Texas A&M University and University of Haifa Expand Global Ocean Observatory and Education to the Mediterranean Sea
COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS and HAIFA, ISRAEL, Dec.14, 2015 – Texas A&M University and the University of Haifa announced today their plans to establish a major Mediterranean observatory to capitalize on the oceanographic and atmospheric strengths of the two institutions and build on existing teaching and research in the Gulf of Mexico.
The agreement, totaling more than $5.5 M in initial investments, will be known as the “Texas A&M – University of Haifa Eastern Mediterranean Observatory” (“THEMO”). The observatory will be located at the University of Haifa with its access to critical Mediterranean coastal regions, while drawing on instrumentation and analytical expertise of Texas A&M University faculty and their similar research initiatives in the Gulf of Mexico.
While separated geographically by half a world, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea are viewed as similar bodies of water and thus provide unique opportunities for comparative analysis of their related impacts on the environment, industry and people of their regions.
“This teaching and research partnership is a critical step for Texas A&M University on its way to becoming a $1 billion-a-year research giant,” said John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “Who wouldn’t want to work with Israel — literally the subject of the book “Start-up Nation”— where innovation is not only necessary, it is valued?”
Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young, who formally signed the underlying memorandum of understanding between the two universities, said: “This project is yet another example of Texas A&M’s leadership in addressing the global challenges of our time. It is this type of partnership among our faculty and their colleagues around the world at leading institutions, such as the University of Haifa, that will bring about knowledge needed for lasting change.”
Amos Shapira, President of the University of Haifa, said there are many benefits to working together.
“This collaboration with one of the biggest and best universities in the United States strengthens the role of the University of Haifa as the leading university in Israel in the field of marine sciences,” said President Shapira. “Our understanding on what is happening in the deep water around Israel’s shores is one of strategic importance because the sea is the future of the state of Israel and all of humanity.”
The strategic and scientific venture connects common environmental interests of the two university sites through the monitoring and comparison of processes associated with two similar bodies of water – the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Led by faculty of the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University, the project will be multidisciplinary, drawing on expertise from various fields and disciplines.
“Understanding how the ever-changing oceans, biota and atmosphere affect humankind is one of the great global challenges of the next several decades, and scientists at both universities are addressing the challenge by sharing resources,” said Kate Miller, Dean of the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University.
Dr. Tony Knap, Director of the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group, professor of oceanography and Texas A&M University’s principal investigator for the endeavor, said: “The role that oceans play in storing and releasing heat, the consequent effects on sea level and precipitation on land and the relationship between water availability and energy are key in effectively managing the health, safety and financial well-being of our societies.”
The observatory, a shore-based facility to be established at the University of Haifa, will receive and transmit data from two moorings in the Levant Basin of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. University of Haifa officials and faculty were successful in receiving the first of these permissions among the many entities that share governance responsibilities in the Mediterranean Sea to allow this research. Commencing in 2016, implementation is expected to involve over 20 faculty members from the two institutions, although that number is expected to grow as the data can be utilized in multi-disciplinary research.
While the data collection, analysis, modeling and research will be critical to the coastal populations that depend on them for food and energy resources, the faculty also hopes to draw comparisons from the Gulf of Mexico data and modeling that has been underway for some time. In future projects, the goal of this ocean observatory could allow for advanced weather and sea level forecasting, improved ecosystem science and management, hazards prevention and disaster recovery, and enhanced understanding of regions and their adjoining coastal environments.
Texas A&M University’s College of Geosciences has been a pioneer in Earth Sciences, beginning with mapping of ocean floors, scientific ocean drilling programs and the establishment of a similar observatory, The Texas Automated Buoy System, for the Gulf of Mexico in partnership with the Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Prevention & Response in 1995. Conversations are underway to expand the Gulf of Mexico observatory to include partners in Mexico and the Caribbean. Similarly, both bodies of water have profound impacts on the weather, climate, ecosystem, resources, and economy of the 50 million people who live in Texas and other Gulf of Mexico states, as well as the 100 million people who live in the Levant.
