Tel Aviv University and Ruppin Academic College are jointly launching an advanced multi-disciplinary center that will train students on coastal environment, biodiversity protection and exploitation of marine resources, focusing on the Mediterranean Sea.Initiated with the direct support of both institutions’ presidents – Prof. Joseph Kalfter of Tel Aviv University and Prof. Shoshana Arad of Ruppin – the center will begin operation in a few months, with its undergraduate and graduate components starting in the fall. The multi-disciplinary nature of the center will integrate biology, geophysics and engineering research that relates to the gas and oil reserves found in the Mediterranean, the institutes said.Fifty researchers have already committed to working with the center and about 10 more are expected to join soon. Collaborations also exist with the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot and the Agriculture Ministry’s Agricultural Research Organization.“We want to integrate the academic and scientific forces in Israel and the innovative research capabilities to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the Mediterranean Sea, and thereby benefit the environment, the economy and society,” the center’s vision statement says.Leading the new center will be Prof. Yonathan Zohar, who right now serves as the chair of the University of Maryland – Baltimore County’s Marine Biotechnology Department as well as the interim director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology there.The institute’s curricula will reflect its cooperative nature, such as a dual bachelor’s degree program combining a degree in Mediterranean studies from Ruppin and a mechanical engineering degree from Tel Aviv University, the institutions said.“The main thing is the collaboration between the different fields of study and research,” Prof. Dina Prialnik, vice rector of Tel Aviv University and chair of planetary physics in the Geophysics and Planetary Sciences Department at the university, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday evening. “Research was done separately in each field but now it’s done collaboratively.”The gas and oil reservoirs of the Mediterranean will be a main focus of research in the center, according to Prialnik.“There are few experts in this and now it has become important due to the discovery of the reservoirs,” she said. “We want to train new experts.”The new center will also be working collaboratively with other similar centers around the world, such as the large ones in Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Germany. Institutes in the US, including the University of Maryland, as well as centers at Notre Dame, Scripps Research Institute and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, will also be important partners, Prialnik said.