Israel charts the universe’s last great frontier
by  University of Haifa , JNS , Israel Hayom Staff –  Published on  12-31-2019

Israel is at the cutting edge of so many technologies and ideas for the technologies of the future that it may surprise some that it has taken this long for the Jewish state to delve into the issue of marine science.

Yet even with its entire eastern coast taken up with the Mediterranean Sea – and with an interest in water technology that borders almost on obsession – it has only been since about the turn of the millennium that Israeli research and development have substantively taken off in this area.

So why now?

With 70% of the Earth’s surface covered by oceans and seas, there is more to learn about those bodies of water than is humanly possible. Indeed, there is tremendous untapped potential in these uncharted waters and infinite discoveries to be made, whether in the field of health and food or a greater understanding of delicate submarine ecosystems.

Recent estimates suggest that the world’s population will exceed 8 billion people by 2024, accompanied by a fear that land-based resources will come under huge strain on dry land and others in the waters. Marine biologists and researchers from the University of Haifa’s Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences have been turning their attention to understanding more about this hidden world.

“Marine sciences are gaining more and more exposure, especially compared to the time when I started studying,” said Oded Ezra, who earned an MSc from the Department of Marine Geosciences at the University of Haifa.

“The field [of gas seeps and carbonate rocks in the deep sea] is really growing. Numerous scientific and technologically oriented departments have opened at universities and new companies have been formed around the industry. Of course, there is still a lot of room for further development.”

It’s not only the “what,” but also the “how” that these technologies and new approaches can be put to work. While carrying out submarine hydrographic and geophysical surveys, Ezra understood the range of employment opportunities in the field.

“These projects include, among other things, deep-sea floor mappings or mapping around maritime ports,” he said. “There are also surveys conducted for the gas industry that include environmental monitoring, such as water and soil samples.”


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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