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Marco and Louise Mitrani
Department of Desert Ecology (MDDE)
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Researchers in the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology (MDDE) use deserts as model ecosystems for advancing ecological knowledge in general, and specifically to understand the ecological properties of deserts. The knowledge obtained in the course of this research is made available to the scientific community at large, to governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations. The MDDE research program provides knowledge that can be used for the conservation and prudent, sustainable development of desert regions. The studies carried out in the MDDE address the roles of environmental heterogeneity (physical and biological), disturbance (natural and anthropogenic), and biotic interactions (trophic and non-trophic) in determining biodiversity in water-limited ecosystems. These research projects also examine the roles of scale and mechanism in creating and maintaining patterns of diversity in different functional groups of plants and animals.




Much research emphasis is given to studies in applied ecology, including collaboration with other organizations concerned with landscape management for biodiversity conservation, wildlife protection, public health and the arrest of desertification. Research undertaken by MDDE investigators, their students and visiting colleagues during recent years, include ecophysiology, behavioural ecology and life histories, population ecology and genetics, community and landscape ecology and ecological and evolutionary parasitology. The MDDE facilities include animal care facilities, outdoor enclosures for mammals and areas for garden experiments in loess and sandy desert soils. There is access to research sites at different levels of annual rainfall, from Makhtesh Ramon in the south (60 mm annual precipitation) and Lehavim in the north (250 mm annual precipitation). Research sites include loessal plains, rocky watersheds, canyons, oases, and stabilized and semi-stabilized sand dunes.




Graduate students from all universities in Israel and abroad can work at the MDDE, supervised by its staff, and use its research sites and facilities. A graduate level program in Ecology is given in the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies (MSc degree in Desert Studies with specialization in Ecology) and at the undergraduate level in departments on the main campus of BGU. During the academic year, the MDDE holds weekly ecology and graduate student seminars. All academic activities in the MDDE are in English.