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Scientific Party

A large group of scientists from different countries will come together in Morocco to visit and study the Kess-Kess mounds on the Hamar Lakdad ridge. Here they present themselves.

Jean-Pierre Henriet
Geologist/geophysicist, professor UGent, head of RCMG
Welcome on board of the IOC/UNESCO - MiCROSYSTEMS expedition to the Kess Kess mounds in Morocco, host of the Class@Desert 2006. My name is Jean-Pierre Henriet, and I am professor of marine geology and geophysics at Ghent University. About 10 years ago, we sailed with R/V Belgica to Porcupine Basin, west of Ireland, to investigate with acoustic waves some strange small hills on the seafloor, spotted by exploration vessels searching for oil and gas in this offshore basin. In fact we discovered a whole seabed landscape - or seascape - of hills, which since then are known as the 'Belgica mounds'. These mounds may be up to 350m high and several km in diameter. As demonstrated by drilling last year, in the framework of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), these mounds contain deep water corals from top to bottom. All over those years, it was tantalizing to keep sailing some 700 to 1000m above these mounds, never being able to take a closer look. I applied for a submarine at IFREMER, but got a ROV dive instead (if you want to know how a ROV or deep-water robot looks like, just click on the Class@Ocean site). But now, finally, we shall walk on mounds! A mound seascape, right in the desert, just as if sea-level had dropped suddenly of some 1.000 m. Mounds which might bring us more clues towards their nature and origin, or just more question marks! And mounds which will be our "classroom" for a few days. I hope we'll be able to make you share our excitement very soon. And if you feel as excited as we are about these incredible "mountains, built by Life", just fire your questions!
Naima Hamoumi
Naima Hamoumi is a geology professor (Geologist) at the Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science, Mohammed V Agdal University, Rabat, Morocco.
Professor Hamoumi is the head of "Oceanology and Geodynamic of Sedimentary Basins" lab and the DESA (Master) study: "Geodynamic and Valorization of the oceanic margin (Go Mar)". Since 1999, she is involved in sedimentological studies related to mud volcanoes and gas hydrate on the Moroccan Atlantic margin. She is also an expert in many aspects and fields of Moroccan geology. She will guide the scientific party along the Ordovician carbonate systems near Tafilalet during this field trip.
Roberto Barbieri
Paleontologist/geomicrobiologist, professor of Paleontology at the University of Bologna (Italy)
I investigate ecosystems developed in extreme enviroments and the way for their reconstruction in fossil settings. Presently, I investigate the role of chemosynthetic microbial communities of cold seeps and the astrobiological potential of hypersaline environments as terrestrial analogues of Martian environments.
Gian Gabriele Ori
Director of the International School of Planetary Sciences and Professor of Geology at the Universita' d'Annunzio (Pescara, Italia)
Gian is a planetary geologist with background in the analysis of the terrestrial past and present environments. He is working on Mars, Venus and Titan (a satellite of saturn). He is currently preparing a field centre in marrakech devoted to the tests of robots and rovers for Mars of the European Space Agency.
Alexei Suzyumov
A Russian marine geologist, Dr Suzyumov was involved in various international projects like the "Upper Mantle", GEBCO and DSDP/ODP before he joined UNESCO (Division of Marine Sciences) in 1982. He retired from the Organization in 2005 but stays closely linked with it working as a consultant of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO for capacity development programs. IOC (established in 1960) is the competent marine science organization of the United Nations. It provides Member States with an essential mechanism for global co-operation in the study of the ocean and knowledge-sharing.
Barbara Cavalazzi
Post-doctoral Researcher at University of Bologna (Italy)
My interests focus on fossil microbial (prokaryote) detection from different extreme environments such as hydrocarbon and hydrothermal sites including mounds of Hamar Laghdad in Morocco, fossil and recent lacustrine stromatolites from Western Australia, and alteration crust of pillow basalts at Atlantic mid-ocean ridges. Recently, Im also involved in new microscope techniques applied to microbes investigation.
