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Last Updated: Feb 14th, 2008 - 12:16:38
Fire and the Phoenix at NCM

By J. J. Lee, for the Stentor
Feb 14, 2008, 12:05
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Several days before I left New York to join the mariculture team in Eilat to work as a volunteer contributor to several exciting ground breaking projects, I learned of the major fire that destroyed the main building on the NCM campus. Having made all the arrangements for flying to Israel and renting an apartment for 5 week stay between the fall and spring semesters, I decided to go. I really did not know what to expect.

When I arrived at the NCM, the clean up had already begun. The first thing I saw were two piles of rubble piled up in front of the main building for examination by the insurance company; one pile was just junk and the other was barely recognizable as the remains of scientific instruments.

When I went into the building, there were a few walls in some places and no roof. The nutrient analysis, microbiology, genetics, larval rearing and pathology labs were gone as were all of the central support facilities.

What I saw next was totally unexpected. The remaining buildings were beehives of activity. Scientists and technicians working in former store rooms or crowded elbow to elbow in remaining office space. Their attitude was upbeat. We will overcome this setback. We will make good on the grants and contracts we already have.

Immediately after the fire, the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences extended a hand. Located at the extreme other end of town, it cleared space in its already overcrowded facility for the NCM Fish Genetics Department. I also accepted a generous offer for office and lab space during my stay in Eilat. I commuted between the two facilities. The future is filled with promise, as I participated as a team member in a new USAID-MERC project between the US, Israel and Egypt to develop new marine Polyculture systems for the Sinai and Negev deserts.

Of course the insurance money to rebuild the facilities is still unsettled. It will help to restore the laboratory to less than it was before the fire. The fish brood stock, much of the work products of certain departments, personal libraries and records cannot easily, or ever in some cases, be replaced.Fortunately the scientists at the NCM are not dwelling on the past, but made a quick decision to build for the future. It did not take me too long to rejoin the dream.

As a Society we can help, particularly our colleague Arik Diamont. Members who can contribute reference materials, especially on protozoan parasites of fish, are encouraged to send them to:
Dr Arik Diamont
National Center For Mariculture
POB 1212
Eilat, Israel

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