Methods for Arctic Lake Research

Lakes in high latitudes provide a range of ecosystem services to northern communities. These lakes are variable at a range of time-scales. We combine observations of modern ecosystem state with investigations of lake dynamics.  

We apply a broad range of methods:

Coring Technique

We mainly use UWITEC coring technique: piston coring system to retrieve long cores, gravity coring to retrieve short cores with intact surface layers. We prefer winter ice condition to retrieve long cores through ice holes facilitated by stable position above ground. During summer we operate our systems from a raft. 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.

Lake Coring


UWITEC Niederreiter HYBRID 90 mm Piston Coring system

  • Modell UHP 30450
  • Recovery: up to 55 m cores (reported max. so far)
  • Core diameter is 90 mm
  • Piston coring technique fixed at lake bottom
  • Applicable at up to 300 m water depth
  • Performs on ice and water
  • Strong penetration of sand layers by motor driven hammering with 100 kg weights
  • Approx. weight for summer expedition: 3 t
  • Approx. weight for winter expedition: 2 t

UWITEC 60 mm Piston Coring system Short cores and surface samples

  • Recovery: ca. 15 m cores
  • Core diameter is 60 mm
  • Piston coring technique fixed at tripod on ice or on floating platform
  • Applicable at up to 100 m water depth
  • Performs on ice and water
  • Manual hammering with variable weights
  • Approx. weight for summer expedition: 2 t
  • Approx. weight for winter expedition: 1.5 t

Short cores and surface samples

  • UWITEC Gravity Coring System 60 and 90 mm
  • Retrieval of intact surface sediments
  • Works in winter and summer
  • 60 cm length of cores for best possible surface layer conditions
  • Optinal hammer modification for up to 3 m length


Boris K. Biskaborn

Parametric Sub-bottom Profiling

  • INNOMAR SES-2000 compact
  • Parametric sub-bottom profiling
  • Running with two 12V car batteries
  • Works well on deep lakes with minerogenic sedimentation
  • Possible water depth 1-400 m
  • Possible penetration up to 40 m (depending on sediment type)
  • Only applicable in summer (on water)
  • Approx. weight: 200 kg.

Paul Overduin
Boris K. Biskaborn

Water chemistry

We use portable water chemistry analysers to measure temperature, pH, oxygen, and conductivity on-site. Samples are transported to our laboratories in Potsdam/Germany or partner institutes to measure ions, cations, and water isotopes.

Onsite water measurements

  • CTD 48 M Standard Memory Probe (Sea & Sun Marine Tech) for conductivity, temperature and depth profiles in high resolution
  • Underwater light and camera (operable several hundreds of meters deep) 
  • WTW Multilab 340i for pH, conductivity, and oxygen
  • Bathymetry map generation by SES-2000 data and/or hand-held HONDEX PS-7 LCD digital sounder


Boris K. Biskaborn
Kathleen Stoof-Leichsenring


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 on thawing permafrost does not allow the use of cars.