From the Seafloor
to the Atmosphere
of Marine Sciences
East Shore Campus West Shore Campus
Wischhofstr. 1-3 Düsternbrooker Weg 20
D-24148 Kiel D-24105 Kiel
Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences Tel.: + 49 - 431 600 - 0
IFM-GEOMAR Fax: + 49 - 431 600 - 2805
From the Seaﬂoor
Welcome at IFM-GEOMAR!
to the Atmosphere
The foundation of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences IFM-GEOMAR
through the merger of the Institute for Marine Research (IFM) and the Research
Centre for Marine Geosciences (GEOMAR) in 2004 was clearly recognised as a
strategic decision on the national as well as on the international level. Today,
IFM-GEOMAR is one of the three leading marine research centres in Europe with
more than 500 employees and an annual budget in the order of 60 million Euros.
Outstanding observational infrastructure together with cutting-edge numerical
modelling enables IFM-GEOMAR scientists to set international standards for
Prof. Dr. Peter M. Herzig
marine research. Four research vessels, large-scale seagoing equipment such as
the manned submersible JAGO, the unmanned deep-sea robots ROV KIEL 6000
and AUV ABYSS as well as state-of-the-art laboratories, analytical facilities, and
high-end computers provide a unique basis for excellent marine research. The
goal of the institute is to address key questions in marine sciences through inter-
disciplinary efforts in all relevant areas of oceanographic research, encompas-
sing the physical, chemical, biological, and geological processes in the oceans
and their interaction with the seaﬂoor and the atmosphere.
IFM-GEOMAR is structured in four main research divisions: Ocean Circulation and
Climate Dynamics, Marine Biogeochemistry, Marine Ecology, and Dynamics of
the Ocean Floor. In addition, the institute plays a key role in the excellence clu-
ster ”The Future Ocean” and in two collaborative research centres of the
German Science Foundation (DFG). The institute boasts an international team of
scientists that places an emphasis on cross-fertilization between different areas
of research. Important topics in the marine sciences today are investigated in
interdisciplinary groups and from a broad range of perspectives. This is the hall-
mark of IFM-GEOMAR whose research programmes include both applied and
basic science. The second important pillar of IFM-GEOMAR is education. The
institute places a strong emphasis on promoting undergraduate and graduate
students in all disciplines of marine sciences. This well-founded education ena-
bles the new generation of scientists to meet future challenges not only in
marine research, but in topics that will become increasingly important to socie-
ty as a whole.
This brochure will introduce you to the diverse aspects of our research and will
hopefully raise your interest for the particular importance of marine sciences in
the 21st century.
Prof. Dr. Peter M. Herzig
Direktor des IFM-GEOMAR
The Leibniz Association
The Leibniz Association presently encompasses more than 80 research institutes and servi-
ce centres in Germany. The tasks and responsibilities of these institutes are of supra-regio-
nal interest. Research results are applied in national and state policy development; hence
the Leibniz institutes are supported by both federal and state funds. The areas of research
range from space and economic sciences to natural, engineering and environmental scien-
ces. The common goal of the organizations is to work on an interdisciplinary basis and on
demand. The Leibniz institutes consider themselves partners of scientiﬁc institutions, the
industry, as well as federal and state authorities. Their cooperation with universities is par-
ticularly close and intensive.
More information can be found at:
R ESEARCH D IVISION 1
Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics
Understanding the ocean's role in our climate is the central goal of the research division Ocean Circulation and
Climate Dynamics. Interdisciplinary work spanning the four ﬁelds of Paleo-Oceanography, Physical Oceanography,
Maritime Meteorology and Theory and Modelling is a particular strength of this department. The expertise inclu-
des large-scale and process-oriented modelling, sea-going capabilities for studying the dynamics of the present-
day system, and paleo-oceanographic studies of past climate conditions. Oceanographic, geological and meteo-
rological data are combined with satellite observations to develop models of complex ocean-atmosphere
A sediment core from the Arctic Ocean gives insight
to 150,000 years of climate history. The dark layers
document colder climate phases, the light layers
were formed during warm periods.
The Earth's Seafloor Diary layer, akin to a chapter in history, has cap- The ocean harbours a further climatic
”The past is the key to understanding tured information about environmental archive in addition to seaﬂoor sediments.
both the present and the future” is an conditions during the time of formation. Coral reefs, both deep-sea and shallow-
axiom that also applies to our climate. Together the chapters form a book that water, also represent a valuable source of
However, from what source can we draw can reveal the history of our climate. information about the past. Similar to
information about intervals in Earth's On board research ships, the scientists of tree rings, coral organisms grow in
history during which no instruments for the Paleo-Oceanography research unit annual increments and their skeletal
measurement existed, nor people to use specialized drilling instruments to deposits record different environmental
apply them? Fortunately, the climate on recover cores of seaﬂoor sediments. Con- parameters. Paleo-oceanographers use
our planet has kept a diary on the bottom ditions that prevailed during times long time-related data from corals and sedi-
of the ocean. Organisms and other parti- past such as oxygen level, temperature or ment cores to reconstruct the history not
cles have rained down from the surface to biological productivity can be discerned only of the Earth's climate, but also of the
the seaﬂoor and built up layer upon layer in the sedimentary cross-sections of the ocean itself.
of sediment over millions of years. Every seaﬂoor.
