School Seminar reveals the mysteries of the colors in the ocean

On 4 March, this academic year’s second school seminar took place. This time, Dr. Derya Akkaynak, an assistant professor at the Department of Marine Technologies, gave a talk titled “Why are there colors in the ocean?”

Derya, a graduate of MIT, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (both USA), and Middle East Technical University (Turkey), is the head of the Laboratory for Computational Optics and Light in the Ocean Realm (COLOR Lab), which is situated in Eilat and studies light and vision in the ocean, at the intersection of which lies color. The laboratory’s goal is to systematically investigate the functions, mechanisms, and distributions of color in the benthic ocean.

The seminar was unique and interesting. In her talk, the speaker defied many generally accepted notions about the ocean and its colors. “The majority of people think that everything under the water is blue, but in fact, it is the ocean that is blue while its bottom is colorful”, Derya explained. “We do not see these colors under the huge volume of water, which alters the way the benthic ocean appears to us”. She went on to say that her COLOR Lab contributed to unriddling the mysteries of the ocean floor by developing physics-based technology enabling one to see its true colors. The audience was amazed to see the photographs processed using the laboratory’s technologies.

The speaker revealed many curious facts to the audience – for example, that the color of the ocean itself is an important indicator of chlorophyll concentration and ocean productivity, which was not known until the middle of the twentieth century. Derya introduced to the audience the history of the discoveries in the sphere of colorimetry and explained how the scientists’ ideas revolutionized oceanography and widened holistic understanding of the ocean. The presentation was accompanied by beautiful pictures including ones taken by Derya’s laboratory team.

The audience was very diverse, with students and faculty from all three School’s departments, but the talk was interesting to all of them – after the speaker opened the floor to questions, many people raised their hands to ask one, and there was an interesting discussion after the seminar’s end.