“This collaboration will promote our marine research at the University of Haifa significantly and it is another step in our vast investment in marine science. Only a few months ago we inaugurated our new labs for research of shallow waters, and now we will be able to deepen our vision into the deep ocean,” said Professor David Faragi, the Rector of the University of Haifa. “Texas A&M University is known as a global leading institution with expert faculty and programs in a range of fields that complement the efforts of the University of Haifa. Our hope is that this effort can become a robust research and teaching program.”
In addition to establishing the observatory and instrumentation, faculty and student exchange is a critical part of the project. Faculty from both institutions will participate in regular joint symposium and data modeling sessions. Graduate and undergraduate students will have opportunities to participate in courses within each university’s area of specialization, to utilize real-time data to advance research projects and to help educate the public as part of the outreach and service missions of each university.
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Texas A&M to open $6M research center in Israel
DALLAS (AP) — Texas A&M University has scrapped plans for a $200 million campus in the Israeli city of Nazareth and instead is launching a $6 million marine research center that’s expected to contribute to critical projects Israel is pursuing along the Mediterranean Sea.
The research center, which will open in February in collaboration with the University of Haifa, is a departure from plans announced in October 2013, when A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said a “peace university” was planned for Israel’s largest Arab city, Nazareth, that would bring Arabs and Jews together. The plans for an A&M branch were unveiled after consulting with then-Israeli President Shimon Peres, an advocate of coexistence between Israel’s Jewish majority and its Arab minority.
While Israel has restrictive laws that can prevent the opening of foreign branch campuses, Sharp told The Associated Press last week that A&M changed its plans because elected officials in Nazareth wanted to dictate the direction and aim of the campus.
“We’re not going to put our name on something we didn’t have total control over,” he said.
Large natural gas deposits have been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean and Sharp said part of the appeal for the research center in the northern city of Haifa was tapping into the “oil and gas segment in Israel.” Work at the center will include monitoring ocean flow and is expected to help mitigate risks associated with offshore exploration.
“We’re starting with a $6 million project there but I don’t have any doubt that it’ll grow exponentially over the years,” said Sharp, explaining that research in Israel often leads to startups and new commercial ventures.
“They don’t call it ‘startup nation’ for nothing,” he said.
The A&M System has achieved a primary goal of expanding into Israel to take advantage of the country’s growing reputation as a high-tech hub.
“There really is a remarkable amount of research and innovation occurring in Israel,” said James Hallmark, vice chancellor for academic affairs at A&M. “There’s just so much going on there and we wanted to be a part of that.”
The country, comparable in size to New Jersey, has thousands of active technology startups fueled by billions of dollars in investments. In the third quarter of 2015 alone, 165 high-tech companies raised $1.1 billion, according to the Israel Venture Capital Research Center.
Hallmark said research at the Haifa center will complement work A&M students and researchers conduct along the Texas coast. It’s not yet clear how many students will study in Haifa, but it will begin with graduates and then is expected to expand to include undergraduate work.
University of Haifa Rector David Faraggi said the agreement with A&M will create a marine monitoring station, the first of its kind in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Sustained measurements of ocean data will help researchers forecast long-term trends, officials say.
“Texas A&M is one of the largest and best universities in the States, especially in marine sciences,” he said. “This is something the University of Haifa is putting major efforts into, to make ourselves leaders in marine research in Israel.”
Texas A&M already has a presence in the Middle East with the establishment more than a decade ago of an engineering school in Qatar, an Arab state on the northeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
In Texas, the A&M System includes 11 universities with more than 140,000 students and 28,000 faculty and staff. Its flagship university in College Station was founded in 1876 and the more than 64,000 students enrolled in the current semester makes it among the largest schools in the U.S.
Associated Press writer Daniella Cheslow in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
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A&M to launch marine research center in Israel
Officials scrap plans for a ‘peace university’ in Nazareth
Two years after university leaders — and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — announced plans to create a “peace university” in Israel, Texas A&M officials announced Monday the school will instead launch a much smaller marine research center there.
