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Understanding the Mediterranean Salinity Crisis

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SALTGIANT (Understanding the Mediterranean Salinity Crisis)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2020-01-31

As society moves into an era where environmental change has an ever-growing place in the political agenda, the demand for a new generation of scientists working at the interface between the natural and social sciences is growing. SALTGIANT contributes to satisfy this demand within a rare cross-disciplinary network of natural and social scientists dedicated to understanding the formation of the Mediterranean Salt Giant, one of the largest salt deposits on Earth, and its implications for sub-seafloor microbial life, risk assessment in the oil industry, geo-economics of the Mediterranean region and the history of oceanography. SALTGIANT brings together 30 academic organizations (13 beneficiaries, 17 partners) and 12 non-academic sectors companies (Oil&Gas companies, mining sector companies, biotechnology company, specialist in transferable skills training) to stimulate interdisciplinary and intersectoral knowledge exchange between geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, microbiologist, geographers and historians in a network with 15 PhD students at its core.
SALTGIANT combines (i) geological and geochemical field work, (ii) laboratory measurements and experiments, (iii) numerical modeling at a wide range of spatial and temporal scales and (iv) empirical social sciences data collection and analysis, guaranteeing exposure of the research fellows to state-of-the-art scientific knowledge and hands-on practical training in a field rich in applications of both intellectual and societal relevance. Through its innovative blend of training and research activities, SALTGIANT will boost the employability of its research fellows in academia and in the private sector, particularly the energy sector, including Oil & Gas and geothermal, resource management, geological storage and numerical modeling, as well as in governmental agencies (Ministries of the Environment, Sustainable Development and Energy), international organizations (European Environment Agency, EEA; United Nations Environmental Program, UNEP) and NGOs.
SALTGIANT has the following overarching scientific research goals:
• to develop a new quantitative model that explains the succession of geological and oceanographic processes that led to the formation of the MSG (WP1; ESRs 1-7);
• to understand how the formation of the MSG affected the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and sulphur in the Mediterranean Sea, producing the conditions for a deep microbial biosphere to develop and persists in the MSG, and to test the viability of such salt-dependent microbial ecosystem in Martian environments (WP2; ESRs 8-9);
• to use the insight acquired in WPs 1 and 2 to develop a new quantitative model of early salt deformation, subsalt overpressure and microbial H2S generation, that will provide the oil and mining industries with tools to evaluate drilling and mining hazards (WP3; ESRs 10-13);
• to define new historical, geo-economic and geo-political perspectives about the MSG by using approaches and methods from the Social Sciences (WP4; ESRs 14-15).
To meet these goals, 15 Early Stage Researchers have been recruited to perform a 3 year PhD thesis.
Their projects are structured into four scientific research work packages based on (i) the understanding of natural processes (WP1; ESRs 1-7) (ii) the implications for deep life (WP2; ESRs 8-9) , (iii) the impact for the industry (WP3; ESRs 10-13) and (iv) the investigation of societal issues (WP4; ESRs 14-15).
Three additional work packages devoted to Training (WP5), Dissemination and Outreach, (WP6) and Management (WP7), ensure that SALTGIANT provides the links with the industry, a rich array of academic and non-academic secondments and the network-wide research/training events.
At the mid-term of the project, the ESRs started their second year of PhD and began to show some valuable scientific results which will led to publications in scientific papers. Their participation to the SaltGiant training activities fostered the collaboration between ESRs and seniors researchers of the consortium.
All in all, the work performed during the periodic reporting is in line with the Work Packages objectives described in the Annex 1 Part B of the SALGIANT Grant Agreement.
"In addition to the expected scientific results of each 15 project thesis, the impact expected by the end of the project are of 4 kind :
1/ Enhancing the career perspectives and employability of researchers and contribution to their skills development
2/ Contribution to structuring doctoral/early-stage research training at the European level and to strengthening European innovation capacity
3/ Quality of the proposed measures to exploit and disseminate the project results
4/ Quality of the proposed measures to communicate the project activities to different target audiences
They are more largely described in the section ""Description of the Action"" of the SaltGiant Grant Agreement (n°765256)."
SaltGiant 1st workshop group photo
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