The Research Vessels
The ﬂeet of research ships at IFM-GEOMAR is essential for fulﬁlling the primary mission of the institute, namely the investi-
gation of oceanic processes. The institute operates four ships of different sizes. The largest are the two mid-sized research
vessels POSEIDON and ALKOR. The POSEIDON is used for longer expeditions to the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea and
occasionally the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
The ALKOR is primarily used for research in the North and Baltic Seas, as well as in the Kattegat and Skagerrak areas. Some-
times the ALKOR is implemented for student training courses. While the state of Schleswig-Holstein is the legal owner of the
larger ships of the ﬂeet POSEIDON and ALKOR, the small research cutter LITTORINA belongs to the University of Kiel. The
ship works mainly in the western Baltic and is used for coastal research and student courses. The smallest of the ships is the
POLARFUCHS. The boat is used for studies in the Kiel Fjord and Bight.
Release of an acoustic source used to track
down free drifting instruments in the ocean.
The Glider: an autonomous measurement platform for the ocean.
The ”CTD” is the work horse of physical oceanographers.
The instrument is used to measure important parameters
such as conductivity, temperature, and depth.
The Engine for Oceanic Currents masses sink in the sub-polar North Atlan- scale circulation of water masses. Using
The water masses of the ocean are in con- tic, ﬂow as a deep current southwards re-search vessels, drifting buoys or moo-
stant motion, driven by wind, mechanical and thereby act as a thermal conveyer. rings, physical oceanographers measure
mixing and surface buoyancy forces. The Because these sinking processes are many parameters such as currents, salini-
path of the currents around the globe potentially unstable, they represent the ty and temperature at different depths.
and their depth is mainly determined by Achilles heel for the transport of warm IFM-GEOMAR is also involved in the
temperature, salinity and the topography water masses to Northern Europe. If the search for new instruments and technolo-
of the seafloor. Thus, global climate thermal conveyer weakens, the impact on gies and the support of their manufactu-
inﬂuences the movement of water masses the climate in Northern Europe could be re. A current example is the so-called
in the world's oceans, and the currents in strong. In view of this critical and poten- glider: a new device that moves like a sail-
turn affect climatic processes on both tially unstable processes, the physical oce- plane through the ocean. Controlled via
global and regional scales. The Physical anographers have focussed on understan- telecommunication, gliders are used in
Oceanography research unit investigates ding this key area of the Atlantic. The coastal areas or launched from research
the multifaceted processes that drive oce- second area of interests are the Tropics, vessels, delivering subsurface data several
anic currents. where rapid ocean atmosphere interac- times a day. In Europe, IFM-GEOMAR was
The near-surface currents of the North tions occur. Here and in other areas the ﬁrst institute that used such an instru-
Atlantic transporting thermal energy around the globe, the prime goal is to ment.
from the tropics have a strong inﬂuence discern the extent to which climatic or
on the climate in Europe. These water oceanic processes influence the large-
Research vessels are swimming high-tech laboratories. They offer the facilities necessary to conduct modern oceanographic
research. These include special biological, geological, geophysical, chemical, physical, and meteorological research equip-
ment and data instruments, as well as cold rooms, cranes, winches and laboratories. In addition, the ships must offer suffi-
cient space for the crew and scientists to lead a relatively comfortable life on board, since some expeditions span several
weeks or even months. The oceanographers of IFM-GEOMAR participate not only on cruises on their own ﬂeet, but also on
expeditions aboard other German or foreign research vessels. In this way, the ships can remain in a more restricted area of
operation and costly transit cruises can be avoided. Internationally, the largest and most well-known ships also used by IFM-
GEOMAR scientists are the SONNE, the METEOR, the MARIA S. MERIAN and the POLARSTERN.
4 R ESEARCH D IVISION 1
The Computer as a Laboratory
Field data allows conclusions about the behaviour of oceanic currents, which are limited to
the time and location of the measurement. When fed into a computer model, however, the
data points deliver a foundation for interpreting past and future current variations.
Scientists in the research unit Theory und
Modelling have developed numerical
simulations of current motions on time
scales from weeks to thousands of years,
and on spatial scales ranging from regio-
nal to global. The highly complex compu-
ter ”lab experiments” deliver a quantita-
tive analysis of the complex interactions
between atmosphere and ocean currents.
Combined with ﬁeld observations, scien-
tists can use the computer models to eva-
luate processes such as the conditions
under which the Gulf Stream system
could become unstable. The more para-
meters and processes are integrated into
the model, the more precise the simula-
tion. Newer models incorporate interac-
tions such as those between currents and
marine ecosystems, thus providing a
more accurate picture of oceanic proces-
A previously unknown phenomenon was
discovered by oceanographers from IFM-
GEOMAR along the coast of Brazil. Mea-
surements at a depth of 2000 metres
revealed large eddies rather than the
expected calm and uniform deep current.
Computer models showed that these
eddies can only develop when the deep
coastal current is sufficiently strong. This
deep current is considered to be one of
the engines for the Gulf Stream system.
The water masses are formed in the sub-
polar region of the North Atlantic and Simulation of the North Brazil Undercurrent, the deep
ﬂow southwards to the Antarctic. The western boundary current off the coast of Brazil.
modellers consider the eddies as indica-
tors for the strength of the engine.
Should the engine slacken the deeper
eddies would also wane.
SONNE METEOR MARIA S. MERIAN
The Ocean as a Kitchen for our Climate Azores high pressure and the Iceland low- weeks to extrapolations of several hund-
The scientists in the Maritime Meteorolo- pressure systems, a process that has a cru- red years. Of particular interest is the
gy research unit also investigate the inter- cial effect on winter weather conditions question of the anthropogenic inﬂuence
actions between the ocean and the in Europe. To address these questions on the Earth's climate. Can the recent
atmosphere. Above all they focus on the both qualitatively and quantitatively, the increase in natural catastrophes such as
atmospheric response to oceanic proces- meteorologists at IFM-GEOMAR collect ﬂoods, tornadoes and heat waves be
ses. Current studies are seeking answers data at sea and integrate this information explained by ”normal” climatic ﬂuctua-
to questions such as: When and where do with satellite observations. tions, or are we already observing the
clouds originate, how large is the thermal consequences of human activity? Scien-
exchange between the ocean and the The combined data is fed into computer tists at IFM-GEOMAR are involved in
atmosphere, and to what depth does models that are used to depict the deve- many national and international research
solar radiation penetrate? A further focus lopment of the climate on regional and projects that focus on these and other
is the study of the role of the Atlantic global scales during different time inter- questions.
