Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research ( AWI) is a research institute in Bremerhaven, named after the polar explorer, and geoscientists Alfred Wegener. The institute was founded on July 15, 1980 as a foundation under public law and is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres.

  • 5.1 Research Cruises
  • 6.1 directors


The exploration of the polar regions, their geological composition, structure and classification in the Earth history seismology and seismic are also the subject of research such as climate research, marine biology and marine geology.

Earth sciences

The Department of Geosciences ( Bremerhaven, Potsdam and Sylt) examines how the processes of the earth have shaped the evolution of the climate. For this, the sediment structure of the oceans is examined as well as terrestrial deposits and deposits in the polar ice caps. Will explore the composition and distribution of marine sediments, the mass and energy fluxes in permafrost areas and the structure and change in the earth's crust and the polar ice sheets.

Life Sciences

The Department of Biological Sciences edited ecological, physiological and ecotoxicological issues. The AWI focuses on the polar regions and the shelf and coastal regions of the North Sea. In recent years, in addition to the research on cold-water corals and studies have been conducted on tropical coral reefs. Central themes include the responses of cells, organisms, populations and communities to external influences and the organization and dynamics of populations, communities and ecosystems. Therefore, the life sciences AWI work on both the Aut - ecological, environmental as macro level.

Climate Sciences

In the Department of Climate Sciences AWI examines the physical and chemical processes in the ocean-ice - atmosphere and its importance for the global climate. Working groups at the Alfred Wegener Institute and at the Potsdam Research Unit dealing with regional and large-scale circulations in the system and the elucidation of physical and chemical processes in the atmosphere. These include the influence of clouds and sea ice to the energy exchange between ocean and atmosphere, the circulation of water masses in the polar regions, the study of natural climate change and the modeling of the atmospheric circulation in the Arctic. Experiments for geoengineering by iron fertilization.


For research institute adjacent to the main building in Bremerhaven includes the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland and the Wadden Sea Station Sylt in Sylt. A branch office is located in the Albert Einstein Science Park on the Telegrafenberg in Potsdam. Research vessels are the Polarstern, Station Helgoland and Mya. Research stations are the Georg von Neumayer Station with Neumayer Station II and Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic, the German - French AWIPEV research base ( Koldewey Station ) on Spitsbergen and the Russian- German research base Samoilov in the Siberian Lena Delta.

Work areas

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts marine and polar scientific research in the Arctic and Antarctic as well as in temperate latitudes. In Antarctica, the Dallmann Laboratory and the Kohnen Station, where in the summer as part of the international project EPICA ice cores have been made available. The previously oldest ice found is about 900,000 years old. In Ny- Ålesund on Spitsbergen, the AWI has in common with the French Polar Research Institute of the AWIPEV research base, consisting of the German Koldewey Station and the French Rabot Station. Neumayer Station II on the polar southern continent Antarctica was a year-round research station with the research geophysics, meteorology and atmospheric chemistry. It consists of two parallel steel tubes (approximately 100 feet long with eight-meter diameter) strung together in the heated (living / working ) container. In the upper ten meters of a 200 meter-thick ice shelf plate, the tubes are buried. The request made in 1982 in service icebreaker Polarstern supplied the stations and is itself a floating research laboratory. About 6800 researchers were already on the Polarstern. Since June 2008, the Institute, the World Radiation Monitoring Center cared for. Since 20 February 2009, the Neumayer Station III as the successor of the Neumayer Station II in operation.

The Biological Institute Helgoland

Research goal of the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland is to examine the complex ecosystem in shallow seas and to understand the ecological relationships. Since the 1960s, long-term ecological studies are carried out, which are now used to observe changes in the ecosystem over a long period of time and to judge. So can be detected in the ecosystem through this regular inventory of plankton species changes.

A second focus of the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland is the existence of the Helgoland lobster increase together with the local fishermen again by are bred and studied in the laboratory lobster larvae and young lobster.

