Bernd Rendel Prize 2012
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced the winners of this year’s Bernd Rendel Prize, which honours early career researchers who have made important and original contributions to basic geosciences research before obtaining their doctorates. The prizes will be awarded for the eleventh time. Each of this year's four winners will receive 1000 euros for research purposes. The prizes are funded by proceeds from the Bernd Rendel Foundation managed by the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany. The honour also allows the prizewinners, selected from 19 nominations and personal applications, to attend scientific conferences and congresses.
The prizes will be awarded on 26 September 2012 during the annual meeting of the Geologische Vereinigung (German Geological Society) in Hamburg.
As part of her diploma dissertation at the Georg-August University in Göttingen, Magdalena Hofmann developed a method for precisely determining the ratio between oxygen isotopes in carbon dioxide. The isotopes show which atmospheric layers the molecules originate from, and can therefore be used as tracers for atmospheric processes. For example, carbon dioxide from the troposphere contains the stable oxygen isotope 17O. In her doctoral thesis, Hofmann is using the method to determine the origin and source of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The geoscientist has also conducted research at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. In an upcoming project in Europe, she now wants to analyse the interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere.
Marian Horstmann specialises in research into meteorites. He applied geochemical, petrological and mineralogical methods to the famous Almahata Sitta meteorites to specifically assign meteorite material to a parent body, or asteroid, from space. This helps us to better understand processes in our solar system's asteroid belt, such as collisions or combinations of different meteorite types. Horstmann is also studying the oldest material in our solar system: calcium/aluminium-rich inclusions in primitive meteorites which formed at high temperatures in the solar nebula. Horstmann uses mass spectrometry to analyse their constituent trace elements in order to ascertain how they were formed, i.e. to study the processes of condensation, evaporation and magmatic origin. The DFG's selection commission was particularly impressed by his discovery of oxygen embedded in metallic sulphide intergrowth in meteorites. This discovery will be of immense importance for cosmochemistry and planetology and will help us understand how elements were distributed during the development of early Earth.
While studying at the University of Greifswald Kerstin Perner specialised in marine geology and was a guest at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde. Her research concentrates on the link between ocean currents off western Greenland and climate fluctuations during the Holocene. Her work involves geochemical and micropalaeontological analysis of fossil material from cores of sediment and benthic and planktic foraminifera. The results indicate water temperature, salt content, mineral nutrient content and growth of sea ice over past millennia, reflecting previous fluctuations in the Earth's climate. Perner has for example proven that the influence of the cold and low-salt masses of water flowing from the polar Arctic region off West Greenland has increased over the last 2500 years. This can probably be explained by a large-scale successive change in atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic during the Holocene. It is known that ocean currents, atmospheric fluctuations and the cryosphere constantly affect one another.
Alexander Rohrmann impressed the commission with his vast knowledge of topics, regions and methods. He is researching the interaction of tectonics, climate and erosion, with a focus on the timing and rates at which mountain ranges rise and fall and how this impacts on rates of erosion and the climate. Rohrmann uses methods of structural geology, geochronology, sedimentology and tectonic geomorphology. He also combines geological detailed field mapping and structural and basin analysis with geochemistry, thermochronology and cosmogenic nuclide dating to investigate spatiotemporal samples of surface processes and their tectonic and climatic influences. In his master's dissertation, he reconstructed part of the story of how the Tibetan Plateau was raised. For his doctorate he is now turning his attention to the Puna Plateau in the southern Andes of Argentina. He will also be characterising palaeohydrological data such as recent rainfall distribution and isotopy over strong topographical gradients.