Antje Boetius once again appointed Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute

Her second-term goals: weathering global crisis, building the Polarstern II, and launching an international Antarctic mission
[03. November 2022] 

Polar researcher and deep-sea biologist Antje Boetius will head the Alfred Wegener Institute, which she has coordinated since November 2017, for another five years. In her first term as Director, she has made essential contributions to strong international networking and increasing the visibility of German polar and marine research, overseen the largest expedition in the institute’s history, and paved the way for the construction of the new Polarstern II. Despite the numerous crises currently facing our world, her plans for the years to come remain ambitious: she intends e.g. to forge an international partnership to back a major research mission to the Antarctic, and to boost the prominence of findings on the network of life in our seas and how it can be preserved.

"The Alfred Wegener Institute directed by Prof. Boetius is the German competence center for polar and marine research. With the coordination of the MOSAiC expedition, the largest Arctic expedition of all time, it has impressively demonstrated its capabilities. I am all the more pleased that Prof. Boetius will continue to lead the AWI for the next five years. I congratulate her warmly on this," says Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger.

“I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Board of Governors of the Alfred Wegener Institute for their continued trust and choosing to reappoint me as Director. I also wish to thank all of the AWI staff. Over the past five years, we’ve worked together to produce considerable momentum in polar and marine research, despite the challenges posed by several global crises. It’s now more vital than ever that, through our work, we lend the future of our coasts, seas and polar regions an even louder voice,” says Antje Boetius.

Under Antje Boetius’ leadership, the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) has substantially enhanced its standing – and not just in the global research community, but also far beyond. In this regard, today the international MOSAiC expedition remains an unrivalled example of successful and meaningful polar research. From 2019 to 2020, the German icebreaker Polarstern drifted, frozen in the ice, through the Arctic Ocean, while the observations made during the Polar Night were shared directly via app, photos and videos. Just a few weeks ago, the AWI and the MOSAiC expedition were awarded the Arctic Circle Prize at a ceremony in Iceland. The prize recognises outstanding contributions to ensuring a sustainable future for the Arctic.

With regard to her first term in office, Boetius is also pleased with the increased collaboration with various partners in the State of Bremen and the vicinity; and with the networking between the Helmholtz Centres for Earth system research and in the German Alliance for Marine Research. Especially in these difficult times, she argues, collaboration and knowledge transfer are essential. Accordingly, she has supported innovative approaches to science communication and personally contributed to plays, concerts, digital events and major media productions on the institute’s research topics.

“We’ve shown what can be achieved when we think in terms of major research missions.”

In her second term, Boetius plans to advance research into biodiversity in the oceans and coastal regions. At the AWI facilities in Oldenburg, the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity is now expanding, thanks to new international appointments. Its research focus areas include the relationship between human beings and the ocean, and approaches to protecting and restoring endangered marine environments.

In addition, Boetius plans to initiate an Antarctic mission as part of the UN’s Ocean Decade, working together with a range of international partner institutions to do so. The Alfred Wegener Institute will investigate the Antarctic’s climate and ecosystem, and the future of the Antarctic ice sheets in the face of global warming, in unprecedented detail and, for the first time, through synchronised efforts across the continent. “The search for the unknown, and at times unplanned discoveries in a world that, in many ways, remains unexplored, will always remain at the heart of our excellent foundational research. At the same time, over the past few years we’ve shown what can be achieved when we think in terms of major research missions, embarked upon together with partners from around the world. In the years to come, we plan to focus a mission on the Antarctic before climate change can transform it. In this regard, we also want to make knowledge concerning our planet accessible to far more people,” says Boetius.

In addition to these research initiatives, numerous infrastructure projects are on the agenda. For example, at the AWI headquarters in Bremerhaven, the new Technical Centre will open its doors, offering a focal point for innovative maritime technologies. And following on the heels of the recently christened new coastal research cutter Uthörn – the first seagoing ship to run on sustainable methanol – the next major project will be constructing the Polarstern II, a new flagship for German polar research and its partners.

Moreover, next year Antje Boetius will, for the first time since assuming the Directorship, lead an expedition on board the Polarstern. During the ArcWatch expedition, she and an international team will assess how the retreat of the Arctic sea ice has affected the ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean – down to the ocean’s floor and throughout the North Pole region – over the past decade.

Antje Boetius – vitae in brief

Antje Boetius is a polar and deep-sea researcher and Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research. As head of the Joint Research Group for Deep-sea Ecology and Technology at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and a Professor of Geomicrobiology, she is also part of the University of Bremen’s Cluster of Excellence MARUM. Boetius has taken part in nearly 50 expeditions on international research vessels. Her current research activities focus on the effects of climate change on the Arctic Ocean, and on the biodiversity of the deep sea. She is a recipient of the DFG’s Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize and Communicator Award, the German Environmental Award (2018), and the Federal Cross of Merit (2019). She is a member of the “Leopoldina – National Academy of the Sciences” and further national and international academies and professional associations, and an active science communicator.

More information about Antje Boetius and her research: 

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