Another research focus is on the marine natural products, which are investigated in close cooperation with industry partners.

At the Institute, the Center for Scientific Diving is - AWI Center for Scientific Diving ( AWI CSD) attached.

HIGH School of Science & Education @ the AWI ( HIGHSEA )

HIGHSEA is a teaching project in cooperation between the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Marine Research ( AWI) and Bremerhaven school authorities and was founded in 2001 as part of the science center Science & Education @ the AWI (SEA ) has been launched.

In the innovative teaching project to prepare students for the advanced level - before ( 10, 12th grade ) over three years on the high school and acquire searchingly and experimentally during the entire time school subjects. This support AWI scientists active instructional design of the exempted Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and English teachers in the form of " team teaching " and ensure a close link of education to ongoing projects of the Institute. For teaching represents the Alfred Wegener Institute twice a week an extra part of the building with laboratories, classrooms and offices. The term of the teaching project is not time limited and will be evaluated externally by the University of Duisburg -Essen. In the initial phase of the project funded by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the President of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres was promoted. Furthermore, the project was awarded the 2006 NaT-Working Prize of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Research cruises

Each year HIGHSEA runs once during his time at AWI expedition. This includes the extraction of sponsors and a scientific planning with research focus. So far, led the expeditions to Spitsbergen, Greenland, Iceland and the seamounts before Madeira. To cover the costs for research trips, the club was founded in 2010 Sea Networks eV by former HIGHSEA students. The club has to support the goal of coming HIGHSEA vintages in their research trips. Among other things, for a fully rigged ship of the association are available.


In 1980 the AWI was founded with a handful of employees. Today, the AWI employs 920 researchers, technicians and administrative staff at the different locations. Initiator and founding director was God Help Hempel. Hempel founded 11 years later, the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology in Bremen. The ZMT provides the tropics - biological equivalent of the AWI in many areas dar.

Political background of the relatively good financial position was the idea to find raw material resources in the polar regions, to make the oil from the Middle East regardless. However, the AWI emancipated quickly from this research goal and built its biological polar research. Even before climate change was a media issue, examined the geophysicist Albrecht Müller 1985, the impact of climate on the Antarctic. In 1981, the first research station was built in the Arctic.

In 1986 the main building of the AWI was completed by the architect Oswald Mathias Ungers in Bremerhaven -Mitte at the Old Port.

On February 24, 1985 shot fighters of the Polisario Front, a research aircraft from the Institute on the way back from Antarctica. The crash of the POLAR 3 in the Western Sahara, the pilot Herbert Hampel, the co-pilot Richard Möbius and the mechanic Josef Schmid died.


  • God Help Hempel (1981 to 1992)
  • Max Tilzer ( 1992 to 31 October 1997)
  • Jörn Thiede (1 November 1997 to 31 October 2007)
  • Karin Lochte (since 1 November 2007)

Cooperation with military facilities

The U.S. Office of Naval Research ( ONR ) is supporting a project of AWI. The ONR conducts scientific research on behalf of the United States Navy and is headquartered in Ballston ( Virginia). The project is about the topic " Impact of underwater noise ". The focus of research is important because military sonars have been associated repeatedly with whale strandings. In this project, however, no direct benefits for military purposes were provided, nor ONR acts as principal. It is instead funded for funding " basic research". The research is open-ended, without direct compensation (the software is owned by the inventor (AWI ) and will be made ​​available to the public, such as " Open Access product " accessible ).

The services to be rendered " services ( deliverables ) " are merely the execution of the work program, the publication of the results and of the resulting software code.

However, it is not a case defense research, the institute said in November 2013. AWI From a workshop for US_Militärs was supported been where it came to measurements of soil temperatures in the Arctic. In the list of sponsored research projects AWI appears ( about 200,000 euros ) with a sum of 270,000 U.S. dollars. The cooperation by research by the NDR and the Süddeutsche Zeitung in November 2013 were known.