Ongoing Projects

PROMISE 2018 - 2021

Protist Metabolome Screening - PROMISE



Prof. Tilmann Harder (Coordinator) - AWI & Universität Bremen

Dr. Uwe John - AWI & HIFMB

Dr. Sylke Wohlrab - AWI & HIFMB

Prof. Phillipe Schmitt-Kopplin - Helmholtz Zentrum München

Prof. Bente Edvardsen - University of Oslo

Prof. Patrick Keeling - University of British Columbia

Dr. Ramon Massana - Institut de Ciències del Mar


Project Summary

Marine eukaryotic protists offer a huge but currently underexploited reservoir of metabolic pathways with biotechnological potential. Given their unique adaptations through symbiosis, endosymbiosis and organelle acquisition, the ecofunctionalities of protists present a hitherto untapped source to discover novel metabolic pathways and bioactivities whilst bearing a high chance of discovering different activities compared to those identified in marine sources, such as bacteria.

The scientific approach and rationale sets PROMiSE apart from many previous scientific initiatives exploiting the biotechnological potential of marine bacteria. The PROMiSE experimental workflow enables this by employing a comprehensive set of Omics methods. This approach spans the encoded metabolic potential to identify biosynthetic gene clusters which in turn guide the targeted metabolite profiling, merged with discovery-based metabolomics. The goal is to target identified candidate compound classes and their pathway-related metabolites and conjugations dereplicated from the Omics information. By linking these methods back to the source cell through single cell Omic methods, PROMiSE offers a unique way to recognize functional gene clusters and to understand how metabolism is partitioned across ecosystems. This is important to unravel how the identified pathways work in nature, and by extension, how they can be expressed and utilized for technological adaptations relevant to a human health and biotechnology market.

The vertically integrated extraction and analyses procedure within PROMiSE are supported by a comprehensive array of cutting-edge in vitro and in vivo bioassays for reliably assessing biological activities by High-Content profiling and antibacterial screening. Analytical chemistry, including high resolution mass spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance spetroscopy approaches, will be used to elucidate compounds found in the bioactive fractions, which will tie back the molecular data to identify relevant enzymes, pathways, and compounds.

PROMISE - field sampling campaign

DynAMo 2017 - 2022

BMBF grant

The aim is to build an interdisciplinary, trilateral research group for the joint development of permanent measuring structures for observing climatic changes and their consequences in the environment of the Patagonian Andes (glaciers and lakes, WP1) and in the Beagle Channel (WP2, WP4). In addition to the automated recording of oceanographic and biogeochemical parameters, modern marine technology, such as bio-optical measurement technology and molecular methods, will be integrated into the coastal observatory. In WP3 the investigations into natural hazards with toxic algal blooms, which are ongoing with Chile and Argentina, are being developed. Construction phase: Workshop 1 (2017/10) - Formation of the trilateral co-ordinator team and the thematic groups (WP 1-4). Definition of the strategy for the achievement of scientific-technical cooperation objectives and planning of the application. A data repository is created that summarizes the existing environmental data records and identifies data gaps. Application for joint shipping expedition. 2018: Thematic workshops for more precise elaboration of the WP's collaboration, project workflow and infrastructure planning (for example equipment procurement, working methods and division of tasks between the partners). The applications for third-party funding are prepared and written. The coordinator team prepares the activities with the partners (for example, if necessary, support "partnering", publication and meta database, preparation of the workshops). Consolidation phase: implementation of joint research projects (third-party funding). A joint ship exit is being carried out (period 2019/20). A workshop with a minisymposium for young scientists is planned for 2020. In 2019 and 2021, the coordinator team organizes individual workshops with WP teams. The final workshop of the project will take place at the CADIC (Ushuaia) in 2022. In addition to the screening of the established research structures, the future perspectives of the cooperation will be examined.
Funding period: 09/2017 - 08/2022

