Flair for ice and climate

Communicator Prize 2007 goes to Bremerhaven polar researchers

Ice research is fun - Prof. dr. Heinrich Miller, head of the working group "Glaciology" at the Alfred Wegener Institute. © AWI
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The working group glaciology at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven will receive the "Communicator Prize - Science Award of the Stifterverband" this year. The 15 polar and marine researchers around the geophysicist Professor Heinz Miller will be awarded for the outstanding public education of their research work on climate change.

Together with the Bremerhaven glaciologists, a research team receives the Communicator Prize, which has been searching for eternal ice for two decades to answer what is by far the most pressing global human issue - that of the development and change of the climate. In numerous national and international expeditions, the 15 geophysicists, geologists, geographers and meteorologists of the working group drill deep holes in the Arctic and Antarctic ice.

Icy research for the future

From the ice cores they gain basic knowledge about the reconstruction of the Earth's climate in the past millennia. As part of the European joint project EPICA, the glaciologists from Bremerhaven explored the oldest ice core on the Antarctic Plateau in 2003, with estimates of around 900, 000 years. From the trapped air, they were able to obtain the most comprehensive data so far on the existence and the changes of the two most important greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

The researchers are also involved in deep drilling projects in Greenland, the German Climate Research Program and the "Climate in Historical Time" program, which aims to reconstruct the climate of the past 1, 000 years. The working group is also making a major contribution to the increasingly urgent question of future climate development. Over the past few years, it has developed numerous model studies and scenarios dealing in particular with the melting of polar ice bodies and the possible consequences for sea level fluctuations.

Mediation through the media

A feeling for ice - the glaciologist Dr. Ing. Hubertus Fischer from the Alfred Wegener Institute examines an ice core. © AWI

All these and other research papers and results were brought to the attention of the Bremerhaven scientists right from the start with great dedication and ingenuity, the jury explained. In numerous own contributions in magazines and books as well as in exhibitions and lectures in schools, colleges and public educational institutions, the glaciologists cleverly combined science with the charm of eternal ice. In the early days, the researchers also invited journalists to get a first-hand impression of working in the ice lab or on the expedition ships into the polar regions. The resulting contributions to the press, radio and television made climate research on the ice known to a large audience. display

The Internet has discovered and used the polar and marine researchers as early as the dissemination of their work and DVD like other new media - and with visually appealing and technically sophisticated video installations their mediation even extends to the k artistic area into it. For economists and politicians, but also for the interested citizen, glaciologists have been in demand for years as well-known discussion and information partners on all questions of climate development.

Model teamwork

Both the research and its communication to the public were provided by the Bremerhaven researchers from the beginning as a team. This is largely due to the geophysicist and deputy director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Professor Heinz Miller. I am very pleased that this prize will be awarded to us as a group. This also commends the good cooperation of employees that has grown over the years, says Miller. The division of labor conducted by him and his colleagues now also rated the jury of the Communicator Prize as exemplary and therefore did not award a single scientist but a research team for the first time this year. "It is precisely because our society now faces decisive decisions that we, as scientists, have to inform the public comprehensibly and properly, " explains Professor Dr. J rgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association.

Above all, the jury praised the factual and differentiated way in which the working group communicates its research results. In the opinion of the jury, this is based equally on the high scientific standard of the group and on its many years of experience in public relations. With our love for the ice, we like to poke the public. The award gives us recognition and motivation for the future, "Dr. Johannes Friday. The 2007 Communicator Prize will be awarded on June 14 in Essen at the Zollverein coal mine in the context of this year's summer of science.

(German Research Foundation (DFG) and Stifterverband, Alfred Wegener Institute, 24.04.2007 - AHE)