Icepolygones (Photo: Konstanze Piel)

Our main objective is to elucidate the two major cycles (water and heat) in the complex Arctic landscape system at scales from metres to kilometres (meso-scale). The goal is to close the gap between our small-scale process understanding and the large scale that is accessible to satellite remote sensing.

We work intensively at two Arctic sites in Siberia (Lena Delta) and Spitsbergen (Ny-Alesund). Through international cooperation, additional sites in Alaska and Canada complement the circumpolar analysis. The Arctic ecosystems range from warm, maritime conditions with low above ground biomass (Spitsbergen), over medium, continental climate with high above ground biomass (North Slope, Alaska) towards extreme cold, dry but ice rich permafrost conditions with medium biomass (Lena Delta, Siberia).

By studying these different locations, we hope to gain an understanding of how changes in annual and inter-annual heat and water processes and potentially offset the balance and stability of the Arctic climate system.

In particular, we focus on:

  • Establishing spatial and temporal linkages between water and energy fluxes at the plot and landscape scales of different permafrost affected ecosystems;
  • Developing a process-oriented model for the typical Arctic permafrost system to predict subsurface processes (soil water and heat);
  • Use of innovative aerial imaging methods, including telescopic rods, ballons, kites and drones;
  • Instrumentation on soil thermal and hydrologic dynamic and micrometeorology with spatially distributed measurements; and
  • Long term monitoring of data.

The research is based at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Research Unit Potsdam and networked with the Faculty of Chemistry and Geosciences and Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Heidelberg.


To tackle our research questions, we are using different methods.

This includes conventional measurements, as well as innovative and new approaches. Detailed information about the used methods can be found here:


projects and partners

Currently we are working on the following projects:

Cooperations are between us and:

  • University of York
    Department of Geography
    N430 Ross Building 4700 Keele Street
    Toronto, Ontario M3J1P3


Our team consists of researchers, engineers and students. Together we are working at different research topics.

Some information about recent and finished projects, as well as dissertations, master- and bachelor thesis can be found here.



Several field expedition are conducted every year in our test sites for our field measurements.

More information about our last expeditions as well as pictures can be found here:


field sites and observatories

Depending on our partners and the research project our group is working at different places in the Arctic.

Since many years we are responsible for research stations on Svalbard, Norway and in the Lena Delta, Sibiria.

The exact location, pictures and more information about the sites can be found here.


outreach and education

Our team is actively involved in many education and outreach activities, to make the research results transparent and easy to understand for everybody.

Therfore we go at schools or supporting the 'Kinderuniversität'. An example is the participation in the fairplanet discussion about frozen ground or the contribution to the article: 'Siberia's melting permafrost fuels climate change'.

Please find more about our recent activities at 'news'.