The Dead Sea and Arava Science Center conducts research throughout a vast, unique geographical area. This region boasts a variety of geological and hydrological phenomena, including the Arava Valley, part of the active tectonic border of the Dead Sea Transform (DST). The Arava consists of a wide range of landscapes and rock types: alluvial rivers, sand dunes, playa and lake sediments and layers of salt. Rocks exposed along the flanks of the valley include marine rocks that formed in the Tethys Sea, metamorphic and igneous rocks, and Nubian sandstones. Geologic faults create high cliffs that separate the Arava from the Negev and Judean Deserts to the west and the mountains of Edom and Moab to the east. The “Makhteshim Country” in the Negev consists of five erosional cirques (makhtesh, pl. makhteshim) that expose Jurassic and Triassic rocks teeming with fossils and important resources. The makhteshim also constitute a natural laboratory for geologic processes of crustal deformation, erosion and magmatic intrusion.
Many landscapes and rock units are found throughout the area: ridges, steep canyons, alluvial sediments, sand dunes, salt deposits, lacustrine sediments and igneous intrusions, all of which provide unique conditions for the development of soils, vegetation, and diverse ecological niches. The value of the natural resources of the area is well known to man; salt, phosphates, copper, sand and alluvial sediments are quarried. Groundwater is used for irrigation of agricultural areas, which are established in soils that developed on alluvial fans, sands and loess-filled stream channels. The varied and unique landscapes and abundant natural phenomena provide an excellent platform for developing tourism. On the other hand, residents must prepare for earthquakes, sandstorms and flash-flooding that often occur in the region. These induce significant natural hazards and necessitate scientific research and communal awareness.
The climate of the Arava and the Negev is characterized by high temperatures and low rainfall. Significant rain events often trigger flash-flooding in the stream beds. During these events, some of the precipitation infiltrates into the ground of the hillslopes, and some of it flows as runoff into the stream channels. The larger the drainage basin, the greater the chance of a destructive, high-energy flood. In hyper-arid climates, ecosystem only develop within the flow channels, due to the paucity of precipitation and the geomorphological conditions. Hydro-morphological research of the region is necessary to understand the processes of soil erosion and development, and therefore constitutes a basis for ecological research and sustainable planning of agriculture in the desert.
Earth sciences and environmental sciences focus on the following research areas:
- Hydrology – groundwater, floods, soil erosion and climate change in the desert region
- Palaeontology and paleo-ecology – macro to microscopes fossils, paleo-spheric reconstruction and biostratigraphy
- Salinity along the rift and soil salinity in the Negev – physical characteristics and implications for human settlement
- Erosional processes in arid and hyper-arid conditions, including cliff retreat
- Reconstructing landscape development in the Negev and Arava
- Decoding the climate of the past and climate change – based on lacustrine sediments, geological markers and fossils
- Tectonics, earthquakes and seismic hazards
- Special phenomena – sinkholes, igneous intrusions and concretions
- Geological diversity and its impact on geomorphology, soil development and ecology
The studies conducted at the Science Center are typically interdisciplinary and combine geology, biology, archeology and other research fields. Some studies involve collaboration with colleagues from Jordan.
Dr. Sarit Ashkenazi Polivoda – Paleontology.
Dr. Yaron Finzi – earthquakes, seismic risk, geomorphology, tsunamis and geological diversity
Dr. Hanan Ginat – landscape evolution, reconstruction of past climatic and science education
Dr. Sarit Ashkenazi Polivoda – paleontology, paleoclimate, and biostratigraphy
Eli Raz – geological phenomena of the Dead Sea; sinkholes
Dr. Avshalom Babad – hydrology of groundwater and surface water
Dr. Racheli Armoza-Zvuloni – hydrology and eco-hydrology
Dr. Ilan Stavi – Geo-Ecology, land use, physical geography
Instruction of graduate and high school students:
Researchers at the Science Center supervise graduate students at various universities in Israel. The students’ research work advances scientific knowledge in various geological fields.
In addition, researchers at the Science Center supervise high school students researching selected topics.