NEWS | 18.02.2021

Alfred Wegener Institute Now Also Represented in Lower Saxony

With the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity at the University of Oldenburg, the AWI expands its circle of funders

17. February 2021 As of 1 January 2021, Lower Saxony is part of the federal and state financing for the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), a member of the DAM. The inclusion of the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity, co-founded with the University of Oldenburg, also a member of the DAM, in 2017, means that there are now AWI sites in four states.

With the research conducted at the site in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, the Alfred Wegener Institute is expanding its expertise in the field of marine biodiversity. The Oldenburg-based Helmholtz Centre for Functional Marine Biodiversity (HIFMB) focuses on biodiversity change and ecosystem functions, as well as marine protection and management. The newly created professorships for biodiversity theory, marine policy, marine protection, and ecosystem informatics will complement and expand the areas of research of the university and AWI, allowing them to be addressed in a more targeted way.

“With the new professors we can significantly increase our research on marine biodiversity. There are millions of unknown species living in the oceans, which as communities support essential marine functions, such as chemical cycles, food webs and reef formation,” says AWI Director Prof. Antje Boetius. “Their biological interactions and the changes in their networks caused by human activities, along with the scientific basis for their protection, are important issues that can now be investigated at the highest level with further partners at the University of Oldenburg,” she adds.

“Our long-term scientific collaboration is based on a shared interest in marine research. Furthermore, the close proximity of Bremerhaven and Oldenburg makes personal exchanges between employees easier,” says Dr Karsten Wurr. “Helmholtz Institutes are an essential instrument for improving networking between the Helmholtz Centres and universities. In terms of our collaboration, the joint appointment of the four professors is just as important as educating the next generation of scientists,” explains the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Administrative Director.

“For Lower Saxony, this represents a further step toward lastingly reinforcing and increasing the visibility of our marine research,” says the state’s Minister of Science and Culture, Björn Thümler. “At the same time, integration in a major academic organisation improves the conditions for pursuing cutting-edge research.” The continued functioning of marine ecosystems depends on the biodiversity of the oceans. Addressing the key question of to what extent and how this biodiversity is reacting to global warming and anthropogenic influences is the most important research focus at the institute in Oldenburg. “With their research on marine ecosystems, the experts at the HIFMB provide a key building block to improve our understanding of climate change,” adds Thümler. The inclusion of Lower Saxony in the joint federal and state financing means additional annual funding of roughly 6 million euros for the AWI.


The Helmholtz Centres are supported by federal and state financing, 90 percent of which is federal, while the remaining ten percent comes from the state in which the respective centre is based. For the Alfred Wegener Institute the relevant federal states are Bremen, where the AWI headquarters are located; Brandenburg, home to a research site in Potsdam; Schleswig-Holstein, with the Helgoland and Sylt sites, and now also Lower Saxony, with the Oldenburg site. In a working group created for the purpose, representatives of the AWI, federal and state governments discussed and finalised the necessary amendments to the Law for Creating the Foundation (Errichtungsgesetz), Consortium Agreement and AWI Charter. The “Fourth Law to Amend the Law for Creating the Foundation Under Public Law ‘Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research’” came into effect on 15 March 2019. According to the new Consortium Agreement of 18 December 2020, as of 1 January 2021, Lower Saxony is responsible for 0.85 percent of the institute’s annual budget of ca. 100 million euros, as are Schleswig-Holstein and Brandenburg; Bremen covers 7.45 percent of the required funding.


Folke Mehrtens
Press Office
Mail: folke.mehrtens(at)awi.de

Header image: Corals (Alfred Wegener Institute / J. Gutt)


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