Ocean in the alternation between the vals. The time scales range from a few
Cameras document cloud patterns above the ocean – a helpful
tool for the interpretation of meteorological measurements.
R ESEARCH D IVISION 2
Marine Biogeochemistry The Marine Biogeochemistry division
investigates material transfers within
and between the ocean, the atmosphere, seaﬂoor sediments and marine
organisms. The oceanographers in that division focus in particular on proces-
ses within the boundary layers between the atmosphere, the ocean and the
sediments. At these interfaces, there is a highly dynamic exchange of ele-
ments and compounds. Advanced methods and models are developed
through interdisciplinary cooperation between the research units Marine
Geosystems, Chemical Oceanography, Biological Oceanography and Biogeo-
These tools are applied to improve understanding of oceanic element cycles
of the past and present, as well as to allow for informed extrapolations into
Lander systems developed at IFM-GEOMAR enable long-term
observations and experiments in the deep ocean.
The Technology and Logistics Centre
The Technology and Logistics Centre (TLC) houses the seagoing technical personal and instrumen-
tal capacities. In the central workshops new instruments are developed, built and tested. Further-
more, the technical personal prepare ship-based expeditions and their equipment such as the
manned submersible JAGO, the deep-sea robots ROV KIEL 6000 and AUV ABYSS, gliders, ocean
bottom seismometers, the lander and the mesocosm ﬂeet. About 45 staff members ensure smooth
and successful missions on the worldwide expeditions of IFM-GEOMAR.
Gas Hydrates: groups investigate processes of exchange
Energy Source or Climate Killer? between organisms, sediments and sea-
When scientists from IFM-GEOMAR disco- water. These involve major and trace ele-
vered the largest underwater occurrence ments and their isotopes, as well as gases
of gas hydrates in the Paciﬁc Ocean off such as methane and carbon dioxide.
the Oregon coast in 1996, spectacular State-of-the-art ”Benthic Lander” techno-
images of the ﬂammable material were logy is developed at IFM-GEOMAR and is
shown around the world. Gas hydrates used to conduct long-term observations
are ice-like compounds in which gas and experiments on the sea floor at
molecules, such as methane, are trapped depths of up to 6000 metres. Geochemi-
inside a cage of water molecules. They cal analyses conducted on board research
evolve naturally through complex proces- vessels deliver immediate information
ses in sediments at continental shelves about gas content and seawater composi-
and in Arctic permafrost. More than 160 tion. Subsequently, stable, radiogenic and
cubic metres of gas can be stored in one radioactive isotopes can be determined A picture that went around the world:
cubic metre of hydrate. Estimates of by high precision mass spectrometry on gas hydrates or ”burning ice” in the hands of
marine methane hydrate reserves are shore. IFM-GEOMAR scientists.
comparable to the magnitude of known
exploitable fossil energy reservoirs such as
coal, oil and gas. Methane gas hydrates
therefore represent a potential energy
source for the future. If released into the
atmosphere, however, methane acts as a
powerful greenhouse gas and would aug-
ment global warming. It is presently
unclear to what extent these vast reserves
of methane may be susceptible to clima-
te-related change within the future
ocean. IFM-GEOMAR has become one of
the leading institutes world-wide in the
study of the evolution and behaviour of
marine gas hydrates. The knowledge
gained is essential for a well-grounded
assessment of the advantages and disad-
vantages in their use as an energy re-
source, as well as the potential risks asso-
ciated with a changing ocean.
Understanding the formation of gas
hydrates is only one of several topics
being pursued by the research unit
Marine Geosystems. Another main focus
is the study of sediments, rocks and other
natural archives of past climate and envi-
ronmental change. Different working View inside a high-resolution mass spectrometer used to simultaneously
detect different isotope signals in minute samples.
The Lithothek holds a collection of more than 9,000 metres of split sediment core samples, of which
4,900 metres are part of the Red Sea, the so-called PREUSSAG collection. The institute also archives
hard rock samples, corals and pore water samples. A portion of the sediment cores is in cold sto-
rage to ensure preservation of sensitive sections of the record. Samples are generally available for
research and, to a limited extent, for educational purposes and museum displays. A group of tech-
nicians is speciﬁcally delegated to processing incoming and outgoing sediment cores and samples.
They ensure proper archiving of the material using a data bank.
The Lithothek has a facility for high resolution logging of marine sediments to obtain information
about physical properties, the so-called multiple-sensor split core logger (MSCL). The core labora-
tory also permits digital core photography, measurements on sediments, sampling and description
of cores and the processing of samples.
8 R ESEARCH D IVISION 2
A Shift in the Ocean-Atmosphere Equilibrium
The global ocean and the atmosphere have exchanged
elements and compounds over vast periods of time. The
atmospheric concentration of many important gases
that affect climate is, in turn, strongly inﬂuenced by the
respective oceanic concentration.
Samples can be collected at different depths with the rosette water sampler.
