Why do plants silicify?
Author: Félix de Tombeur , John A. Raven, Aurèle Toussaint, Hans Lambers, Julia Cooke, Sue E. Hartley, Scott N. Johnson,
Geology, hydrology and sinkholes:
These research and development projects were led by Mr. Eli Raz and Dr. Carmit Ish-Shalom.
This field aims to promote and develop local and regional tourism and especially with an emphasis on establishing a ‘tourism route’ along Route 90. Road tourism is gaining momentum worldwide; often a central focus point is strengthened by visiting points of interest along the way. These points may be of natural, cultural or historical value, or be for entertainment or leisure, or offer food or accommodation.
This field of research and development was led by Dr. Elad Almog.
Education and community outreach are among the key pillars that define the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center. The Dead Sea and Arava Science Center and its employees are deeply commitment to being involved in the local community and feel greatly privileged to be a part of the community and to share their knowledge with fellow residents. Dead Sea Branch employees reside in the region and are an important component of the local community. The researchers and staff develop, lead and implement diverse educational programs, encompassing the entire local population, from young to old and everything in between. These activities include teaching in elementary and high schools, leading scientific excellence groups, mentoring high school students in research dissertations, teaching extra-curricular science classes aimed to develop critical thinking, formulate research questions and more. The team provides bite-size science programs to inspire the constructive curiosity of preschool children as well. The branch’s scientists conduct experiential and enriching activity sessions at schools, outdoors, and in the research laboratories. All residents are invited to enjoy fascinating science lectures on a variety of topics and participate in activities on science days and fairs. In addition, students from Israel and abroad are welcome to visit the research laboratories and take part in the extensive activities offered. The educational activities are designed and managed in close cooperation with the education and culture departments of the region’s councils, and with the principals and teachers of the local schools.
Education Coordinator: Mr. Moshe Itach; firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff: All branch employees
Potential invasion of alien species from Arad to the region’s ephemeral streambeds
The city of Arad is located near the sources of several ephemeral streams that drain into the Dead Sea. Like in many other cities, non-native plants have been planted in Arad and may spread out of the city; in this case, they may invade the Dead Sea area. To assess the risk of invasion of alien species from Arad to the Dead Sea, an extensive survey of foreign plants with invasion potential is being conducted in the streams around Arad, and actions are taken to locate the sources of invasion in urban and private gardens within the city. This survey aims to identify which alien species planted in the city constitute a potential for invasion, and to assess the degree of risk of each species. These findings will help to formulate a sustainable landscaping plan for the city.
This study was conducted in collaboration with the Negev Mizrahi Environmental Unit and the Arad Municipality, and with funding from the Open Spaces Fund.
Lead researcher: Michael Blecher
Staff: Irena Blecher
Research focuses on the Dead Sea region and particularly on the archeological study of Neve Ein Gedi (oasis). In previous decades (from 1980 onwards) systematic archeological surveys of Ein Gedi were conducted. An official archeological excavation is still ongoing in Neve Ein Gedi – exposing the ancient village from the Second Temple period. Every excavation season, more and more parts of the ancient settlement complex are exposed, including residential buildings, food preparation and storage rooms, courtyards, streets and more. Various tools for cooking, baking and processing materials have been found at the site, as well as coins, decorative elements, food scraps, and more.
In addition, the history of human activity and sailing in the Dead Sea is investigated. The declining sea level of the Dead Sea and the receding coastal soils, which until recently were submerged, are thoroughly surveyed to find evidence that may shed light on the history of human activity at sea. Over the years, various anchors from different periods were collected and identified, indicating periods in which they were used to sail across the Dead Sea, and the technologies that were used at that time.
Lead researcher: Dr. Gideon Hadas
Staff: Volunteers during the excavation season
Research of desert areas is made challenging by the limited access to extensive desert areas and the high spatio-temporal diversity that characterizes the desert. Satellite imagery methods can overcome these challenges and facilitate research. By using satellite imagery taken from various sensors, researchers acquire information about vast expanses, with high temporal and spatial resolution and without having to physically reach any point of interest within the studied area. The research team specializes in developing remote sensing methods specified to the desert environment, and processing local information. Many of the research projects combine hydrology and remote sensing technologies.
Areas of expertise and ongoing projects:
Lead researcher: Dr. Sivan Isaacson
Yosef Avrahami; email@example.com
Technician – remote sensing
Gal Kagan; firstname.lastname@example.org
Technician – GIS
The Skin Research Institute, which is part of the Dead Sea Branch of DSASC, leads applied research and innovative product development for the improved health and function of human skin. Areas of research and development combine cosmetics, dermatology and medicine. The institute’s researchers have extensive experience working with the natural resources unique to the Dead Sea and desert environment, i.e., minerals found in water, soil and air, atmospheric conditions (radiation, oxygen pressure), and endemic medicinal plants.
