Water From Oil: Can We Help Restore Iraq's Marshes?

Jennifer R. Pournelle

University of South Carolina

$8,500Next Goal
This project was funded on:
15 April 2014
Collapse of the marsh ecosystems of southern Iraq after 1991 forced hundreds of thousands of people into urban slums, and led to contamination of the remaining water supply. We will establish three test beds to see whether brackish water returned from oil drilling and refining can be used to construct new salt marshes. These will filter water, provide forage for livestock, create habitat for fish nurseries, and give new economic opportunities.


Budget Overview

We have the experts. We have the site. We have the meeting. We have the date. We just need to get there! Our next step is to fly to Basra, Iraq, meet with the land donors, preview the test sites, and collect soil and water pilot samples for analysis. All of our ground expenses are covered by our hosts - but not our airfare. Due to fund source restrictions on both ends of the project, we need alternative means to cover our international flights. After that, we'll use any funds from our stretch goal to pay for pilot lab work (tests can range from $10 to $1800 per sample), and to pay student researchers to keep the lab work running as we monitor results. Our University will even match all funds we raise, so your donations only have to cover the cost of one ticket to kick off the project!

Meet the Researcher


Landscape archaeologist Jenny Pournelle began working with Iraqi universities in 2003. Over the past four years, she has built solid links between USC and U. Basrah's Marine Science Centre, our chief collaborators in this project. She has also secured admission for 100+ fully-funded Iraqi STEM PhD candidates to USC.

Salt marsh ecologist Jim Morris, director of the Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Studies, will lead the science side of the project, to assess the best match of plants and microbial communities to the soils, water, salinity, and contaminants we find at the test site.

Geochemist Jacqui Michelle, president of Research Planning Inc. (RPI), has completed dozens of projects in the Arab-Persian Gulf region to assess petrochemical spill impacts, launch cleanup efforts, improve marsh health, and construct remediation wetlands. RPI's technical advisors will assist our science team with the environmental engineering planning and construction.

Endorsed by


I focus on evolutionary, functional and behavioral ecology, with applications to conservation and environmental...See more

Director, School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment, Department of Biology, University of South Carolina


As a result of projects such as this, it is now becoming increasingly clear that we cannot understand the emergence...See more

Professor of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego


My research explores the effects of climate and climate change on the physiology and ecology of marine organisms. Our...See more

Professor, Marine and Environmental Sciences and School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University


Learn More About Us

Support Levels

Our support levels are named for the once-ubiquitous boats that plied the canals, rivers, lakes, marshes, ports, and seas of southern Iraq, moving all manner of goods from the countryside to the towns; the towns to the cities; and the cities to the world.

To get a feel for the size and uses of each, I recommend A Dweller in Mesopotamia by Donald Maxwell.

Project Backers

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