For CO2, the ocean plays the role of an directly or indirectly. Atmospheric carbon
enormous chemical buffer: It damps dioxide from fossil fuels, for example, dis-
changes in its concentration and hence solves in the upper layers of the ocean,
changes in climate over geological time. which leads to a reduction in the green-
However, the sudden onset of anthropo- house effect. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas
genic pollution of the atmosphere is cau- or N2O), on the other hand, is released
sing a major shift in this natural balance into the atmosphere.
and at the same time a signiﬁcant reduc- This compound not only reinforces the
tion in the buffering ability of the ocean. greenhouse effect, but also damages the
Scientists in the research division Chemi- ozone layer. The out-gassing of several
cal Oceanography focus on understan- halogen compounds such as bromoform
ding the chemical equilibrium between and methyl iodide, which are sometimes
the ocean and the atmosphere in the produced by the plankton, represents an
past, as well as the role the ocean plays in additional natural attack on atmospheric
determining present-day changes in the ozone. Certain trace metals such as iron
composition of the atmosphere. With this exert their inﬂuence on climate 'behind
knowledge, they can help to predict the scenes'. Iron, for example, is an essen-
future shifts in ocean-atmosphere equili- tial nutrient for phytoplankton and its
brium as a result of global change. More low concentration can limit productivity.
broadly, the chemical oceanographers Reduced plankton productivity due to
study the distribution of substances nutrient limitation leads to a decline in
within the present-day ocean, with an the oceanic uptake of carbon dioxide,
emphasis on the exchange of elements representing an indirect pathway by
and compounds with the atmosphere and which trace metal concentrations can
High-tech labs for CO2 measurements in all ocean basins on
marine organisms. affect the climate system.
the commercial vessel FALSTAFF (above) and the research
vessel METEOR (below).
Different working groups investigate the
oceanic element cycles of carbon, nitro-
gen, halogens and trace metals, all of
which can inﬂuence the Earth's climate
Barely visible to the naked eye: plankton Labs in the ocean:
enclosures known as mesocosms are used to
simulate different environmental conditions.
Plankton: Small yet significant The biological oceanographers at IFM- The Future Ocean
Phytoplankton and zooplankton, the GEOMAR conduct both laboratory and Environmental changes caused by
microscopic plants and animals that ﬂoat ﬁeld experiments to investigate the role humans are having a signiﬁcant impact
in the water column, build the base of the of plankton in oceanic and global ele- on the ocean. Increasing CO2 concentra-
oceanic food chain. The organisms, their ment cycles. In addition to gathering data tions, for example, are leading to a decli-
excretions and their remains deliver about the ocean of today, it is the ne in seawater pH to levels that have not
nutrients for the majority of life forms in question of the behaviour of plankton in existed for at least 20 million years. As a
the sea. Most plankton species inhabit the future that is of great importance. result, the world's oceans are becoming
the upper layers of the ocean, which are Anthropogenic changes in the environ- increasingly acidic with major consequen-
permeated by light. Phytoplankton takes ment, especially the increase in atmos- ces for their living inhabitants. However,
up carbon dioxide, nitrogen and other pheric greenhouse gases, are expected to this is only one of a number of changes
elements to produce organic matter by have a signiﬁcant impact on the ocean observed by oceanographers during the
way of photosynthesis. The trace metal and its ecosystems. Molecular genetics is last few years. Field studies reveal altera-
iron, which is carried into the ocean by applied to gain information about cellu- tions in oceanic currents, temperature,
desert dust, can be a limiting factor for lar changes in planktonic organisms and and oxygen content, to name but a few.
phytoplankton growth. Of particular sig- their sensitivity to the altered availability At this time, it is impossible to foresee all
niﬁcance for the Earth's climate is the of nutrients. Large-scale experiments consequences for marine ecosystems.
ability of phytoplankton to take up CO2, using so-called mesocosms, large enclosu- Observational data concerning individual
thus increasing the ﬂux of this greenhou- res in which scientists simulate the ocean processes, chemical distributions and
se gas from the atmosphere to the ocean. of the future, are used to observe the organisms are collected by the Biogeo-
One of the most urgent issues being effects of changing environmental condi- chemical Modelling unit and integrated
addressed by the research unit Biological tions on plankton productivity and bio- into computer models. By this means, the
Oceanography is the question of how geochemical cycling. A new direction of scientists of the different research units of
phytoplankton productivity changes with research for biologists at IFM-GEOMAR is the research division Marine Biogeoche-
respect to increasing levels of CO2 in the the study of the biological processes of mistry are able to combine their insights
modern ocean. trace gas production. and peer forward into the ocean of the
Submersibles and underwater vehicles
Research submersibles and remotely operated vehicles are the spacecrafts of the ocean. Their con-
struction and operation are both costly and technically challenging. JAGO, the only manned research
submersible in Germany, is based at IFM-GEOMAR. It operates to a depth of 400 metres and provides
space for two people. JAGO can be used to investigate a wide range of research topics being con-
ducted at IFM-GEOMAR. For instance, JAGO facilitates research on gas hydrates, hydrothermal
systems on the ocean ﬂoor, as well as cold-water corals and other marine ecosystems.
In order to explore greater depths scientists use unmanned underwater vehicles: the ROV KIEL 6000,
a remotely operated vehicle, and the autonomous underwater vehicle AUV ABYSS. Both can opera-
te up to 6000 metres thus able to investigate more than 90 per cent of the ocean ﬂoor.
