Polar lakes – methods

Lakes in high latitudes represent prestine fresh water ressources and monitoring of the biotic and abiotic lake system components is of utmost socio-economic importance. Sedimentary deposits from polar lakes represent unique archives used for the reconstruction of the late Pleistocene to Holocene development of the local and regional responses of the Arctic and Antarctic landscapes to climate changes. The inference of palaeoenvironmental scenarios is based on sedimentological, geochemical, and micropaleontological proxy data.


We use a broad range of methods in close cooperation with institutes and universities in northern regions.

  • Field work - we perform expeditions every year to polar regions, with main interest in the Eastern Arctic. In winter we use trucks on winter roads, that is frozen rivers and lakes, to reach remote lake sites. In summer we use helicopters, because the absence of roads does not allow the use of cars.
  • Sediment Coring - we mainly use UWITEC coring technique: piston coring system (from ice or raft) to retrieve long cores, gravity coring to retrieve short cores with intact surface layers.
  • Water chemistry - we use portable water chemistry analysers to measure temperature, pH, oxygen, and alkalinity on-site. Samples are transported to our laboratories in Potsdam/Germany or partner institutes to measure ions, cations, and water isotopes.
  •  Sediment cores are transported at 4°C to AWI laboratories to analyse elements by XRF core scanning, mineral composition by XRD analysis, grain size distibution by laser particle sizing, organic contents using a VarioMAX. We analyse pollen, diatoms and chironomids and the ancient DNA.