rapidly warming Indian Ocean could reduce the length of the Indian monsoon season by as much as 11 days and result in less rainfall.

Winds of Change 

Researchers have discovered a new polar jet stream that transported warm air and dust from the Sahara Desert north to Greenland, causing surface temperatures to increase by as much as 10 degrees Celsius, for three consecutive days.

Extinction Threat

Lizards have been around for millions of years and are known for being highly adaptable to their environment.

However, the looming extinction of certain cold-adapted lizards might be evidence that some species are unable to cope with climate change.

Curious Creatures 

There are many kinds of puddle frogs, but none quite like the half-inch, skinny-legged phrynobatrachus bibita dwarf puddle frog found living in a remote forest in Ethiopia. 

“It was obvious that we had found a new species, they look so different,” said Sandra Goutte, postdoctoral associate researcher.

An Illuminating Discovery

In nature, a tiny Brazilian pumpkin toadlet appears harmless and orange-colored to the human eye. The same poisonous frog, however, glows bright blue under UV light. Its luminescence could be a mating call, or a sign to warn off predators.

Food Security

Date palms are an essential food crop in the Middle East. Genome sequencing research at NYU Abu Dhabi has significantly advanced our understanding of date palms and the nature of their sweet fruits. Specifically, researchers have identified the genes and mutations that influence color and sugar level. 

The more science discovers about how date palms survive in harsh desert conditions, the more likely they’ll be around to feed future generations. 

Hammour, widely marketed in the UAE as one type of fish, is in fact three distinct species that look similar but are genetically different, a study has found. Hammour are overfished in the Gulf region at six times the sustainable level.

Natural Products

Palm oil cultivation is a threat to global forests. A unique type of freshwater alga in the UAE is thought to be a viable alternative to palm oil.

“We believe alga can be of both commercial and environmental benefit once it is further developed,” said Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani, associate professor of biology.

Green Construction

Cement factories are big polluters. Leftover salt from the process of water desalination could provide a more sustainable way to make cement. “This kind of cement is not just environmentally sustainable but it’s also cost efficient,” explained Kemal Celik, professor of civil engineering.

Read more about the amazing achievements NYUAD has accomplished over the last decade.