AWI Contact
Dr. Bernd Krock


RiPAZA 2017 - 2021

Binational project of BMBF and SOA (State Oceanic Administration), China

The overall objective of this project is to investigate the toxin-producing Dinophycean genus Azadinium and its responses to changing environmental conditions. Azaspiracids (AZA) are a newly discovered group of lipophilic algal toxins that accumulate in filter-feeding bivalves and can cause human illness (Azaspiracid Shellfish Poisoning (AZP)) syndrome after consumption of contaminated  see food. Recently, we were able to identify the planktonic producers of these marine biotoxins as the genus Azadinium (Tillmann et al., 2009), so that now it is now possible to carry out specific studies on the occurrence and potential hazards of these organisms. The aim of this study is to investigate the toxin-producing Dinophycean genus Azadinium and its reaction to changing environmental conditions. The studies form the basis for a comprehensive risk assessment of the flowering of these species and the associated risk of mussel poisoning in Chinese and German coastal waters. The focus is on the current status of the biodiversity of the genus Azadinium, its occurrence (density and seasonality), and the diversity of azaspiracids (structural variants, toxicity). Laboratory experiments are also carried out to investigate the reaction of Azadinium species to climate-related temperature increases. These studies include both cell growth and toxin production, as well as possible temperature influences at various life cycle stages.
Funding period: 08/2017- 07/2021

AWI Contact
Dr. Urban Tillmann

Co-CliME 2017 - 2020

Co-CliME: Co-development of CLimate services for adaptation to changing Marine Ecosystems 2017 - 2020

ERA4CS : European Research Area for Climate Services

Official Webpage

AWI contacts

Prof. Dr. Allan Cembella
Dr. Uwe John
Dr. Kerstin Töbe


European coastal ecosystems are changing as a result of interactions between a number of drivers including overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Changes in marine ecosystems will impact on human health, food safety and the future sustainability of sectors including aquaculture, fisheries and tourism. Climate projection information is plentiful and there is considerable activity in marine ecosystem impact modelling; however, a disconnect remains between delivery of this information and its effective uptake by end users and policy makers. The CoCliME project will co-develop and co-produce a set of regionally focused climate services to address key impact areas including human health, aquaculture, fisheries and tourism across the regional seas of Europe. The developed services, and associated decision support tools, will empower and support vulnerable coastal sectors to accelerate adaptive decision-making and feed into key governance mechanisms such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Marine Spatial Planning, and local, national and European adaptation planning. The project team brings together a newly established consortium of boundary organization experts in co-development of climate services with leaders in marine ecosystem research, regional ocean climate modelers, and, at its heart, a number of targeted users and decision makers in each region. The project will offer an innovative and user-focused approach and the development of a societally relevant climate service framework, in addition to the bespoke climate services, that will be transferable to other regions, impact areas, users and marine ecosystem vulnerabilities. Through a regional case study approach, the specific needs of national and European marine ecosystem impact and adaptation planners and regulatory authorities will be identified and addressed through an evidence-based and iterative process designed to feed into climate adaptation strategies across the EU and beyond.


Eleanor O’Rourke
Marine Institute
(MI), Ireland

Julie Maguire
Daithi O’Murchu Marine Research Station
(DOMMRS), Ireland

Philipp Hess
Institut Francais de recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer,
(IFREMER), France

Muriel Travers

University of Nantes
(UNANTES), France

Rodolphe Lemée
Universite Pierre et Marie Curie
(UPMC), France

Grete Hovelstrud
Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo
(CICERO), Norway

Lars Johan Naustvoll
Institute of Marine Research
(IMR), Norway

Elena Stoica
National Institute for Marine Research and Development “Grigore Antipa”
(NIMRD) , Romania

Elisa Berdalet
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
(CSIC), Spain

DAIMON – Decision Aid for Marine Munitions

DAIMON – Decision Aid for Marine Munitions

Dumped Munition in the Baltic Sea pose a potential risk for the environment. In the North and Baltic Sea are containing a legacy of ca. 50 000 tons of dumped chemical munitions and more than 200 000 tons conventional munitions originating from WW I and II. Which chemicals or metabolites are detectable in fish and mussels? Do these chemicals pose a threat for fish and mussels, and how can the dumped munition been managed? These questions are addressed in the research project DAIMON.

Background and Objective

After the 2nd World War, a large amount of chemical weapons and ammunition was dumped in the Baltic Sea and the Skagerrak Strait. Also conventional weapons and munitions lie on the seafloor in different areas of the Baltic Sea as a legacy of the wars. These munitions contain a wide range of hazardous substances. Considering the growing use of the seabed for economic purposes (offshore windfarms, pipelines, etc.), the likelihood of encountering dumped containers with chemical warfare agents or conventional munitions causing direct emissions to the surrounding environment and a risk of human and wildlife exposure is increasing. In addition, the containers and shells are continuously deteriorating due to corrosion. For these reasons there is an ongoing discussion on how to assess and manage the environmental risk of dumped ammunitions, especially in areas where their location is likely to cause a conflict with maritime activities.

