Dead Sea: Lessons from Nature
The Dead Sea region is the lowest point on Earth, its lake the saltiest and its environment one of the most severe. Yet it is hardly “dead.” Remarkably, animals and plants subsist under the super saline and arid conditions, making the Dead Sea an ideal location for uncovering nature’s secrets for survival.
Exploring the intersections between geological, environmental, medical and cultural aspects of this unique region was the focus of a conference – the first of its kind – entitled, “Life in Extreme Conditions – A Lesson from Nature.”
The three-day summit was held at the Dead Sea Research Institute at Masada, a collaboration between the local Tamar Regional Council, TAU’s Porter Dead Sea Institute for Life Under Extreme Conditions, and the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center.
The aim of the conference was to bring together diverse experts from around the world to discuss their research and ideas for the region. Topics included medicinal benefits, biodiversity, geophysics, seismology, sociology, anthropology, disaster mitigation and environmental studies, among others.
In his introductory remarks to the participants, TAU President Joseph Klafter said, “Our goal in the next three days is to tap into your imagination and expertise, and to pioneer a new cross-disciplinary community of Dead Sea researchers.” He enumerated the many ways Tel Aviv University is already involved in Dead Sea Studies: “TAU researchers drill in the seabed down below; excavate at the top of Masada; measure the sink holes in the area; analyze the Dead Sea Scrolls found not far from here; assess the seismic activity in the entire region; study the ecology of flora and fauna; and collaborate with our Jordanian neighbors on shared environmental issues, among other activities,” he said.
Klafter warmly thanked TAU Governor and Honorary Doctor Dame Shirley Porter, who together with the Porter Foundation supports the Dead Sea Institute for Life Under Extreme Conditions.
He also thanked the Mayor of Tamar Regional Council, Dov Litvinoff, the Chairman of the International Board of Governors of the Dead Sea Research Institute, Prof. Mauro Ferrari; the Chair of the Executive Research Steering Committee, Prof. Ehud Gazit; TAU Governor Mrs. Norma Drimmer, founder of the University’s Prajs-Drimmer Institute for the Development of Anti-Degenerative Drugs; and Dr. Mira Marcus-Kalish, the University’s Director for International Research Affairs, who organized the summit and who has played a major role in advancing interdisciplinary Dead Sea Studies at TAU and in Israel.
Also participating in the summit were TAU Vice President Raanan Rein; TAU Vice President for Research and Development Yoav Henis; TAU Rector Yaron Oz; and scientists from Israel, the USA, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Australia and Italy.
The conference discussions and presentations bore fruit: Seven international collaborations in a range of fields are now in the planning stage.