R ESEARCH D IVISION 3
Marine Ecology Shipping, excessive fertilization, pollution, commercial ﬁsh-
ing and, last but not least, global climate change, have far-
reaching effects on marine ecosystems. Scientists are obser-
ving not only shifts in the geographic distribution of marine
species and the disappearance of species, but also signiﬁ-
cant changes in seasonal activity and growth patterns. This
can lead to temporal and spatial uncoupling between sensi-
tive supply and demand relationships within oceanic food
webs. In some cases however, physiological or genetic
adaptation in species can reduce some of these detrimental
effects. In the Marine Ecology division, the research units
Marine Microbiology, Experimental Ecology and Evolutiona-
ry Ecology of Marine Fishes investigate the impact of ﬁshe-
ries and changing environmental conditions on the struc-
ture and response of entire food webs, the interactions
among species and the dynamics and genetics of individual
Active Substances produced by the ”orange puffball”, a populations and communities.
species of sponge, are being investigated by IFM-GEOMAR
scientists for potential medicinal applications.
Medicine from the Sea cooperation with suppliers of pharmaceu- can even affect global change processes.
Running away does not belong to their tical companies. The microbiologists iso- Various working groups in the Marine
survival strategies - in more than 40 mil- late the natural elixirs from organisms Microbiology research unit investigate
lion years of evolution sponges have such as sponges, hence making them different capabilities of bacteria in both
developed other, highly effective mecha- available for manifold applications in laboratory and field studies using
nisms of defence. In symbiosis with bacte- modern medicine. methods such as DNA-analyses. This ena-
ria they produce antibodies which can bles a better understanding of the pro-
ward off both predators and diseases. Scientists at IFM-GEOMAR focus not only cesses prevailing in different microbial
Today, the pharmacological industry is on the role of bacteria in the production communities.
very interested in the arsenal of substan- of sponge antibodies, but also on the
ces generated by sponges. Through a behaviour of many other micro-orga-
better understanding of the composition nisms. Highly specialised bacteria can be
and capabilities of these unique products, found in almost all oceanic ecosystems.
scientists hope to gain valuable insights They play an important role in oceanic
for the development of new and effective food webs and element cycles. Through
medicines against diseases such as cancer. their inﬂuence on the transformation of
For this purpose, the Marine Microbiolo- greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide
gy unit at IFM-GEOMAR is working in and methane, marine micro-organisms
The IFM-GEOMAR library is one of the largest marine science libraries in Germany. With an exten-
sive collection of books and periodicals (132,000 media items, 750 open serial titles), a special col-
lection of historical works and rare monographs, the library of IFM-GEOMAR enjoys international
recognition. Its homepage offers full text access to more than 600 online e-journals, books and
databases. The library itself provides a number of services including comprehensive reference-sec-
tion assistance and training in databank use, circulation services and a digital processing centre for
copying, scanning and graphic design.
The library participates in the Linking Libraries Project, whose aim is to facilitate resource sharing
among marine and aquatic science libraries worldwide. The libraries at the east and the west shore
campus of IFM-GEOMAR serve pupils from schools all over the state of Schleswig-Holstein and are
also open to the general public.
To Eat and be Eaten
Nutrient enrichment of seawater during
winter leads to blooms of phytoplankton
in the spring. The microscopic algae build
the base of the food chain. They are the
source of sustenance for zooplankton.
Supply and demand within food webs
have developed to a well-synchronized
balance over millions of years. However,
is it possible that global change and asso-
ciated warmer winters can disturb this
sensitive equilibrium? This is only one of
the many questions being addressed by
the Experimental Ecology research unit.
Both phytoplankton and phytobenthos,
plants living at the bottom of the sea,
form the base of complex food webs.
Invertebrate animals occupy intermedia-
te positions, while large ﬁsh and marine
mammals are at the top trophic level.
Also at the very top of the food web are
human beings. A special net is used to collect zooplankton and small ﬁsh.
12 R ESEARCH D IVISION 3
The working groups of the Experimental Ecology unit attempt
to discern the complex relationships within the planktonic
and benthic communities in order to identify the structure of
oceanic food webs. The scientists investigate aspects such as
who is predator, who is prey, which organism protects others,
who proﬁts from changes through adaptation and who suf-
The role of chemical interactions bet-
ween organisms is of growing interest
since scientists discovered that many
relationships are controlled by highly
effective defence and alarm substances.
Experimental ecologists also focus incre-
asingly on the question of the anthropo-
genic inﬂuence on marine ecosystems. In
both laboratory and ﬁeld studies, they
manipulate environmental parameters
of planktonic and benthic communities
to simulate observed changes in the
ocean. The resulting effects on individu-
al species and the community as a whole
are documented and analysed. A further
line of research is the study of the impact
of imported species on ecosystems, as
well as the identiﬁcation of conditions
leading to mass proliferations of certain
algal species or jellyﬁsh. The results of
these studies enable an early identiﬁca-
tion of ecosystem changes and the pre-
diction of future developments.
The priority programme AQUASHIFT of
the German Research Foundation (DFG)
is part of the Experimental Ecology unit.
The main focus of this programme is the
study of the impact of climate variability
on aquatic ecosystems.
The largest data bank for ﬁsh species worldwide is coordinated
by scientists at IFM-GEOMAR. Currently, FishBase includes
about 30,000 scientiﬁc species and 210,000 colloquial names.
Evolutionary Ecologists of Marine Fishes from numerous
marine research institutes all over the world have contributed
to this project.
