Participating Students

Barium-isotope Fractionation in the Gulf of Eilat
Collaborator: Adi Torfstein

Description: During my time in Eilat, I will be researching the marine barium (Ba) cycle and isotopic fractionation in the Gulf of Eilat. Barium isotopes and Ba cycling have recently garnered interest in the fields of chemical and geologic oceanography. Previous research points to the potentiality that Ba isotopes could be used as a paleo-proxy for barite formation and/or ocean circulation changes. To serve as a robust proxy, however, further research must be conducted on Ba isotope fractionation in modern oceans under several conditions. The Gulf of Eilat in the Red Sea acts as a natural laboratory for many of the extreme conditions that barite formation may have occurred under in paleo-oceans – it is exceptionally warm, salty, and has the lowest Ba saturation state of all the world’s oceans. Additionally, it has some intriguing ocean circulation changes that happen seasonally, which could glean insights into Ba fractionation under a variety of conditions. Due to Ba’s infancy as a potential paleo-proxy, this work has the potential to make a large contribution to its limited state of knowledge and may shape future interpretations of Ba isotope records.


Detecting background levels of coral Symbiodinium clades in Eilat sand, water, and reefs
Collaborator: Oren Levy

Coral reefs cover a tiny fraction of the worlds ocean, but are an essential habitat for fish, octopuses, turtles, algae, dolphins, sharks, and 1-9 million other marine species. The diversity of life coral reefs attract is primarily due to the rocky structures corals create. These structures can be as small as a pebble or as large as a small car and, energetically speaking, are expensive to create. Fortunately, corals have established an intricate relationship with the microscopic algae Symbiodinium that reside inside a coral cell. These algae feed the corals and promote the growth of its rocky home in exchange for protection and nutrients. This symbiotic relationship, however, is being disrupted due to human caused warming events. These events often trigger the expulsion of symbionts leaving the corals alone, bleached, and starving. Once bleached, corals are more susceptible to disease outbreaks and often perish. However, some do recover. Those corals that survive a bleaching event often harbor a different clade (or type) of symbiont than they did before they bleached. This clade may convey an increased thermal tolerance and is often not detected in the corals prior to a bleaching event. Where did it come from then? The sand? The water column? Other corals? Or was it just not detected? This summer, I will be using a very sensitive genetic technique (qPCR) to determine the prevalence of Symbiodnium clades A, B, C, & D in Israeli corals, water, and sand. Previous studies have reported the presence of clades A & B, however, it's possible that the abundance of clades C & D might have been too low to quantify with the traditional technique they used. Thus, this study may shed some light on how background abundance symbionts vary in these beautiful reefs.

Stephen Martin


Modeling of cilia-driven tintinnid feeding currents
Collaborator: Roi Holzman

Description: Roi Holzman's group at IUI has recently utilized high frame rate video microscopy to perform measurements of feeding currents generated by Red Sea tintinnids, a microzooplankton ciliate present in shallow seas worldwide. While this feeding behavior has been known for decades, the physics behind the feeding current generation is still not well understood. During my time at Eilat, I will be working directly with the Holzman group to develop first-principles physical models and hydrodynamics simulations to explore this mechanism of prey capture. This (in combination with experiment) will be used to make a comprehensive map of phenotypic combinations, and test whether they fall in regions of optimal performance.


Esra Mescioglu
Viruses and Microbes in Dust Storms and the Impact on Marine Ecosystems 
Collaborator: Eyal Rahav

Description: Viruses and microorganisms are picked up, transported, and deposited by dust storms, and can stay viable throughout this process. Eilat is a coastal city on the northern Red Sea and is subject to a relatively high amount of dust deposition, which makes it an appropriate site to test the impact of these dust events on marine ecosystems. During the IRES program, I will be 1) using metagenomics to identify viruses and microbes deposited by air masses with various origins, and 2) testing the impact of the viruses and microbes on the ambient organisms in the Red Sea by carrying out incubation experiments. Once I learn the methods, I will apply them to samples collected in Haifa, a city located on the southern Mediterranean Sea. Since the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea are distinct systems, I expect the results from the incubation experiments to be different. It is important to understand the impact of dust deposition on ecosystems since atmospheric deposition is predicted to increase as a result of desertification.



Casondra Sobieralski

Film and Digital Media
Collaborator: Dr. Tali Erickson-Gini, Israeli Antiquities Authority  
Title: Listening for Hathor in Timna Park: Experiments in Archaeoacoustics


I am a New Media artist interested in immersive environments and embodiment as that pertains to history/archaeology and to healing. I am particularly interested in the archaeology of the Near East and Mediterranean.  While my broader career goal is to create Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality content that aids historical understanding, I am currently studying the spatialization of sound from historical places as one building block of VR/AR.  I would like to record sound at the Egyptian Hathor chapel and copper mines at Timna Park as part of my investigation.  Hathor, the patron goddess of the pharonic copper miners at Timna, was a music goddess. Since the visual record of Hathor in Timna is minimal, and since Hathor was a goddess associated with music and vibration, acoustics seem a most appropriate way to seek the role of Hathor at this ancient site.  My first intent, as an artist, is to explore these questions in order to produce a sound installation.  However, I want to work with archaeologists to see if the sounds, the resonances, the reverberations I capture can also aid in the production of new knowledge about how this archaeological site was used/experienced by the laborers who lived there. For example, why did miners choose Hathor as a patron deity rather than say, Osiris, god of the underworld? Is there something about the way sound travels through the mine shafts or rock formations that has musicality?  Such methodologies are being developed in the emerging field of archaeoacoustics.



To see the 2016 participant biographies, click here: 2016 participants.

To see the 2015 participant biographies, click here: 2015 participants.

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