Welcome to our blog!

The ​Saltgiant Fellowship is composed ​of 15 enthusiastic PhD researchers ​who aim to unravel, ​over the next three years, some of the fascinating secrets about the Mediterranean Salt giant.

Between 5 and 6 million years ago, during the Messinian Period, a fascinating and rare event took place: the quasi-complete evaporation of the Mediterranean seawater; due to the interruption of the Atlantic seawaters’ inflow. This event was called the Messinian Salinity Crisis ​(MSC), since the Mediterranean Sea became, for some thousands of years, a hypersaline (and even a completely dry) environment. The evidences of this event can be witnessed in the geological record around the Mediterranean basin, in land outcrops as well as in the deep sea, in the shape of layers of salty minerals. The set of those layers, containing more than one million cubic kilometers of evaporite rocks, is what has been called the Mediterranean Salt ​Giant ​(MSG).

The Mediterranean Basin depicted as an almost dried desert. This model was popular among some scientists during the 1970-1980s. Source: Krijsman et al. (2018).

Although scientists have been studying ​the MSG since the late 19th century, several questions remain open nowadays: How was it formed? How was the Mediterranean basin refilled again? How long ​did that process last? Was the Mediterranean basin once a desert, as some scientists have strongly defended? Or how could some marine fauna have traveled through the Mediterranean, if the basin was divided in smaller lagoons? From the early 1970s, these and even more questions have confronted the scientific community of marine geologists, paleontologists, sedimentologists and geophysicists; sometimes in the form of fierce debates, while others ​times a consensus for some answers has been reached.

Nowadays, an agreement has been reached about a shallow-water Mediterranean Basin during the Messinian. Source:
Source: Krijsman et al. (2018).

With the ambition of solving some of the ​MSG and MSC mysteries, the SALTGIANT ENT (European Network Training) was created in 2017, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program. Through this multi-disciplinary network, we, the PhD researchers together with our supervisors and partners, will be able to approach the salt giant’s study from different perspectives ​combining natural with social sciences: from the reconstruction of the geological history, to ​the modern history of the MSG’s discovery; from assessing geo-hazards, to the potential economic and political implications of the MSG’s exploitation; changing the scale of study from the macro of tectonics’ motion, to the micro of isotopes and microorganisms in salt minerals.

Through this blog we ​will be shar​ing our daily work, thoughts and experiences while traveling the exciting path of a PhD research about the Messinian Salinity Crisis.

Images’ source: Wout Krijgsman, Walter Capella, Dirk Simon, Frits J. Hilgen, Tanja J. Kouwenhoven, Paul Th. Meijer, Francisco J. Sierro, Maria A. Tulbure, Bas C.J. van den Berg, Marlies van der Schee, Rachel Flecker (2018) “The Gibraltar Corridor: Watergate of the Messinian Salinity Crisis”. Marine Geology, Volume 403, pp. 238-246.