More information can be obtained at:
Evolution in ”Action” methods. Evolution processes can develop and have a strong emphasis on the North
Almost 30,000 species of ﬁsh exist world- within few generations to a measurable and Baltic Sea. Ecological processes are
wide and about 18,000 of them are salt- ”evolution in action”. In particular, this is studied in the ﬁeld and, for ﬁsh species
water species. Of these, only about one true for ”host-parasite” interactions, amenable to experimentation, in meso-
hundred are relevant to commercial ﬁsh- where an arms race between ﬁsh hosts cosms or aquaria. The results from the
ing, yet their potential as a food supply and parasites can be observed. Immune research unit Evolutionary Ecology of
is being threatened by extreme reduc- defence by the host is countered by the Marine Fishes will build the conceptional
tions in their stock. Excessive commercial parasite ability to infect and exploit. In basis for a sustainable management of
ﬁshing is threatening not only ﬁsh such as the face of global climate change, a ﬁsh stocks. In addition, the scientists will
herring, cod and sole - the entire marine highly relevant question is whether or deliver urgently needed data of genetic
food chain is strongly impaired in many not host or parasite will proﬁt from the adaptability of species and of damaging
areas of the ocean. increasing environmental stress, and impacts caused by parasites and epide-
Simultaneously, the usage of fish by whether some very virulent parasites will mics.
humans has led to genetic changes in the spread in certain areas.
fish population such as earlier sexual Other working areas are the effects of
maturity or slower growth. The Evolutio- ocean acidiﬁcation on early life stages,
nary Ecology of Marine Fishes analyses the ecology of ﬁsh larvae and the func-
the selection factors and the genetic basis tion of cephalops (e.g. squids) and ﬁsh in
of the observed changes using state-of- the marine food web. The research activi-
the-art genomic and transcriptomic ties concentrate on the North Atlantic
Fishermen with a catch of tuna on the Cape Verde islands. The impression of abundance is misleading: Algae in the basin of an integrated
in many areas of the ocean tuna stocks have been greatly reduced due to excessive commercial ﬁshing. circulation system.
The Data and Computer Centre
The data and computer centre of IFM-GEOMAR is responsible for administering and operating all
central compute, application and ﬁle servers. The computer specialists have interconnected more
than 500 workstations and ensure the web security for all employees. Furthermore, they have esta-
blished access to the high-speed net of the University of Kiel to carry out high performance com-
putations. The computing staff is also responsible for managing the large data bases collected by
the scientists of IFM-GEOMAR, as well as the web site of the institute. The hardware includes com-
puters of all sizes, ranging from supercomputers to PCs.
R ESEARCH D IVISION 4
Dynamics of the Ocean Floor
Vast mountain chains, deep canyons, spouting volcanoes and black smokers ˆ these are the topographic elements that
characterize the seaﬂoor, more than two thirds of the surface area of our planet. The outer layer of the Earth is a rela-
tively thin crust that ”ﬂoats” on a hot and plastic mantle. This crust comprises many individual plates that are in con-
stant motion relative to one another. At their boundaries, plates can drift apart, collide or move past each other, there-
by forming new crust, destroying crust or deforming it.
Earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis are the ”side effects” of these plate movements. These tectonic and volcanic pro-
cesses at plate boundaries also inﬂuence our lives indirectly. For example, gases released from the sea can interact with
the atmosphere and thereby inﬂuence the global climate. In the division Dynamics of the Ocean Floor, the research
units Geodynamics and Magmatic and Hydrothermal systems investigate the geophysical, geochemical, hydrothermal
and volcanic processes that occur at the bottom of the ocean.
Relief map of the Paciﬁc coast off
Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The tracks
indicate areas of the subduction
zone mapped with multibeam echo
sounder by IFM-GEOMAR scientists.
Co-operative Research Efforts
Institutes working individually can no longer meet the challenges in modern marine science. In all
disciplines of oceanography, the concerted effort of specialists from all over the world is required
in order to ﬁnd answers to today's global problems. IFM-GEOMAR participates in many of these
national and international projects ranging from the promotion of graduate students to the esta-
blishment of a worldwide network of ocean observatories and the shared use of research vessels.
The most important partners of IFM-GEOMAR in Europe include the French national institute IFRE-
MER (Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer) and the NOCS (National Ocean-
ography Centre Southampton), Great Britain. With these two partners a Memorandum of Under-
standing was signed in 2008. In addition, IFM-GEOMAR is a member of the European Marine Board
of the European Science Foundation.
Plates in Motion deployed in order. Some of these instru-
The dynamic processes on the seaﬂoor ments, such as the ocean bottom seismo-
usually take place unaware to us. Occa- meter and the ocean bottom hydropho-
sionally, spectacular or catastrophic ne, were developed at IFM-GEOMAR.
events remind us of the seething earth New pressure sensors which can be
beneath our feet. The results of the anchored on the seaﬂoor can be used to
powerful forces unleashed during such detect earthquakes but can also be incor-
events are visible everywhere: parts of porated into early warning systems for
the Himalayas, for example, comprise tsunamis. In addition to these research
oceanic crust that was folded and thrust projects, the Geodynamics research unit is
upwards about 65 million years ago. A involved in large-scale mapping of the
recent example with tragic consequences seaﬂoor using side-scan sonar. Specialized
is the tsunami that ﬂooded the coasts of software is applied to process the data
Southeast Asia on 26 December 2004, and to produce bathymetric maps. These
causing the death of hundreds of thou- three-dimensional depictions of the sea-
sands people. The giant wave was trig- floor deliver images of areas on our
gered by an earthquake deep below the planet that are normally hidden to our
Indian Ocean. The epicentre could be eyes.
localised at a subduction zone, a plate
boundary at which one plate is thrust
beneath the other. As the two plates col-
An ocean bottom seismometer (OBS) developed by
lide, tension increases until one plate
IFM-GEOMAR to measure seismic waves.
”slips” past the other in a sudden move-
ment. The energy thus released can lead
to earthquakes, underwater landslides
Scientists of the Geodynamics research
unit investigate seafloor processes at
active and passive continental margins.