The flora and fauna of the Dead Sea region are often studied as they have developed special mechanisms for coping with the threats and stressors that are constantly exerted on them by the extreme environment. These stressors include a salt-saturated environment, the very hot and dry climate, scarce fresh water, high ultraviolet radiation and various pests.
The institute’s researchers define skin as the outer surface area of any body, hence research is extended to includes not only human skin but also the skin (or fur) of various animals, the outer microbial coating of desert plants (leaves for instance) and the upper layer of waterbodies such as the Dead Sea itself and the sinkholes that have formed at its shores.
Many studies conducted at the Skin Research Institute and the Dead Sea Branch strive to understand the coping mechanisms of organisms in nature for the benefit of humans. For example, DNA protection and repair mechanisms in halophilic bacteria, and microbial biofilm that forms around the leaves of acacia trees and provides protection from intense solar radiation.
Combining knowledge with innovation – collaborations between scientists developing skin models and microbiologists. Research to examine the feasibility of producing dermatological substances based on bacteria from the environment. In this study, microbiology is applied to experiments using the human skin model.
Areas of expertise and ongoing research:
The Skin Research Institute and its researchers are well equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for working with cell cultures, bacteria, viruses and fungal cells on petri dishes, with human or animal tissue cultures, reconstructed skin systems and more. They have advanced spectrophotometers, plate readers, and UHPLC for biochemical, biological and chemical analyses, a unique SPF / UVAPF device to test the sun-screening capacity of preparations, extracts and fabrics, advanced microscopy including fluorescence, fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) live cell imaging, and equipment for histology. In addition, UVA, UVB, UVC and IR lamps for studying the effects of solar radiation and protective materials on cultures and tissues are available.
To prepare active ingredients and formulae for research, from plant extracts to final products, the institute’s laboratories are equipped with an innovative system for the parallel production of extracts under different conditions and solvents (ASE350), evaporators, blenders, drying ovens, radiation spectrum meters (natural or artificial) and more.
The institute provides research services for skin health and product development to cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries:
The Skin Research Institute provides research and experimental services for a cost. It also manages diverse collaborations: sale of preclinical research services to cosmetic, dermatology and medical start-ups, based on the extensive knowledge and experience of the staff, using the unique experimental models developed on site, and relying on a very wide range of advanced equipment and world-class technological capabilities. The research team has experience advising and building experimental setups customized for each client’s requirements. The research team is accustomed to leading experiments designed to be presented to relevant regulatory bodies, for patent registration or for business development, and has raised significant funds from investors. The research support team is committed to providing customer service, trial and reporting protocols, accuracy, reliability, discretion and tight schedules. Each research project is led by a PhD level researcher who maintains direct contact with the client. If required, the researchers of the institute consult with associated professional experts, who can provide great added value where needed.
Feel free to contact us for further questions or requests.
Leading researcher: Dr. Navit Ogen-Stern
Chief Scientist, Research Services: Dr. Guy Cohen
Operations and business manager: Oren Raz
Raanan Gvirtz; email@example.com
PhD candidate – supervisors: Dr. Guy Cohen and Dr. Aryeh Grossman (Bar Ilan University)
Noy Eretz Kdosha; firstname.lastname@example.org
Biology student, research assistant for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries
Current research: Drug development using substances that counteract the effects of the environment on the skin
Margarita Yarmanko; email@example.com
Engineering student, research assistant for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries
Research area: Development of skincare products
The medicinal properties inherent in the Dead Sea and its surroundings are well-known to mankind and have been extensively researched throughout history. The main factors that are distinctive to the Dead Sea area and benefit humans are the unique solar radiation spectrum (since the Dead Sea is the farthest place from the sun on earth), high partial pressure of oxygen in the air and the particularly high concentrations of essential minerals in the water, soil (mud), and air. Many comprehensive clinical trials, conducted over many years on a diverse populations of patients with autoimmune skin diseases such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, vitiligo and others, have examined the effects of controlled exposure to sunlight and environmental conditions, and being near the Dead Sea. The effects are tested both by monitoring the medical condition before and after a series of treatments, as well as after a longer time span and by quantifying laboratory-level metrics such as a gene expression and changes in the immune system as seen in the blood. Publications from these studies has proven the effectiveness of Dead Sea phototherapy treatments for dramatically reducing the extent and severity of psoriasis lesions over many months without any medications.
To accurately characterize the unparalleled parameters of the Dead Sea environment, and to improve and refine the phototherapy-based treatment programs, biometeorological data are collected in the Dead Sea environment, including UVA and UVB wavelengths, aerosol monitoring, and radiation data, and are compared to other unique regions. The global UVB radiation composition and the ratio between direct and diffuse radiation are studied, and the feasibility of applying the Dead Sea photoclimatotherapy treatment results is investigated.
