Since the war ended, Dr. Warner says, the local people have begun breaking the dams and canals Hussein put in place to divert the water from the marshes. This has resulted in 20 to 30 per cent of the once-dried land being covered in water again.
Canadian scientists haven't been able to enter Iraq to study the marshes, but they have held scientific conferences in nearby Amman, Jordan. Warner says part of his role is getting Iraqi scientists up to speed after 20 years of "living in a scientific vacuum."
"During Saddam's time, and because of UN sanctions, the universities were totally cut off from the rest of the world. They were not allowed to communicate or talk with anyone," he says.
"That's a big part of our project, to teach and to train Iraqis how to be wetland scientists again, according to 2005 standards."
Warner says Iraqi scientists have just begun conducting the country's first winter bird survey in 20 years, thanks to training sessions with BirdLife International. He adds that this will be a big step forward in understanding exactly how the disappearing wetlands have impacted local species.
"We'll have a good sense after that, I hope, of what kinds of birds are there, what kinds of new birds have come back into the reflooded areas."
Dr. Warner says that a group of Iraqi scientists and students will be coming to work and study at the University of Waterloo this summer.
"Again, we want to try and reacquaint them with the modern world," he says.
Dr. Warner's AAAS Presentation
Sunday, February 20
10:30 a.m. 12:00 noon
Part of the symposium "Can the Mesopotamian Marsh's Garden of Eden in Iraq be Restored?"