Subduction zones are tectonically active
and can be found in Southeast Asia and
around the entire Paciﬁc Ocean in a zone
known as the ”Ring of Fire”. Passive con-
tinental margins, on the other hand, are
located around the Atlantic Ocean. In
order to collect data on seaﬂoor seismic
activity different instruments can be
A bathymetric map of a segment of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. At this plate
boundary, the African and South American Plates are pushed apart by
the formation of new ocean ﬂoor.
The ”Konsortium Deutsche Meeresforschung”
Founded in 2003 the ”Konsortium Deutsche Meeresforschung” (KDM) or German Marine Research
Consortium focuses the interests of German marine research and represents its members in natio-
nal and European political forums, as well as in the general public. A further goal is the strategic
planning and coordination of research projects in all disciplines, as well as the coordination and
long-term planning of investments in the ﬂeet of research vessels and major oceanographic equip-
ment. The consortium operates a permanent office in Berlin and has 13 members.
More information can be found at:
16 R ESEARCH D IVISION 4
Recycling of Oceanic Crust
New oceanic crust is constantly
being produced along huge cracks
in the depths of the ocean which
are formed when tectonic plates
move apart. Magma that was
formed deep in the mantle rises
through these cracks and, when
cooled, builds new oceanic crust. By
this process, the seaﬂoor is con-
stantly being renewed at these
divergent plate margins. The mar-
gins extend for about 60 thousand
kilometres along the peaks of
underwater mountain chains
known as mid-ocean ridges.
Massive sulﬁdes from the PACMANUS
hydrothermal ﬁelds off the coast of
Papua New Guinea.
Since the Earth is not expanding, the production of
new crust in some areas leads inevitably to the
destruction of crust in subduction zones, where the
oceanic crust is recycled into the mantle. This sea-
ﬂoor conveyor belt that leads to the recycling of oce-
anic crust is the focus of the Magmatic and Hydro-
thermal Systems research unit.
An IFM-GEOMAR scientist sampling gas from
the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala to analyze
1 mm Colorful microscopic image of seaﬂoor basalt.
Geologists at IFM-GEOMAR collect rock samples in order to
determine their volcanic history through volcanological, geo-
chemical and dating analyses. Also, they interpret the trans-
port and eruption mechanisms during their genesis. There are
many different means of rock sampling, both shipboard and
from research submersibles. In the laboratories back on shore,
the scientists analyse the chemical composition of the rocks
using mass spectrometers, x-ray ﬂuorescence and other high
tech methods. This information builds a foundation not only
for understanding processes of crustal formation, but also for
understanding the geologic evolution of our planet.
Due to modern technology, the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)
ABYSS can perform high resolution sea-ﬂoor mapping, take photos
and other measurements in water depths up to 6,000 metres.
Hydrothermal vents on the ocean ﬂoor: The ROV KIEL 6000 is the most advanced remotely controlled underwater vehicle
a white smoker in the Southwest Paciﬁc at 1,700 meters depth. world-wide. It can take video-controlled observations, measurements and samples
in water depths up to 6,000 metres. Thus, the remotely controlled vehicle can
reach more than 90% of all sea ﬂoors.
18 E XCELLENCE C LUSTER & C OLLABORATIVE R ESEARCH C ENTRES
The Excellence Cluster ”The Future Ocean”
Who owns the ocean? What are the consequences of the increasing acidiﬁcation of the world ocean? Can marine organisms help us to
defend severe diseases? These are only some topics which are currently investigated in the excellence cluster ”The Future Ocean”. Since
2006, 13 new research groups located at the Christian-Albrechts University, IFM-GEOMAR and the Institute for the World Economy have
been investigating the opportunities and risks of the future ocean. Another partner of the 5-year programme is the Muthesius School of
Fine Arts which supports the cluster in terms of public relation and communication through creative exhibitions.
SFB 574: Volatiles and Fluids in Subduction Zones:
Climate Feedback and Trigger Mechanisms for Natural Disasters
The subduction process at convergent plate margins triggers a varie-
ty of natural hazards including high-magnitude earthquakes, explo-
sive volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis. Volatiles such as
water, carbon dioxide, sulphur and chlorine are released from the
subducting plate into the overlying mantle generating volatile-rich
magmas that rise to the surface. The volatiles are emitted into the
atmosphere during volcanic eruptions and can thus affect the clima-
te, even on a global scale.
Since 2001, SFB 574 has investigated the impacts of volatiles and ﬂuids
on the climate and natural disasters. Off- and on-shore studies provi-
de a coherent picture of how diverse subduction processes are inter-
related and how the system as a whole functions. New data, for
example of volcanic gas ﬂuxes, are now being incorporated into cli-
mate simulations. A major new focus of SFB 574 is the hazard assess-
ment of two of Latin America's most active volcanoes (Llaima and Vil-
The oceanic plate is subducted beneath the continental margin off Costa
larrica in Chile), which is contributing to the establishment of early Rica, thereby releasing volatiles and ﬂuids. The areas of emission provide a
warning systems for eruptions from these volcanoes. habitat for organisms such as mussels and tube worms.
SFB 754: Biogeochemical Interactions in the Tropical Ocean
How much CO2 can the oceans absorb in future? Is the amount of
oxygen in the world ocean declining? In this context, what is the role
of key regions such as the eastern tropical Atlantic and Paciﬁc?
Regions in the area of Cape Verde that have been sparsely investiga-
ted may hide many important information about the complex inter-
actions between chemical and biological processes in the ocean. Here,
the saying ”small cause big effect” might become relevant: Small
changes in chemical parameters could have large impacts on the
marine ecosystems. On the global scale, important consequences
would follow. Field experiment as well as model studies are required
to understand the complex relationships and to recognize possible
risks in time.
Oxygen distribution in the world ocean
What are Collaborative Research Centres?
