Turkey’s Science Center for Sea and Lake Geology: EMCOL
Feb 20, 2017

Operating within the Mining Faculty Geological Engineering Department, The Eastern Mediterranean Center for Oceanography and Limnology (EMCOL) is one of the major centers of activity for sea and lake geology in the country. The center, which has many firsts in terms of research infrastructure, stands out as the laboratory that performs the best core analysis tests in Turkey. The Center continues to work in line with the Turkish Marine Research Strategy, which plays an important role in the creation of research groups working on sea and climate research in different units of our university and in the conduct of interdisciplinary research across Turkey. The Center also opens its doors for researchers from Istanbul University, Van Yüzüncü Yıl University, Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University, and Ardahan University while at the same time providing training for Mineral Exploration Search and training to ASELSAN employees.

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Research in the Center is run by a team of 10 people under the leadership of Prof. Dr. M. Namık Çağatay of the Department of Geological Engineering. When determining the focus of the academic studies, worldwide need and disciplinary features that are still in development in our country are taken into consideration. The revenue generated from the projects carried out at EMCOL is used to provide scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students.

In order to take a closer look at the ongoing scientific research at EMCOL, can read the interview with the head of the center, Prof Dr M. Namık Çağatay below.

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What are you doing in the field of earth sciences in Turkey? Where in the world are we in these studies?

We can collect the research area of EMCOL under the heading of "sea and lake geology" in general. For the purpose of the European Union 6th Framework Program (FP6) EMCOL project, it referred to as the Eastern Mediterranean Center for Oceanography and Limnology (EMCOL) and aims to provide advanced multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research in earth sciences, geological disasters, climate and environmental change in the eastern Mediterranean and surrounding seas and lakes, including Turkey, allowing young scientists to specialize in these matters. Among the topics we focus on are geological disasters; earthquakes, underwater landslides and giant wave (tsunami) research, as well as the acquisition of old climate records from lake and sea sediments. With the advantage of having the advanced level of land and laboratory facilities required for studies in these fields, we have become one of the best excellence centers in our country and in Europe in a short amount of time. Numerous researchers from our country and from key countries such as Italy, France, and the United States benefit from EMCOL's possibilities through our joint projects and partnerships. The investigation of geologic disasters and old long-term climate records, especially in marine and lakes geology, is considered a priority issue all over the world. I believe EMCOL will make up for the lack of research on this subject in this country, surrounded on three sides by the sea, with interesting features and numerous lakes and wetlands.

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What is the significance of the work done on the sea floor and on the surface of earthquake investigations?

Most of the projects in our center are about earthquakes. The first of these is the mapping of active faults under water in the sea and lakes, and the search of old earthquake records in sedimentary cores. The location of active faults, the geometry and frequency of earthquake generation, earthquake hazard assessments and work to reduce earthquake damage are very important. For this reason, due to the high risk of earthquake, the Marmara Sea became the most important part of our research. Here, we have done a lot of research under projects supported by European Union, international cooperation projects, TUBITAK and TUJJB and we have published the results in reputable international magazines.

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Can you tell us about your team members?

At EMCOL, we work together with ITU School of Mines Assoc. Prof Dr. Kadir Eriş, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Gülsen Uçarkuş, Eurasian Earth Sciences Institute Assoc. Prof Dr. Nazlı Olgun Kıyak, and Geological Engineer Dursun Acar. From time to time, our studies are carried out by Prof. Dr. Ziyadin Çakır and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sinan Özeren of the School of Mines. We also have students who write their theses by receiving scholarships from our projects and support our research to a significant extent.

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What tests do you do at EMCOL laboratories?

We have the following laboratories at EMCOL; Core Analysis Laboratory, Sedimentology Laboratory, and Geochemistry Laboratory. In these laboratories we perform high resolution physical and chemical analyzes of sedimentary cores from sea and lakes. We can measure physical properties such as density, magnetic susceptibility, porosity, electrical resistance, temperature, p-wave velocity along the core at 0.5 cm resolution with the multi-sensor core sensor (Geotek Multi Sensor Core Logger: MSCL). With the ITRAX XRF Core Scanner, we manage 15-20 major and trace element analyzes at 0.2 mm resolution in cores, taking digital X-ray images (radiography) and digital color scanning processes.

In our sedimentology laboratory, we obtain particle size analysis and grain size distribution parameters of suspended samples by using a laser scattering particle size analyzer (Fritsch Laser Particle Size Analyzer). Thanks to our geochemistry laboratory, we perform total organic carbon (TOC) and total inorganic carbon (TIC) analyses, which are important parameters in sedimentary core analysis.

We can perform active fault mapping with subbottom profiler and side scan sonar (SES-2000 Compact System) on sea and lake beds. We use a platform (4x5m), marine engine, tripod, crane, various corers (gravite, kayak, piston, vibro-corer) and a 6 meter long motorized vessel for sedimentary core sampling. We also have a cooled core storage facility that houses the richest core archives of our country including many of its lakes and seas.

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What organizations support your research, how?

Our research is supported by TÜBİTAK and foreign institutions under the scope of international bilateral cooperation projects, especially European Union projects. In addition to the European Union 6th Framework Program project, which has facilitated the establishment of this Center between 2005 and 2008 and for which I was the coordinator, we have participated in many projects either as the coordinator or as a partner including large-scale projects such as ESONET NoE, EMSO PP, HYPOX and MARSITE, European Union 6th and 7th Framework Program projects, and the EU COST-FLOWS project, International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP PaleoVan). In addition, five TÜBİTAK and two National Geodetic-Geophysical Union (TUJJB) projects have been carried out. In the past eight years, we have granted scholarships to 25 graduate students with support of over 2.5 million euros and provided them with access to European Union funded EMCOL research infrastructure. Thus, we have created a dynamic environment with regard to our research area and have made important contributions to education and training. In this context, a total of 8 doctoral and 12 graduate thesis have been completed. Moreover, we are constantly improving EMCOL infrastructure by continuous employment of a researcher-specialist and through maintenance and repair of the equipment without burdening the budget of our university.

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Do you have any university-industry cooperation projects?

Among our university-industry cooperation projects, we can count the following: our 2005-2008 project "Evaluation of Earthquake Risks in the Marmara Sea" supported by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, our "Paleotsunami" work for the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant on the Mediterranean coast in 2013, and starting within the next month, the "Analysis of Marine Drilling Corps of Sinop Nuclear Power Plant" project. Together with these projects, we aim to develop innovative methods for responding to customer needs.

Have you digitized your data at the end of the studies? What findings can you share with us at this point?

We convert both seismic/bathymetric data and data related to core analysis in a laboratory environment into numerical format and store it in a GIS database system. This data includes our earthquake studies in Marmara, the EU Hypox project data on the formation of hypoxic conditions in the Black Sea, and climate studies in lakes (Van Lake, Caspian Lake, Bafa Lake, etc). We share the results we obtain here through our academic publications and project reports.