Press release

Prof Karen Wiltshire to become the new Chair of the international oceanographic research organisation POGO

[26. January 2015] 

Bremerhaven, 26 January 2015. On next Tuesday, 27 January 2015, Prof Karen Wiltshire will assume the office of Chair for the oceanographic research organisation POGO. During her upcoming one-year term of office the Vice-Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), plans to promote the formation of partnerships between research ships in the Atlantic, and to improve the networking of researchers who use long-term data. Further, she hopes to encourage scientists to take on a more proactive role in the establishment of marine protected areas.

“I would like to use my time as Chair to encourage the leading international marine research institutions united in POGO to become more actively involved in political processes”, says AWI Vice-Director Prof Karen Wiltshire, citing the creation of marine protected areas as a prime example. This is because it is important that science does more than ‘just’ provide the data needed for the designation of protected areas; as Wiltshire explains, “When it comes to management plans for marine protected areas and monitoring them, researchers are called upon to employ cutting-edge ocean observation systems.”

The Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) offers an excellent platform for pursuing that goal. It brings together the leading minds from 38 major oceanographic research institutions in its 19 member countries, e.g. in the upcoming Annual Meeting from 27 to 29 January in Tenerife, Spain. During the event Karen Wiltshire will succeed Prof John Field (Marine Research Institute MA-RE, University of Cape Town, South Africa) as Chair of POGO in keeping with the established rotation policy.

To date, POGO has primarily been composed of larger countries. One of Wiltshire’s further goals is to foster networking with new partners like Ireland and Poland, but also with more remote coastal countries like Bangladesh. One instrument that can help make global networking a reality is the international scholarship programme Centre of Excellence in Observational Oceanography, currently in its second year at the Alfred Wegener Institute, in which AWI researchers and other experts train scholarship recipients from newly industrialised and developing countries to become ocean experts in their own right. Further, POGO and Japan’s Nippon Foundation provide support for research and travel activities through the accompanying alumni programme, helping to ensure that the scholarship programme produces lasting effects in the students’ home countries and promotes networking. As Wiltshire relates, “Today, POGO already has members on every continent of the globe. Establishing personal contacts is a good way to gain additional partners.”

A more short-term goal is to intensify cooperation between those researchers who work with long-term oceanographic data. In this context, Wiltshire has several years experience with the Helgoland Roads time series – a data set of physical and biological parameters from the North Sea that spans more than 50 years. “Global questions like the effects of rising temperatures on our oceans can only be answered with the support of international partners”, emphasises Wiltshire.

In order to improve the data available to those on the high seas, in the future a network of research ships in the Atlantic is to be created. Irish research institutes joined the initiative in autumn 2014 with their RV Celtic Explorer, and the US-based Woods Hole SEA Semester Training Center also plans to offer places for oceanographic research work on its ships. For its part, the Alfred Wegener Institute will weigh in with its research vessel Polarstern: This autumn, there will be places for the programme (dubbed the POGO Atlantic Partnership) available on board the expedition from Bremerhaven to Cape Town, South Africa.


Further information:


16th annual meeting of POGO:

AWI press release on the Centre of Excellence in Observational Oceanography launch in 2013:


Notes for Editors:

Your contact partner at the Alfred Wegener Institute is Prof Karen Wiltshire – please note that she has only limited access to her mail while attending the meeting (Tel.: +49 4651 956-4112 ; email: At our press office, Dr Folke Mehrtens (Tel.: +49 471-4831-2007; email: will also be pleased to help you with any questions.

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The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and in the high and mid-latitude oceans. The Institute coordinates German polar research and provides important infrastructure such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic to the national and international scientific world. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the 18 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.