Leading researcher: Dr. (MD) Marco Harari
Staff: Dr. Avraham Kodish
The microbiology research group focuses its efforts on understanding the physiology and interactions between microorganisms in extreme environmental conditions such as the Dead Sea. The researchers study communities of unique bacteria found in water, soil and plants of arid regions, in attempt to locate and identify bacterial populations that express genes with interesting metabolic activity that may potentially be harnessed for the benefit of mankind and the environment.
In addition, the group is developing microbiological engineering systems designed to improve various processes in a variety of fields, such as: wastewater treatment methods, biofilm development for environments such as the ocean, production of cosmetic products, oral and dental health solutions and more. The preliminary results have shown potential for wide-ranging applications. Collaborations in the field of agriculture are expected to expand.
Another fascinating and challenging research topic is “NewSpace”, a term that emphasizes that space is becoming accessible to more people than ever. More people are expected to work and live in space, in increasing numbers as time progresses, thanks to significantly lower launch costs and new space technologies. The objective of our current project is to support humans living and working in space, especially those in outposts and planetary bases. For the first time ever, in a project currently underway, a unique Space Multi-Species Photobioreactor (SMS-PBR] has been designed, developed and built to enable the utilization of spent rocket fuel, CO2 and other waste products to produce breathable oxygen and other nutrients. Scientists of the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center are collaborating on this project with Bar-Ilan University, Afeka College and VTS energy Ltd. The SMS-PBR facility will remotely monitor the growth of organisms such as algae, bacteria and even fish. Currently, researchers are studying the toxic space fuel (hydrazine) as a possible nutritional source for bacteria and algae adapted to thrive in extreme conditions. The project includes the detection and development of strains that will be grown in SMS-PBR together with the development of a suitable photobioreactor cell. Researchers are striving to significantly improve waste utilization, the safety and health of staff, and implement efficient resource use while reducing space mission costs. This study was funded by the Israel Space Agency and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Israel. Collaborations are welcome.
Leading researcher: Dr. Ashraf Al-Ashhab
Dr. Reut Sorek-Abramovich
Rebecca Alexander-Shani; Director of the Microbiome Laboratory
Microbiology and Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) of bacterial communities
Lead researcher: Dr. Ofir Katz
Gideon Kedem; firstname.lastname@example.org
Field and laboratory technician
Artist and creator, who draws inspiration from the vast desert and endless nature while working in the field.
Hanania Frost; email@example.com
Studying for a MSc. degree at the School of Plant Sciences and Food Security at Tel Aviv University, under the joint supervision of Prof. Marcelo Sternberg. His research focuses on the spatial variability of silicon accumulation in the vegetation of Israel.
Our research focuses on the characterization of stream hydrodynamics and sediment and suspended particle fluxes during flooding of ephemeral streams in arid and semi-arid climates. Although stream sediment transport processes are of great scientific, engineering and environmental importance, very little is known regarding the effect of flash floods with irregular flow patterns on these sediments. Flooding streams in agricultural and inhabited areas, blockages of water reservoirs, transport routes and dams, and the stability of structures within and around flow channels (e.g. collapse of bridges and dams due to flooding) are of particular interest. To learn more, we examine the effects of flow characteristics on particle transport processes. Data for these projects is collected using advanced equipment and methods including geophone, hydrophone, radar speed gun, Large-Scale Particle Image Velocimetry (LSPIV) and three-way velocimeter for high-resolution quantification of flow characteristics, and sediment and suspended particle fluxes.
As part of the study, an innovative method was developed to calibrate the sediment trap data (to monitor particulate fluxes), based on the change in cumulative sediment mass, and not as generally measured according to fixed time intervals. This method reduces background noises during low flow and prevents masking of true data during high flow events. It therefore more accurately represents the temporal changes of sediment fluxes.
· Characterization of hydrodynamics and sediment fluxes in flood surges;
· Using the LSPIV method to determine flow rates in flooding streams;
· The hydrology of the Tze’elim Basin: flow rates, application of an existing hydrological model of the area and working with ICL Dead Sea Works to develop a new flood warning system;
· How the construction of the Dead Sea water pipeline to the ICL plant pools affects the Nahal Tze’elim alluvial fan;
· Live broadcast of flash floods.
The Desert Floods Research Center conducts additional research on hydrology and floods in the desert, and continuously collects data.
Lead researcher: Dr. Eran Halafi
Yaron Nitka-Nakash; firstname.lastname@example.org
Research technician; hydrology; Dead Sea Branch
Projects: Flood monitoring, data management, gathering of information regarding hydrology-infrastructure in the Dead Sea, fieldwork focusing on erosional processes in Nahal David and Kedem, fieldwork in Nahal Ashalim, fieldwork in research and development of flood monitoring methods using remote sensing methodologies.