Projects and Expeditions



Lower Saxonian Ministry for
Science and Culture
Funding period
Achim Wehrmann, Kristin Haynert

Since the beginning of the Holocene sea level have rapidly risen due to deglaciation. The present-day North Sea shelf passed through several stages of coastal development starting with swamps and peat formation turning into brackish and tidal flat sedimentation. Sedimentation processes covered soils and corresponding biocoenoses as well as archaeological remains which allowed their conservation until to data. The submerged sediment layers of the North Sea region preserved an excellent archive of prehistoric key material which includes plants, animals, micro- and macrofossils and remains of prehistoric cultures. This material will enable us to reconstruct postglacial history, vegetation, landscape as well as the environment development of sea level and climate change in the Wadden Sea region. The interdisciplinary research project WASA consists of three subprojects and integrates the scientific disciplines of geosciences, biosciences and cultural sciences to a multi-proxy approach of exploration, analysis and predictive modelling. In the frame of the study we will focus on actuopalaentological analyses of micro- and macrofossils. The composition of the benthic communities allows defining of specific coastal environments, which provides information about abiotic environmental parameters by species-specific ecological ranges, especially at the land-sea transition area, the intertidal and shallow subtidal.

Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony

GeoArchives I/II – Signals of Climate and Landscape change preserved in southern African Geoarchives

Projektträger Jülich Funding period I 2013-2016
Funding period II 2016-2018 Achim Wehrmann, Irka Schüller

Within the wave-dominated and high-energy depositional environment of the southwestern African coast, lagoons and related saltpans and sabkhas represent one of the few areas in which sediments originating from both marine and terrestrial sources have accumulated under calm conditions. This allowed a more or less continuous depositional record of the mid to late Holocene. Open marine ingressions within these lagoons are defined by diverse mollusk assemblages, indicating different climatic conditions. Terrestrial climate archives in southern Africa are provided by analysis of high resolution sedimentary records of salt pans in the southwestern Kalahari. Both, the marine and terrestrial archives will provide a deep insight into the climatic evolution and environmental conditions in southern Africa during the Late Quaternary. Climatic and associated environmental variability has not only a strong effect on the sedimentary and ecological record but also on the composition and diversity of the indigenous microbial communities.

Thus, this project will study the sedimentary, (bio-)geochemical and microbiological record of the lagoons with respect to their transitional setting at the land-ocean interface along the southwest African coast. This allows a detailed reconstruction of regional sea-level fluctuations, the position of the Angola-Benguela Front and hinterland processes under changing climatic conditions. Furthermore, the depositional record of southern African salt pans will be studied using the same approach to document palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental variations in the continental southern African region.

The project is carried out in close cooperation with our project partners from TU Munich, GFZ Potsdam and ICBM Oldenburg

Klimaveränderung und Bioinvasionen als Steuerungsfaktoren von Ecosystem Engineering: Die Dynamik benthischer Gemeinschaften

BiK-F Funding period
2012-2014 Alexandra Markert, Achim Wehrmann

Ecosystem engineers are characterized by modifying physical parameters of their environment resulting in a variety of habitat relevant processes – especially when the ecosystem engineer is an alien species. Hence, community structure (biodiversity, species richness and abundance) of the associated fauna may be altered.The bioinvasion and massive spread of the non-native Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas in the intertidal of the Wadden Sea has an strong impact _mce_on resident blue mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) which transform increasingly into oyster reefs. Within this project we investigate the temporal modifications in community structure due to the change in ecosystem engineering species – from Mytilus edulis to Crassostrea gigas. Additionally, promoted by climate change, the novel habitat characteristics may facilitate the invasions of other non-native species.

Prozesse und Dynamik holozäner Verlandungszonen im Gebiet des Jadebusens

Stiftung Funding period
Martina Karle, Achim Wehrmann

The Jade Bay in its today’s dimension was created by medieval storm surges. Up to the beginning of these marine intrusions vast salt-marshes covered the area. As those parts of the coastal landscape are very sensitive indicators for sea level changes, they act as sedimentological archives. So this part of the project deals with the change of the coastal landscape during the Holocene sea level rise focussing on former salt marsh belts, silting-up zones and erosive tidal creeks. By sedimentological and palaeoecological investigations in sediment cores the position, structure and extension of these structural features at the land-sea interface can be reconstructed giving an idea of the processes and reactions taking place during a changing sea level. As vegetation and diatom associations indicate a high resolution position in relation to the level of mean high water, a facies analysis may lead to a reconstruction of different mean high water levels and their respective coastlines in the past 10.000 years.
The main emphasis is put on the region of a flooded area during medieval storm tides, the so called “Schwarzes Brack”, southwest of Wilhelmshaven. Furthermore, existing data from the State Authority for Mining, Energy and Geology of Lower Saxony (LBEG, Hannover) will be used and interpreted with regard to climate indicators in order to reconstruct the evolution of the coastal region.


