CENIC Recognizes California and Israeli Teams for Remote Collaboration on Underwater Archaeological Dig

Originally published on the CENIC website

In recognition of work to reshape archeological studies, the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology at UC San Diego and the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel are being awarded the 2021 CENIC Innovations in Networking Award for Research Applications.

Divers with the University of Haifa in Haifa, Israel, excavate the ruins of a Neolithic village. On the other side of the world, the team at UC San Diego helped their Haifa collaborators process and analyze new data and discoveries.

Project members at UC San Diego being recognized are: Thomas Levy, Areli Alvarez, Raquel Benguiat, Hector Bracho, Margie Burton, Katrina Cantu, Loren Clark, Tom DeFanti, Parke Funderburk, Alexandra Hangsterfer, John Hildebrand, Brittany Hook, Andrew Johnson, Nancy Lee, Kendall Mahony, Alex Matthews, Scott McAvoy, Christian McDonald, Richard Norris, Joel Polizzi, Xochitl Rojas-Rocha, Steve Savage, Gilad Shtienberg, Sophia Sylvestri, Anthony Tamberino, and Rich Walsh. The team included researchers and staff from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Qualcomm Institute and Department of Anthropology, Division of Social Sciences.

Project members at University of Haifa being recognized are: Assaf Yasur-Landau, Taufik Agbaria, Mosheko Bachar, Laura Cohen, Meir Edrey, Tamir Frank, David Friezem, Jonathan Gotlieb, Ruth Shahack Gross, Ido Izhaki, Sara Lantos, Michael Lazar, Sara Macke, Omry Nachum, Roey Nickelsberg, Eran Nisenbaum, Arie Pesso, Alyssa Pietraszek, Aviva Pollack, Ehud Arkin Shalev, Dorit Sivan, Tanya Sokolsky, Amir Yurman, Rami Zadok, and Bracha Zimmerman.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many archeological digs were put on hold, as collaborating researchers from various international universities could not travel to conduct fieldwork as a team. Using the technological possibilities of the Pacific Research Platform, supported by CENIC’s 400-gigabit research network, the teams at UC San Diego and the University of Haifa not only went ahead with their expedition but also drastically accelerated data analysis times.

Collaborating remotely on an underwater excavation of a late Stone Age Neolithic village located off northern Israel’s Carmel Coast, University of Haifa (UH) researchers performed the fieldwork while UC San Diego researchers helped process and analyze the findings virtually. UH researchers scuba dived at the underwater site, excavating and collecting artifacts, all while wearing GoPro cameras and live-streaming video of their underwater movements. UC San Diego researchers received raw data from the divers daily and used the computational resources of the PRP, along with photogrammetry, the process of using images to create 3D models, to recreate the site virtually, print artifacts in 3D, and examine the information, often within mere hours. Due to the 10-hour time difference, one team was able to work while the other team slept.

Indeed, work by the two international teams has led to a new University of Haifa — University of California San Diego Joint Marine Archaeology Field Station in Akko, Israel. Sponsored by the Koret Foundation in San Francisco, this state-of-the-art research facility opens on April 20. The research station will host qualified scientific diver students on annual field school seminars and will provide students and faculty from both the U.S. and Israel with unique opportunities for original research concerning climate, environmental, and culture change.

It would not be surprising if the collaborative virtual approach to archaeology lasts well beyond the COVID pandemic with research teams conducting fieldwork complemented by remote teams analyzing finds virtually. This method not only limits travel problems but also reduces or eliminates accommodation and airfare expenses.

The CENIC Innovations in Networking Awards are presented each year to highlight exemplary people, projects, and organizations that leverage high-bandwidth networking. This year, the awards emphasize remarkable adaptations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that in some ways has transformed how research and education are conducted.

“One of the original goals of CENIC’s California Research and Education Network (CalREN) was to break down the barriers of distance and time in order to facilitate effective research and education,” said CENIC President and CEO Louis Fox. “The work of the California and Israeli research teams who were able to use the Pacific Research Platform to adapt and expand their research goals, imagine greater possibilities, and create new models of research collaboration, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, is immensely creative and inspiring.”