Tjeerd C.E. Van Weering
Director of Marine Chemistry and Geology Group NIOZ, NL
"My main interests focus on Continental Margin Processes, with emphasis on sedimentary processes and paleoceanography. A second field of interest, already since my Ph.D when I studied the presence of shallow gas and pockmarks in the Norwegian Channel and the Skagerrak (North Sea) as part of the sedimentary setting and late Quaternary sedimentation of these basins, is the presence and effects of gas in marine sediments, the presence and forcing effects of gashydrates , and their relationships to presence and development of mudvolcanoes in margin settings. More recently, I have become involved in studying aspects of cold water carbonate mound presence and forcing along the NE Atlantic continental margin, and the development and distribution of deep water corals associated with the mounds. In addition there is a strong interest in (Paleo)-oceanographic variability and climatic change."
Judith A. McKenzie
Professor Earth Systems Sciences, Geological Institute, ETH Zuerich (Switzerland)
Grigorii G. Akhmanov
Geologist/Sedimentologist. Associate professor, UNESCO-MSU Training and Research Centre for Marine Geology and Geophysics, and Department of Petroleum Geology and Geochemistry, Faculty of Geology, Moscow State University (Russia)
My scientific interests focus on deep-sea depositional environments and processes with main curiosity about deep-sea mud volcanism and gas-venting. I have participated in 12 marine expeditions of the Floating University (UNESCO Training-through-Research Programme), exploring mud volcanoes and fluid-seepages around Europe as a student at the beginning and then as a staff. To examine and compare our marine experience and scientific achievements we organized a few field expeditions to on-shore mud volcanic areas in Crimea, Azerbaijan, and recently to East Java. I teach oceanology and sedimentary petrology at MSU but I am still greedy to learn more. I am sure to get a remarkable experience, studying Kess-Kess mounds in the company with so experienced scientists as the Class@Desert Scientific Party.
Stephanie Templer
Post-doctoral Researcher ETH Zuerich (Switzerland)
"Hello, I'm Stefanie. A few months ago, I startet a Postdoc at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland), in the Geomicrobiology group. I am interested in microorganisms that live in the deeper submarine sediments. Actually, my main focus lies on organisms we try to isolate and identify. We work with culturing, but also with techniques focusing on DNA that can be found in the sediments. By visiting the Kess-Kess mounds, we hope to find explanations of the development of the "living" mud volcanoes I'm working on in the Gulf of Cadiz."
Davy Depreiter
Geologist, PhD student IWT, Ugent, RCMG
"Hello, I'm Davy. I am currently working on my PhD thesis at the Renard Centre of Marine Geology. My study is related to subsurface fluid flow. This ranges from large scales such as the activity of submarine mud volcanoes on the Moroccan continental margin, to small scales, by looking at carbonate minerals that form in the sediments because bacteria are consuming methane, or by doing numerical modeling of fluid flow in mounds. So, I have very wide interests including physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. By visiting the Kess-Kess mounds, I hope to learn more about the role of bacteria and the flow of fluids in the process of the mound formation."
Hans Pirlet
Geologist, PhD student FWO, UGent, RCMG
Anneleen Foubert
Marine Geologist, PhD student FWO, UGent, RCMG
"Hello, I'm Anneleen. For the moment, I'm doing a PhD at the Renard Centre of Marine Geology. I'm studying cold-water corals and their sedimentological environments. Cold-water corals are able to build up huge cold-water coral mounds, which are appearing in particular regions along the North-Atlantic continental margins."
Ida Dell'Arciprete
University of Bologna (Italy)
Cees Van Der Land
PhD student, NIOZ (The Netherlands)
"As of November 2005, I've started my PhD at the Royal Dutch Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) considering the forcing and development of carbonate mound formation along the NW European margin, starting in the Rockall Trough area (off the west coast of Ireland). Here, large mounds rise up to 200 meter above the surrounding seafloor, often topped off by living cold-water corals. The intense calcification of the coral colonies enables them to provide a three-dimensional complex habitat for a vast number of associated species (such as sponges, clams, crustaceans) that live within or alongside the coral ecosystem. One of the focal points of this study will be the response of the deep-water ecosystem to changing climatic conditions, for example during the last glacial-interglacial cycle. U-Th dating techniques of fossil corals will provide us with crucial time control."
Yulia Kolganova
Student UNESCO-Moscow State University Centre for Marine Geosciences (Russia)
Esmeralda Sarmento Muchangos
Undergraduate student, Geological Engineering, University of Aveiro (Portugal)
Hello, my name is Esmeralda. I am a undergraduation student in Geological Engineering Course at the University of Aveiro in Portugal. I believe that I will get the best out of the field course. With best regards, Esmeralda.