DAIMON will focus on the evaluation of risks associated with individual munitions, categorization of threats, and possible remediation methods. Also economical and legal issues will be addressed. Risk assessment/categorization methods will be applied in field studies in the Gulf of Finland, Bornholm and Gdańsk Deeps, Little Belt and Skagerrak to produce examples of evaluation in different regions of the Baltic Sea. As the main result, an easy-to-use software, based on the research carried out within the project, will be presented to stakeholders (maritime administration, environmental agencies, etc.) in the Baltic Sea countries to provide them with a tool for the efficient management of the problem in their respective exclusive economic zones. The tool aims at making the knowledge gained in previous projects related to dumped munitions available to decision makers in the Baltic Sea area.


The AWI will conduct field studies focussing on the assessment of blue mussels and will contribute to fish surveys. In addition, laboratory experiments with model organisms (fish, mussels, flatworms) will be performed. Parameter under investigation will be e.g. diseases, histopathology and toxicity tests of relevant metabolites and induced cellular defence.

EUSBSR Priority Area Secure

EUSBSR Priority Area Secure awarded the concept of DAIMON with the Flagship-Status.

Past Projects

DynaTrait 2015-2018

DFG Priority Programme 1704

Traits that influence the interaction between species are of prime importance for population stability and species coexistence, because variation within these traits will directly determine species fitness and indirectly influence fitness of the interacting partner. In cases of antagonistic interactions including predation and competition variation of these traits will be selectively maintained. Therefore, any attempt in trying to understand diversity-resilience relationships should incorporate the functional variation of species interaction traits of ecosystem keystone species as a mechanistic basis. Here, we propose to investigate the selective maintenance of diversity in allelochemical production, a widespread trait to reduce competition and grazing during blooms of the dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii, in relation to abiotic (nutrient limitation and temperature) and biotic (competition and predation) stressors. We will combine field observations, microcosm and chemostat experiments with cyst bed characterization and experimental evolution to link within bloom to between bloom dynamics. We hypothesize that fluctuating selection on allelochemical production and mutualistic interactions between producer and non-producer strains determines population dynamics and maintains diversity during the bloom. Between blooms the large number of compatible and incompatible mating types will be an efficient mechanism to maintain diversity as well as stability of mutualistic interactions. The link between trait diversity and population dynamics during decisive stages of the life cycle will therefore deepen our understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem stability.

Further information:

AWI Contact:
Dr. Sylke Wohlrab
Dr. Uwe John

RETCEL 2015-2017


This project investigates the occurrence and distribution of toxigenic plankton between subpolar regions of the South Atlantic and the Southern Ocean and ist correlation to oceanographic and hydrodynamic parameters.


IMCONet 2013-2017

EU: FP7-people-2012-IRSES

IMCONet is an international Research Network that follows an interdisciplinary approach to understand the consequences of Climate Change in coastal Western Antarctica. A Network for Staff Exchange and Training. The project brings European, South American and US scientists together to advance climate and (eco-) system change research at the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), a region of recent rapid aerial warming.

Further Information:

PEACE 2015-2017

1) To assess if exposure to chemical pollution (under realistic, sub-lethal conditions) hinders the adaptive capacity of freshwater phytoplankton communities to restructure following abrupt disturbance events associated to extreme weather conditions. 2) To assess if responses of adaptive capacity hindrance are influenced by the history of community exposure to chemical pollution (as, for example, a result of acquired tolerance or evolution). 3) To investigate the mechanisms underpinning the relationship between patterns and changes of morphological/physiological traits with pollution induced responses of adaptive capacity at population and community level.

In cooperation with the Norwegian Research Council

Further information: ž

FAABulous 2015-2017

Future Arctic Algal Blooms - and their role in the context of climate change   This project aims at an integrated assessment of the combined effect of these changes (1-3) on algal blooms in sea ice and water at high latitudes, with respect to bloom phenology, efficiency of primary production, nutritional quality and carbon cycling. The suggested approach combines three components: a) Seasonal observations of two high Arctic fjord ecosystems with contrasting environmental conditions (ice-covered vs. ice-free), including analyses of long-term data on physical oceanography and bloom timing (WP1), b) Manipulative experiments to study the effect of multiple stressors on algal communities, and to characterize physiological qualities of species that explain their competitive success under changing climate conditions (WP2), and c) Implementing the newly gained knowledge in a coupled physical-biological model to study potential algal blooms under different scenarios (WP3).

In cooperation with the Norwegian Research Council.

Further Information: