AWI - Biologische Anstalt Helgoland

The Biologische Anstalt Helgoland was founded in 1892. Since 1998 it has been part of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research. Researchers at the BAH investigate the ecology of our coastal and shelf-sea systems.

With the time series "Helgoland Roads", researchers at the AWI´s Helgoland facilities are working to gather the world´s most detailed collection of data on plankton. At the BAH they offer courses for pupils and university students alike, and work closely together with guest researchers who frequently visit the island. At the Centre for Scientific Diving scientists can learn to be research divers and practice working unterwater.

Research since 1835

The Biologische Anstalt Helgoland is an integral part of the AWI, with a long history of its own. As early as 1835, the natural scientist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg proved that the sea glow around Helgoland is caused by the microscopic single-celled organism Noctiluca scintillans. The scientist Johannes Müller also recognised the island's potential: he founded plankton research on it in 1845.

Helgoland was designated a "Royal Biological Institute" by the Prussian Ministry of Culture in 1892. In the years that followed, it developed into an internationally acknowledged centre of marine biological research. Completely destroyed during the Second World War, the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland was reopened in 1959.

Our research topics

Coastal waters are highly variable ecosystems: changes occur at all time scales (from seconds to decades) and spatial scales (from millimetres to kilometres).

The research of the AWI Section Shelf Sea System Ecology includes:

  • Impacts of natural and non-natural variability and changes in communities in the water column and on the bottom of the sea.
  • How individual organisms react to a range of different stressors in terms of their physiology, ecology and evolution. This involves monitoring and assessing bacteria, viruses, plankton and fish in various types of experiments (laboratory, mesocosm and fieldwork).
  • Data analysis from the „Helgoland Roads” time series, the COSYNA underwater observations, and other long-term observations.
  • Strengthening the population of and re-introducing endangered native animal species, in particular the European lobster and European oyster.