The University of Haifa has inaugurated the Leon Charney School of Marine Sciences, the first in the world to integrate research in marine biology, marine geophysics, marine and coastal history, and marine civilization. The establishment of the school on Tuesday was made possible by an $8 million donation from the chairman of the university's board of governors, Leon Charney. Marine biology studies at the school will include research on micro-organisms, algae, and marine animal behavior conducted in the bodies of water surrounding Israel. The marine geo-physics department will investigate how to best utilize the country's 300 kilometers of coastline. An exploration of the archaeological and geological aspects of Israel's oceans and rivers will be conducted by the department of marine and coastal history. Most unique to the university, the department of marine civilization will focus on the sociological influences of marine environments on the societies which they surround. One effort with political and economic, both national and international, is the Gas Hydrates project, which aims to convert minerals in water into oil. "Based on UN estimates," says Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham, head of the School of Marine Sciences, "65% of the global oil potential is under the ocean floor." The goal of the project, which the researchers hope to achieve within eight years, is to reduce the international need for oil and shift the global dependence on Arab oil to Israel. Marine scientists from Stanford University will be joining in the project, in competition with a similar Gas Hydrates project under way in Japan. The University of Haifa has been involved in the marine sciences for many years, but the integration of the new school's four areas of research will allow for a broader and deeper understanding of the world beneath the ocean floor. "In a world of natural disasters, global climate changes, coastline erosions, and an inaccessibility of vital natural resources," says Charney, "it is necessary for Israel to take an active role."