World Congress of Soil Science: Presenting Germany as a Place to Research

(28.08.18) In the second week of August, the 21st World Congress of Soil Science was held in Rio de Janeiro, attracting some 3,500 attendees. The international audience was mostly made up of researchers based in Latin America, but a large number of African, Asian and Australian scientists also attended the event. Alongside presentations and symposia on current challenges and the latest discoveries in soil science, participants had the opportunity to find out about research and funding opportunities in Germany.

Around 150 conference participants attended the Research in Germany information event

Around 150 conference participants attended the Research in Germany information event


The DFG Office Latin America organised a presentation of Research in Germany, comprising a booth and an information event. During a lunch session on 14 August, representatives of German research organisations gave a series of presentations on international research and funding opportunities for soil scientists.

The audience of around 150 people listened with great interest and was able to learn about Germany as a place of research. Prof. Dr. Thomas Scholten from the Department of Geosciences at the University of Tübingen shared insights into a number of projects and his own working group. He emphasised the interdisciplinary nature of the field, which often has interfaces with biodiversity and environmental research. An example of this is the soil biology research being carried out by Prof. Dr. Ellen Kandeler at the University of Hohenheim, who was also present as a representative of the German research community. She explained that her research area is a very wide and varied one, ranging from microbial regulation of the carbon cycle to the biodegradation of pesticides in soil. Both researchers collaborate successfully with partners in Latin America, and were on hand to answer questions from the audience at the end of the event.

The audience was made up of researchers from around the world


Interdisciplinarity is also important to the Research Training Group “The German Baltic Sea Coast as Terrestrial-Marine Interface of Water and Matter Fluxes – Baltic Transcoast”, funded by the DFG since 2016, which is currently looking to recruit doctoral researchers. The research team includes 37 researchers from three faculties at the University of Rostock and the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Warnemünde, who are studying the physical, chemical and biological processes at the transition between land and sea with an interdisciplinary approach. The spokesperson for the Research Training Group, Prof. Dr. Bernd Lennartz from the University of Rostock, explained that to gain a better understanding of the interface between land and sea, the team includes experts in biology, ecology, biogeochemistry, hydrogeology and engineering sciences. This, he noted, is essential to developing sustainable strategies for coastal areas.

Like the Baltic Transcoast Research Training Group, other soil science research projects can be funded through DFG resources as long as the research is carried out at a German institution or with German partners. The relevant funding programmes and eligibility requirements were explained by Prof. Dr. Christina Siebe, the DFG Liaison Scientist in Mexico. Siebe, herself a soil scientist, works at the Institute of Geology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – UNAM).

As well as early career researchers, the audience included experienced researchers who were interested in developing and expanding existing collaborations. Brazilian researcher Prof. Dr. Reges Heinrichs is based at the federal state university Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in São Paulo, where he works in the field of soil fertility. He already has links with the University of Hohenheim. The event provided him with valuable information in relation to a planned bilateral project with German partners: “We have wanted to initiate some shared projects for a long time and we have already outlined some ideas. Now I have a clearer idea of the kind of funding opportunities that we might be able to benefit from. I also had the chance to meet Prof. Kandeler from Hohenheim, which gave me another point of contact for taking the collaboration with German researchers a step further,” says Heinrichs.