Project "Permafrost Change"

For most people, permafrost is a distant phenomenon that seems to have little to do with their own lives, making it hard for them to relate to. With the help of the resources provided by the Ralf Dahrendorf Prize, we will overcome that distance by showing interested members of the general public the broad landmasses that are home to permafrost soils, and the tremendous quantities of carbon they store. To do so, we will use a temporary exhibit format and workshops where people have the chance to see, hear, touch and smell permafrost, thanks to original archaeological artefacts from the Ice Age and hands-on permafrost experimentation boxes. More over visitors can use a 3D visor to immerse themselves in a virtual permafrost world. Lastly, ‘before-and-after’ lenticular images, together with video and audio recordings from expeditions to the Arctic, will help illustrate the thawing of the permafrost, and the fieldwork involved in investigating it.

In May 2019, the ERC PETA-CARB Project was honored with the Ralf-Dahrendorf Prize awarded by the Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Supported by the award, the new project “Permafrost Change” started in January 2020 led by Dr. Josefine Lenz. The aim of the outreach project is to communicate permafrost and changes by a warmer climate to the public.

recent activities

23 July 2020

After last week's focus was on permafrost and carbon, Ingmar Nitze and Matthias Fuchs have now ventured a view from above and talked in the livestream together with AWI4Future about "Permafrost in time and space - how the Arctic landscape is changing". Again, important questions were taken up and discussed in the subsequent discussion.


21 July 2020

In the frame of the German EU Council Presidency, a number of key persons in the science sector were filmed, among them AWI director Antje Boetius and Josefine Lenz as co-awardee of the Dahrendorf Award. The footage was presented by the BMBF at the informal Council Meeting of Research Ministers on 21 July 2020.


16 July 2020

Together with AWI4Future, Matthias Fuchs and Josefine Lenz spoke in a livestream about "Permafrost soil without frost - what does that mean for us and the carbon budget?" After a half-hour presentation by the two scientists, questions from the chat were answered and discussed. A total of 55 interested people watched, with up to 30 people participating at the same time.


29 May 2020

A digital climate change workshop entitled “It's thawing! Arctic permafrost in climate change” (in German) was given by Josefine “in” the Experimental Field of the Museum of Natural History. Through photos, videos and even a live experiment, the 25 participants learned about important facts of permafrost thawing. A survey at the beginning of the event showed that the topic was new to most participants but of great interest, and also that not all of them were located in the area of Berlin (one even in Luxembourg!) and knew about the workshop from previous museum events. Using a virtual blackboard, we collected ideas how to prevent climate and permafrost warming, as well as feedback.


7 April 2020

WWF 2°Campus @ AWI Potsdam (Presentation & live demonstration of experiments)

This year’s School Academy of WWF was spontaneously scheduled online, with contributions from AWI. Josefine presented „Frozen Worlds – About visible and invisible Changes in the Arctic“ from her „kitchen office“. Including two live experiments which demonstrated what happens when ice is melting in water and in the ground, she aimed at bringing the topic of permafrost change closer to the students.

Besides 20 WWF 2°Campus students, another 36 fellow students and friends, as well as teachers and undergrads participated so that the reach and range of audience was actually increased by this new online format. Followed another discussion session for the smaller group of WWF students, many oft hem used the chance to ask burning questions and have a more „direct“ contact via video chat. Even some „living statistics“ were applicable Josefine by using hand and finger signals (e.g. participants indicated they are located in all over Germany, the northernmost destination reached by the group was Iceland).

According to the organizers, the students provided very positive feedback: They find the work of a polar researcher very exciting and were impressed by Josefine’s presentation. Who knows, maybe we meet some them again as polar researchers…!

A recording of the presentation will become available online through the WWF 2°Campus School Academy.


14 January 2020

students of the International Lomonossow School Berlin @ AWI Potsdam (Presentation & lab tour)

planned activities

19-26 April 2021

Nunataryuk-T-MOSAiC School 2021, Abisko/Sweden (Permafrost Outreach lecture)


28 February - 4 March 2021

International Polar Conference, Potsdam (exhibition, student workshop)


8 May 2021

Potsdam Day of Science in Potsdam-Bornim (outdoor exhibition 13-20 h)


5 June 2021

Long Night of Science (exhibition, experiments, lecture and demonstrations 18-1pm)