Major Expeditions

Major Expeditions
2017 GEOARCHIVES II (Namib Sand Sea, Namibia)
2016 GEOARCHIVES II (Kalahari Desert, Namibia)
2016 MARIA S MERIAN Cruise MSM 55 ‘ARCA’ (Spitzbergen, Barent Sea)
2015 GEOARCHIVES (Namib Coast, Namibia)
2014 GEOARCHIVES (Skeleton Coast, Namibia)
2014 POSEIDON Cruise PO 466 ‘MAPS’ (Madeira hot spot track)
2013 GEOARCHIVES (Kalahari Desert, Namibia, South Africa)
2012 DECENT (Taurus mountains, Turkey)
2010 METEOR Cruise M 83/2 (Ampere Seamound) – see below
2010 POSEIDON Cruise PO 397 ‘GROMET’ (Great Meteor Bank)
2006 DEVEC-TR (Taurus mountains, Turkey)
2005 DEVEC-TR (Taurus mountains, Turkey)
2004 Diving expedition Comao-Fjord (Northern Patagonia, Chile)
2002 Devonian reefs (West Sahara)
1996 Southeast African Shelf (South Africa)
1995 METEOR Cruise M 33/3 (South-Indic)
1992 LITTORINA Cruise (Brittany)
1992 Discovery Bay (Jamaika)
1992 METEOR Cruise M 21/4 (Barentsea/Arktic)
1987 Eastern Desert (Egypt/Gulf of Suez/Red Sea)

Expedition M83/2 Research Vessel METEOR
14.11.-23.12.2010 Mindelo (Cape Verde) – Cadiz (Spain)
Leg M83/2 will, in a multidisciplinary way, help to identify those factors and processes which control the characteristics of the Ampère Seamount ecosystems. Physical, biogeochemical and biological samples will be taken in order to study the following main objectives, which will lead to a better understanding of seamount ecosystems, in particular in comparison with a similar, but less productive seamount which has been studied in previous projects. The following main objectives will be addressed:
– Relationships between flow field, particle dynamics and benthic community
– Faunal diversity and genetic connectivity between different seamounts
– Composition and distribution of the pelagic fauna and links to the current system
– Food supply, trophic structure and carbon flux in the ecosystem.

Sampling of meiofauna (Dr. K. George, Division DZMB, Senckenberg am Meer) and macrofauna (Dr. H. Reiß, Marine Biology, Division for Marine Research, Senckenberg am Meer) will be carried out with the Van-Veen-Grab and the multicorer, a box corer will be used for detailed sediment analyses and the Shipek-Grab (Dr. A. Wehrmann, Actuopalaeontology, Division for Marine Research, Senckenberg am Meer) will serve to analyze biogenic carbonate production and TOC-content. The data will be compared with other areas like the Seine-Seamount or the Great Meteor Bank.
Participants SaM: Dr. Kai George, Lena Albers, Torsten Janßen

Link expedition booklet:

Link actual position:

Infos position:

Bachelor / Master Thesis
Students interested in a Master or Bachelor Thesis in the field of actuopalaeontology, carbonate sedimentology or marine geology/biollogy please contact the head of the division.

Actual themes of running projects:

Paleoecology and landscape reconstruction of Holocene Wadden Sea sequences (project WASA-Paleo)
Foraminiferal biofacies in the Wadden Sea (project WASA-Paleo)
Paleoclimate of Holocene geoarchives in southern Africa (project GeoArchives II)
Carbonat-Sedimentology/Biosedimentary Systemes: bioclastic carbonates of northern Svalbad and Barent Sea
Carbonat-Sedimentology/Biosedimentary Systemes: bioclastic carbonates of the northern Adriatic Sea
Carbonat-Sedimentology/Biosedimentary Systemes: Bryomol-carbonates of the southeast African shelf
Carbonat-Sedimentology/Biosedimentary Systemes: Kelp-carbonates Helgoland Island (for research divers!)
Northern Gondwana: Sequence stratigraphy in Devonian shallow water sediments (Taurids, Turkey)
Northern Gondwana: Shallow water carbonates (Microfacies, reefs, biolaminites, sabkhas)
Northern Gondwana: Source area processes & provenance analyses (Taurids, Turkey)

Practical Training
We offer the oportunity of practical training in geosciences and marine biology. Please contact the head of the division.

Student Assistants (Hiwi)
Student assistant jobs can be given to students of natural sciences, especially during field season. Please contact the research assistants of the research projects.