Press release

30 years of Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research - Ice, sea and climate – research to understand our Earth better

[14. July 2010] 

Bremerhaven, 14 July 2010. The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association will be thirty years old on 15 July. Through its innovative scientific and excellent research infrastructure the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) has developed into one of the world’s leading internationally recognised centres for climate research on both polar regions and the oceans.

Since the polar regions play a central role in global climate activity, research on them makes a decisive contribution to revealing the complex interrelationships in the Earth system: “Our research focuses on the goal of deciphering the driving forces and processes in climate activity,” says Prof. Karin Lochte, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute. “Our results supply key parts to the puzzle that help us to understand the complex overall global picture.” An overall picture that is urgently necessary to make appropriate, knowledge-based political decisions on questions relating to the future of humankind.

The Alfred Wegener Institute is distinguished by top research on sea ice, the polar oceans and their ecosystems, the North Sea, Wadden Sea, the ice shelves of Greenland and the Antarctic, the polar atmosphere, permafrost regions, the climate history and past of our Earth. Other characteristic features include its strong international network and broad scientific expertise. To solve the questions of today, biosciences, geosciences and climate sciences work closely together. Field research under extreme conditions is just as much part of the everyday tasks as work in modern laboratories, with high-performance computers and methods of remote sensing.

Because polar and marine research is always also a logistics challenge, AWI has an excellent infrastructure that it makes available to the national and international scientific community. This includes research vessels like the ‘Polarstern’ and the ‘Heincke’, research stations manned seasonally or throughout the year, such as Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic and the German-French research base ‘AWIPEV’ on Spitsbergen, scientific observatories, innovative measuring systems and the polar aircraft ‘Polar 5’.

The Alfred Wegener Institute is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the largest scientific organization in Germany. The Federal Research Ministry provides 90 percent of the funding. The federal state of Bremen accounts for eight percent, the states of Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein one percent each. In addition to the headquarters in Bremerhaven, the research centre includes the Potsdam research unit, the Biological Institute Helgoland and the Sylt Wadden Sea station. The institute has a budget of around 120 million euros and 920 employees.

The Bremen Senate promulgated the law adopted by the state parliament (Bürgerschaft) to set up a foundation under public law, “Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Research”, on 15 July 1980. In 1986 AWI joined together with the Institute for Marine Research in Bremerhaven, expanded the focal points of its work to include complementary investigations in other marine regions and changed its name to Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. The Potsdam research unit of the Alfred Wegener Institute launched its work in 1992. It very successfully further developed polar research of GDR and its long-term programmes into top international research. The Biological Institute Helgoland (BAH) became part of the foundation in 1998. The many years of experience and know-how in research on marginal seas like the North Sea and densely populated, economically important coastal zones represented an outstanding addition to AWI’s research profile and led to synergy effects that have improved the position of German marine research in the face of international competition.

Notes for Editors:

Your contact person at the Alfred Wegener Institute is Folke Mehrtens, Department of Communications and Media Relations (phone +49 (0) 471 4831-2007, e-mail: Please find printable images at

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and oceans of the high and mid latitudes. It coordinates polar research in Germany and provides major infrastructure to the international scientific community, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctic. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the sixteen research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.


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Das Institut

Das Alfred-Wegener-Institut forscht in den Polarregionen und Ozeanen der mittleren und hohen Breiten. Als eines von 19 Forschungszentren der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft koordiniert es Deutschlands Polarforschung und stellt Schiffe wie den Forschungseisbrecher Polarstern und Stationen für die internationale Wissenschaft zur Verfügung.