Press release

Tenth anniversary of the German-Russian laboratory for polar and marine research - Prestigious awards for the German partners at the anniversary of the Otto Schmidt Laboratory in Saint Petersburg

[25. November 2009] 

Saint Petersburg, November 25th 2009. The Arctic regions are essential for the global climate and for the ecology of the oceans. Their research is crucial to reconstruct former climate systems and to predict future climate development. German and Russian researchers cooperate closely for this purpose. This cooperation has an institutionalized framework since ten years:  the Otto Schmidt Laboratory in Saint Petersburg.  Researchers from Kiel and Bremerhaven and representatives from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research receive prestigious Russian awards during today’s anniversary celebration (25.11.2009).
Eight months per year metres thick ice cover, heavy storms, and temperatures far below freezing point: this is the East-Siberian Laptev Sea. This region seems cold and repellent at first sight, but global warming can be felt here as well – even more clearly than in other regions of the earth. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association and the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel therefore investigate the climate development and the ecological changes in Laptev Sea together with their Russian colleagues. Exactly ten years ago, the Otto Schmidt Laboratory for Polar and Marine Research (OSL) was established out of this cooperation as an institutional link at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in Saint Petersburg. Since then, the laboratory serves as the interface between the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It is the base for collaborative research projects, which are conducted on the topic of marine and polar research.

Following the scientific symposium on German-Russian cooperation in the Arctic, the celebration of the OSL’s birthday took place today (25.11.2009) in Saint Petersburg. Representatives from the German and Russian partner institutes congratulated the OSL, just like representatives from the German Embassy in Moscow, the BMBF and the former European Minister of the federal state Schleswig-Holstein, Uwe Döring. The Russian hosts honour several German researchers with prestigious awards at the same time: Dr Heidemarie Kassens (IFM-GEOMAR) and Dr Jens Hölemann (Alfred Wegener Institute) receive the State Medal of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation for their great personal contribution to the Russian-German cooperation. Dr Kassens and Dr Hölemann are pioneers of Laptev Sea research and founder members of the Otto Schmidt Laboratory. “This award is a great personal honour for me, of course. However, it also shows the importance of the cooperation attributed by both sides”, says Dr Hölemann, “and this is a good signal for future Arctic research”. Furthermore, the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation and also the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation honour Dr Kirsten Schäfer (IFM-GEOMAR), Dr Karen Volkmann-Lark (IFM-GEOMAR), Dr Barbara Tanner (Project Management Jülich, satellite station Rostock-Warnemünde), Professor Dr Jörn Thiede (University of Copenhagen, long-standing director of the Alfred Wegener Institute and founder member of GEOMAR), and also Reinhard Ollig and Michael Schlicht (BMBF) an award for their great personal contribution towards the development of the joint Russian-German research programme “System Laptev Sea”. All award winners are closely related to the research institution in Saint Petersburg.

The Otto Schmidt Laboratory has developed during the last ten years into a state-of-the-art research institute in the disciplines meteorology, oceanography, marine chemistry, biology and geosciences. It is equipped with modern laboratories and analytical facilities, a computer centre and a virtual library with access to more than 10,000 periodicals. One of the main functions of the Otto Schmidt Laboratory is, next to coordination, the qualification and support of junior scientists. “Arctic research is an international task that can only be accomplished together. The education of junior scientists is a central component of our cooperation with Germany. Global climate change will be a great future challenge especially for the young generation”, emphasizes Professor Leonid A. Timokhov, OSL founder director. 280 scholarship holders from 19 research institutes from the Russian Federation have successfully participated in the OSL grant programme since 1999. The Master study programme “Applied Polar and Marine Sciences” (POMOR) is particularly notable: it is jointly offered and organized by the Alfred Wegener Institute, IFM-GEOMAR, AARI and several universities in the Russian Federation and Germany. “This way, the Otto Schmidt Laboratory does not only support joint research, it furthermore offers highly qualified junior scientists who are internationally connected from the start”, stresses Dr Kassens.

Background information:

The Otto Schmidt Laboratory was founded in 1999. It is named after the Russian mathematician, geophysicist and Arctic researcher Otto Yulievich Schmidt, who conducted several Arctic expeditions in the 1920s and 1930s. He travelled the North-East-Passage for the first time without overwintering on board of the icebreaker “Sibiryakov”. The Otto Schmidt Laboratory is operated and funded on the Russian side by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in Saint Petersburg, by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation and by the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring. On the German side it is funded by the BMBF, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven and by the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel. Furthermore, more than 40 universities and research institutes from Germany and the Russian Federation are currently cooperating at OSL.



Contact persons:

Folke Mehrtens (Alfred Wegener Institute; Communications and Media) phone: +49 471 4831-2007;

Jan Steffen (IFM-GEOMAR; Public Relations), Tel. 0431 600-2811,






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The Institute

The Alfred Wegener Institute pursues research in the polar regions and the oceans of mid and high latitudes. As one of the 19 centres of the Helmholtz Association it coordinates polar research in Germany and provides ships like the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations for the international scientific community.