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My Birthday, by Mazin Qumsiyeh

This week is my birthday (60th!) so I am getting to be an old man. It is agood time to reflect but I will not bore you with that. I do want to saythat the best thing I believe I worked on is the last thing I worked onwhich is the combination center: Palestine Museum of Natural History, thebotanical garden, and the nascent Institute of Biodiversity andSustainability (all at Bethlehem University, Mar Andrea Campus). Thus forthose who contemplate sending birthday wishes or gifts, please considersupporting this project (financially, logistically, in-kind, by visiting,by volunteering etc.). Below are some relevant links and a concept paper soyou can see what you are supporting.-Video about volunteering: about our work and how you can help: paperThe Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) and its botanical gardensare part of the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability(PIBS) of Bethlehem University and were established in 2014 with theMission to research, educate about, and conserve our natural world, cultureand heritage and use knowledge to promote responsible empowered humaninteractions with all components of our environment. The Goals are:1. Explore the diversity of the fauna, flora, and human ethnography viacollections and scientific research that includes morphology and genetics.2. Environmental protection and responsible interaction between people andthe environment.3- Use the knowledge gained and the books and databases and collections topromote science education.4. Develop and increase respect: a) for ourselves (self-empowerment), b)for our fellow human beings (regardless of background), and c) for allliving creatures and our shared earth.5.  Use research results in areas like history, culture, permaculture andbiological control to promote sustainable communitiesThe project is wider than a museum and botanical gardens in their classicsense. It was understood that it will be a unique center for biodiversityand sustainability located at an educational institution but also anational project serving Palestine and the region.Accomplishments: In the last three years much was accomplished usinglargely volunteer efforts and the initial local donations ($250,000 fromProf. Qumsiyeh matched by an almost equivalent amount collected fromcolleagues, small grants, and Bethlehem University):1) Opening an exhibit hall with significant collections (geology,paleontology, zoology, botany). See and  Publishing over two dozen research papers in divesre areas ranging frombiodiversity to museology to Israeli effects on the environment (seeexamples here )3) Implemented environmental education and awareness programs that servicedover 6000 students and other visitors (see examples here )4) Collaborating with a number of NGOs (e.g. Al-Qattan Foundation, DaliaAssociation) and several government agencies (e.g. Environmental QualityAuthority, Ministry of Agriculture) and univesrities on projects orresearch, education and environmental conservation locally and globally.5) Recruiting hundreds of local and international volunteers who spendanywhere from two weeks to four months at a time to learn new skills anddevelop a spirit of volunteerism and team work while advancing their owncareers.6)      Consulted to governments, NGOs, and academia on issues ofeducation, environmental health and researchFor a short video of other activities/accomplishments, please see we are goingThe Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) isenvisioned to become a much larger center of formal and informal education,research, and organizing for conservation locally and regionally. Our plansfor the near future are:1)  A green building will be developed to accommodate the needs of PIBS andPMNH. Architecture students at the Palestine Polytechnic Univesrity(Hebron) have taken on the project and have come up with some great designsfor the new building and our site (12 dunums in Bethlehem University MarAndrea Campus)2) While we have developed the garden somewhat, we now need to createsections for an herbal and medicinal garden, develop a section ofpermaculture research (ecological agriculture), and develop paths andgarden exhibits to be user/visitor ready.3)  Develop PIBS to offer diplomas and even bachelor degrees under theFaculty of Sciences and to do its functions as part and parcel fulfillingthe mission and goals of Bethlehem University. In particular, the part ofBU agenda that deals with empowering sustainable human communities will befocused upon. The scope of envisioned activities of the PIBS include a)developing diploma and perhaps other degrees (Bachelor, Master) as deemedappropriate by the university through the normal channels of in-houseapproval followed by ministerial approval, b) engaging in research relatedto biodiversity and sustainability, c) providing experts and consultancy togovernmental and non-governmental groups and institutions on areas ofbiodiversity and sustainability (e.g. Environmental Impact Assessments), d)Be a center for students and faculty at BU (and beyond) to use foreducation (e.g. resources), for research (e.g. availability of researchcollections and laboratories), and for conservation (e.g. organizingenvironmental clubs at schools and universities, active organizing ofconservation campaigns etc). PIBS thus can also help fulfil the obligationsof Palestine under International treaties (even before we receive fullindependence as a nation). Conventions include the Convention on BiologicalDiversity, the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS), theInternational Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture(ITPGRFA), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ofWild Flora and Fauna (CITES).4) Expand and use the environmental impact assessment unit at PIBS (see ourbeginning structure and rational here )5) Restructuring to ensure sustainability and long term effectiveness: Theboard of advisors of PMNH (composed mostly of university administrators anduniversity faculty) will morph into an executive board to oversee the fullspectrum of operations of PMNH and PIBS. At that time and pending properavailability of funding, the interim volunteer director (Prof. Qumsiyeh)will be replaced with a suitable paid director. In the next few months wewill launch a system of PMNH membership (members get free admission,priority in workshop attendance etc.). A cafeteria and giftshop areenvisioned (giftshop sells museum and garden produced plants, honey,children’s toys etc.).6) Outreach and education: Develop interactive exhibits both indoors andoutdoors (in the garden). Also develop the mobile museum to take work torefugee camps and remote villages. Develop use of 3D and other computertechnologies for virtual museum tours and environmental education.Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH)5 Years Plan: Aug 2016-Aug 20211)  Develop the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability(PIBS; a concept paper for this will be submitted next meeting for approval)2)  Exhibits/education: a) To developed a 7 indoor exhibits (includingsections on ethnobotany, ethnozoology, geology, environmental conservationand more) and 7 outdoor exhibits (all interactive) b)  To do minimum 6workshops each year in diverse areas, for the five years a total > 30workshops, c) host minimum 10000 students over the five year period3) Garden: To developed in the garden composting center, community garden,medicinal and herbal plants, terracing in the eastern and northern areas,fix the septic system, issue, and build a new cistern4) Research: a) To Publish 30 research in diverse areas (from agriculture tofauna to flora to environmental impact to genetics), b) To have functionalcytogenetic laboratory, specimen storage systems (need more Space)5) Human Recourses (HR) and administration: a) develop staff and have byend of five years  three full time researchers, Administrative director,Project manager, education specialist, 2 garden workers, IT person,publicity/media person, and secretary/guide , b) to have at least 200committed volunteers willing to help the museum (local and international),c) seamless internal operation and an oversight board of people whoactually help the museum have administrative sustainability, d) By end offive year have revenues exceed or at least cover all expenses (financialsustainability)6) Conservation: a) Study 3 protected areas with same level of intensity aswe did Wadi Quff (6 publications), b) Develop a team of citizens (focusingon youth) for environmental conservation.7) Children area development including exploratory playground.-Donate: Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and BirzeitUniversities. He is director of the main clinical cytogenetics laboratoryand director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History and the PalestineInstitute for Biodiversity and sustainability ( previously served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke,and Yale Universities. He served as chairman of the Palestinian Center forRapprochement Between People and on the board of Al-Rowwad Children'sTheater Center in Aida Refugee Camp and currently serves on the board ofBethlehem Children Museum and the Technology Transfer Association. Heserves on the Palestinian Higher Council for Innovation and Excellence andas reviewer for scientific publications in several journals. He publishedover 130 scientific research papers and many chapters and articles ontopics ranging from biodiversity to cancer. His team was the onlyPalestinian group to study things like genotoxic impact of Israelisettlements, decline in biodiversity, and cytogenetics of animals andhumans in Palestine. He also published over 200 other refereed articles inareas like social science, history, and environmental justice, and authoredseveral books including "Mammals of the Holy Land", "Sharing the Land ofCanaan: human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle" (English,Spanish, and German) and "Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history ofHope and Empowerment" (Arabic, English, French, forthcoming in Italian). Healso has an activism book published electronically on his web site ( and he has a blog reaching tens of thousands of emailsweekly on issues ranging from human rights to environmental conservation.He is winner of the Social Courage Award from the Peace and Justice StudiesAssociation and the Gandhi King Conference in October, 2011 in Memphis,Tennessee