The German Science Foundation supports different kinds of research programmes in all areas of science. One of the
programme types is the so-called Sonderforschungsbereich (SFB) or Collaborative Research Centre. The SFB pro-
gramme is unique in that it unites scientists from different disciplines on a research topic that is assessed to be of
high priority. Collaborative Research Centres are established as temporary programmes with the aim of, not only
promoting multidisciplinary cooperation, but also of supporting young scientists and students. The German Science
Foundation places high expectations on these special projects, in particular the achievement of scientiﬁc results of
international standard. The maximum support time for an SFB grant is 12 years, divided in project assessment inter-
vals of three to four years. All science faculties at universities can apply for an SFB, while extra-university research
institutes such as IFM-GEOMAR participate in cooperation with the lead university. Therefore, although most of the
research for SFB 574 and SFB 754 is conducted at IFM-GEOMAR, the projects are officially affiliated with the Uni-
versity of Kiel.
C URRICULA AND T EACHING A CTIVITIES
The Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences coopera-
tes with the University of Kiel to offer students a
broad education in marine sciences.
IFM-GEOMAR is responsible for the curricula in International Cooperation:
• Physics of the Earth System: Meteorology - Oceanogra- • POMOR: German-Russian course of study for applied polar
phy - Geophysics (Bachelor) and marine sciences. Up until now, it has only been available
for Russian students, however, the course will become avai-
• Biological Oceanography: (Master) lable for students from other European countries. The pro-
gramme is offered in cooperation with the Universities of
• Climate Physics: Meteorology and Physical Oceanogra- Bremen und St. Petersburg, the Alfred Wegener Institute for
phy (Master) Polar- and Marine Research (AWI) and the Association of
North German Universities.
Students in other courses of study at the University of Further information available at:
Kiel can choose marine science classes as subsidiary sub- www.pomor.de
jects. IFM-GEOMAR also offers seminars and classes in
Marine Geology and Geophysics. • GAME: international academic and research programme in
Interdisciplinary education is supported through the Marine Ecology for master students in Biology. More than 20
Integrated School of Ocean Sciences (ISOS) of the excel- institutes from 5 different continents participate in GAME.
lence cluster ”The Future Ocean”. Further information under:
• China: Graduate and post-graduate programme with the
Ocean University of China in Qingdao, in cooperation with
the Universities in Kiel and Bremen.
The Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU)
The CAU in Kiel represents the centre of scientiﬁc learning in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. More than 2,000
scientists teach and conduct research at the Christian-AlbrechtsˆUniversität, which is attended by more than
20,000 students. The university was founded in 1665 by Christian Albrecht, the Duke of Holstein-Gottorf. At that
time, it comprised the four faculties Justice, Theology, Medicine and Philosophy. With the faculties Mathematics
and Sciences, Economy and Social Sciences, Agriculture and Nutrition, and Technology added over the years, the
Kiel University now offers a broad spectrum of higher education. Kiel's location on the bight with a direct con-
nection to the open ocean naturally led to the development of yet another scientiﬁc focus: the interdisciplinary
ﬁeld of marine sciences currently strengthened through the excellence cluster ”The Future Ocean”. Today IFM-
GEOMAR enjoys an international reputation and provides an ideal working environment for oceanographers
from all disciplines ˆ Biology, Chemistry, Geology and Physics.
Tel: +49-431 600-1637
Address: Kiellinie, D-24105 Kiel
T HE A QUARIUM
The underwater voyage begins in the Baltic
further on to the North Sea and on to the
Atlantic Ocean. From there the visitor tra-
vels to warmer waters of the Mediterrane-
an Sea and ﬁnally, to the colourful and
fascinating world of tropical coral reefs.
The aquarium of IFM-GEOMAR offers the
public a glimpse of our planet's different
underwater worlds. The indoor part of the
aquarium houses sea bass, molly miller,
thornback ray, anemones, seahorses and
many other fascinating inhabitants of the
seas. Several seals play and frolic in the
large outdoor basin, which has both surfa-
ce and underwater viewing possibilities and
offers public access 24 hours a day. The IFM-
GEOMAR aquarium attempts to display the
animals in a submarine habitat that is as
authentic as possible. More than 85,000
visitors enjoy these exhibits every year. On
the one hand, the aquarium serves to intro-
duce the public to the seemingly endless
diversity of life in the sea, on the other
hand it also serves as a research facility for
the Marine Ecology division. Scientists can
investigate for example the effect of
nutrient quality, temperature and other
environmental factors based on the growth
rate of different organisms.
Start-up Research for School Kids: The NaT-Working Project
Initiated as part of the NaT-Working Programme by Robert Bosch Foundation, IFM-GEOMAR's
outreach project NaT-Working Marine Research fosters young people's interest in science and tech-
nology through joint projects with the institute's researchers. This direct cooperation with ten high
schools in Kiel and surroundings complements science classes at school: high school students discuss
current topics such as climate research or marine ecology with scientists at IFM-GEOMAR. Through
laboratory sessions and practical courses, they get a better insight into scientiﬁc methods and
thought processes, giving them a head start for their university education. The projects vary from
short courses to long-term studies. They are conducted both in the schools and at IFM-GEOMAR and
are an integral part of research projects such as IFM-GEOMAR's SFBs.
Published by: Editors: Uta Deinet, Andreas Villwock
Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences
IFM-GEOMAR Design: Ralf Ehe & Tom Janneck GbR
Tel.: + 49 - 431 600 - 0 Agentur für moderne Kommunikation
Fax: + 49 - 431 600 - 2805 Dominik Bednarz
eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org Printing: 2nd edition, 2000 copies
www.ifm-geomar.de Printed by: DFN Kiel