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Press Release No. 55 | 9 December 1999
DFG Awards Albert Maucher Prize in Geoscience 1999

Young Palaeontologist to Receive DM 20,000

The President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, will award the 1999 Albert Maucher Prize in Geoscience in a public ceremony on 9 December 1999. The prize, endowed with 20,000 deutschmarks, goes to Dr. Oliver Lehnert (36), Department of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Erlangen–Nuremberg.

This marks the tenth award of the prize, which was donated by Munich geologist Albert Maucher. Shortly before his death in 1981, he gave the DFG 200,000 deutschmarks to support young geoscientists. Maucher himself had been a beneficiary of DFG funding at the beginning of his scientific career.

Oliver Lehnert is especially interested in conodonts, which are tooth-like fossil structures in marine deposits. Conodonts stem from eel-like organisms that lived from the Ordovician onwards (about 500 million years ago). Using index fossils such as these allows scientists to determine the age of geological strata. Thus Lehnert has been able to make a crucial contribution to the stratigraphic division of the Argentine Precordillera. He recognised the similarity to the development of conodonts in the southern United States.

He concluded that the Precordillera of Argentina is a microplate that must have been situated in the vicinity of Laurentia, the continental core of North America, and only much later, after a long southward drift, collided and merged with the supercontinent Gondwana.

The Pamir Mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will be at the centre of the keynote address by Professor Manfred Strecker from the Department of Geosciences at the University of Potsdam. One of the major tectonically active mountain ranges in Central Asia, the Pamir Mountains developed in conjunction with another continental collision, that of the Indian with the Eurasian plate about 50 million years ago. Glaciated mountain ranges up to 7,495 metres high and intervening plateaus at 3,500 metres characterise this region of intense earthquake activity, young tectonic deformations, and extreme relief contrasts. The hitherto little-explored westward extension of the Himalayan offers many opportunities to study active crustal deformation and the effects of a continental collision on current mountain-forming processes.