The plans for the full campus in Nazareth, known as the Arab capital of Israel — which officials said would be a symbol of the power of academia to unite people from all backgrounds — dissolved as officials there sought to have greater control over the campus than A&M leaders were comfortable with, Chancellor John Sharp said Monday.
“I think we can say that we did everything that we could in good faith and good form or fashion to pursue that,” Sharp said during a news conference announcing the marine research center. “At the end of the day, I didn’t have the courage to go to (A&M Provost) Karan Watson and say someone else was going to dictate her academic programs — that was just too dangerous for me. We can’t put Texas A&M out there and not call all of the academic shots.”
Instead, A&M will partner with the University of Haifa, a relatively young institution, to establish a $5.5 million Mediterranean observatory that Sharp said is just the beginning of a broader research consortium there. It will begin with at least 12 faculty members from both institutions and could eventually grow to include undergraduate opportunities, as well.
The ocean-based observatory, which will compare information pulled from the Mediterranean with data collected in the Gulf of Mexico, could be just as powerful as a full-on peace university, officials said Monday, as it will provide research that can help tackle some of the most pressing issues facing mankind, from climate change to natural disasters and food insecurity.
“The oceans are critical in every one of those areas,” A&M President Michael Young said. “This work is important.”
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Texas A&M System will open marine research center in Israel
The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN — The Texas A&M System announced on Monday plans to open a $5.5 million marine research center in Israel, pivoting away from a planned branch campus in a Northern Israel city.
Two years ago, then-Gov. Rick Perry and Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp announced the “Texas A&M Peace University.” It was a planned branch of Texas A&M to be built in Nazareth — a Northern Israel city populated predominately by Palestinian Arabs. But Texas A&M System officials announced they were scrapping those plans at a press conference Monday morning, saying Israeli officials wanted to control the direction of the campus.
“We cannot put Texas A&M’s name out and not have Texas A&M call all the shots,” Sharp said on Monday.
Instead, the system will launch a marine research center in collaboration with the University of Haifa in Israel. The center will contribute to marine research along the Mediterranean Sea, Sharp said Monday. Sharp told reporters he was excited about the opportunity.
“They don’t call it startup nation for nothing,” Sharp said Monday at a press conference. “This is just the beginning of what I think is going to be a great story.”
University of Haifa President Amos Shapira said the partnership will strengthen his university’s reputation.
“Our understanding on what is happening in the deep water around Israel’s shores is one of strategic importance because the sea is the future of the state of Israel and all of humanity,” Shapira said.
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Texas A&M Cancels Plan for $200-Million Israeli Campus
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Texas A&M University has abandoned its plan to build a $200-million campus in Israel, with officials saying they wouldn’t have had complete control over the project. The university will instead build a $6-million marine-research center to work on projects with the University of Haifa along the Mediterranean Sea, the Associated Press reports.
John Sharp, the university system’s chancellor, first announced the plan to build a campus in Nazareth, in northern Israel, in October 2013. One aim of the project was to build peaceful relationships between Arabs and Jews. The idea, which faced roadblocks from its inception, was approved by Israel’s then president, Shimon Peres.
Israel has strict laws guiding foreign universities that want to open branch campuses, and Texas A&M would have been one of the first American universities to open a branch in Israel, The New York Times reported two years ago. Supporters of the project included the Texas governor at the time, Rick Perry, who is a university alumnus, and John C. Hagee, an evangelical pastor in San Antonio who has raised millions of dollars for projects in Israel. Mr. Hagee connected Mr. Sharp and university leaders with Israeli contacts, according to the Times.
Mr. Sharp told the Associated Press that Texas A&M had changed course because the university didn’t want “to put our name on something we didn’t have total control over,” but that the marine center would fulfill the original goal.
“This agreement is in keeping with what A&M wanted all along in Israel,” Mr. Sharp said. “It is about teaching and research, and it is just the beginning of what this relationship is going to be.”
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