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Monday, September 1, 2014

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Dalhousie University, BGU to create ocean studies centre

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Richard Florizone

HALIFAX — Halifax’s Dalhousie University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel have signed a memorandum of understanding to create a world-class ocean studies centre in Eilat.

Dalhousie president Richard Florizone and BGU president Rivka Carmi signed the agreement Jan. 21 in Israel with the goal of combining the two schools’ oceans scholarship and expertise. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the signing during Harper’s visit to the Middle East.

The agreement allows for several different facets of inter-university collaboration, including pure and applied joint research projects, co-supervision of doctoral students, industry research internships in both countries, joint field courses (in the winter in Eilat, where BGU has a campus, and in the summer in Halifax), co-taught courses and major scientific conferences and workshops.

The end objective is to create an ocean studies centre in Eilat that encompasses scientific and academic programs from both countries.

Florizone, just starting his term as Dalhousie president after replacing Tom Traves who retired last October, remarked. “The excellent science done by Marlon Lewis and other Dal ocean researchers, together with [businessman and philanthropist] Seymour Schulich’s strong support and [Dalhousie vice-president of research] Martha Crago’s facilitation, has given great momentum and credibility to our partnerships with leading Israeli universities and research institutions."

Carmi was excited about the agreement. "The sea covers 70 per cent of the earth’s surface and is essential for our survival. And yet, at the same time, most of it remains unexplored – filled with mystery and unfulfilled potential. We believe this partnership will strengthen the cutting edge science at both universities and place this unique initiative at the forefront of global research."

Carmi was one of the eight university leaders in attendance during Florizone’s installation ceremonies in October. She received an honorary degree from Dalhousie and took part in an international panel discussion.

However, the start of Dalhousie’s relationship with the university and oceans research in Eilat dates back to a 2011 Nova Scotia trade mission in which Crago took park.

“My visit that year gave me the awareness and commitment to build ties with the excellent scientific work in the unique setting of Eilat,” said Crago. “It’s a place that’s important not only for marine science, but also for developing improved cultural and socio-political understanding.

“Dalhousie, with its striking multidisciplinary strengths in ocean science partnered with the oceanographic, marine biology and aquaculture possibilities of the scientists in Eilat, will advance our understanding of the resources and risks that the global ocean offers to us.”

Helping make the agreement possible is Canadian philanthropist and Dalhousie School of Law namesake Schulich, who is playing a leading role in the new centre.

“I believe we have a duty to give back, and I cannot think of a better way to give back than to invest in education,” said Schulich. “This partnership with Dalhousie University and Ben-Gurion University focused on ocean studies is important to our two countries and to our world.  I am very proud to be a part of it.”

In addition, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto has been a valuable ally in support of the initiative, having been partnering with the Eilat region for more than 30 years, and sees the expansion of  BGU’s Eilat campus a key part of its strategy.

Nestled on the coast of the Red Sea, Eilat is a logical location for such an oceans centre. The city is home to the Interuniversity Institute in Marine Science, which involves Bar-Ilan University, Hebrew University, Haifa University, Israel Institute of Technology (Technion), Tel-Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. Eilat also hosts the National Center for Mariculture, as well as a campus of BGU.

Dalhousie is a compelling partner for Eilat, with its long track record as one of the world’s leading research universities through its work with initiatives ranging from the Ocean Tracking Network to the Halifax Marine Research Institute to the new, cutting-edge Ocean Sciences Building.

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