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The main research goal of this project is focused on trophic interactions within microbenthic communities in aquatic systems. Grazer-microalgae interactions are investigated by conducting field and laboratory experiments in order to get a closer idea of the microphytobenthos community structure itself. Especially the role of morphological and physiological adaptations of microalgae in the presence of specific meio- and macrofaunal predators are of great interest. In addition to that we have devised a new benthic sensor for the quantitative and qualitative assessment in situ of diverse populations of microphytobenthos with high spatial and temporal resolution, enabling rapid evaluation of the community structure and distribution.
The goal is to understand, how bacteria in Arctic sediments are adapted to low temperature and how (climatic) changes of temperature may affect the rate and pathways of carbon cycling and the balance of mineral cycles. The diversity and physiology of bacterial populations of fjord sediments on West-Spitzbergen will be studied by a combination of molecular (16S rRNA sequence analyses and in situ hybridization) and microbiological (isolation and physiology of pure cultures) approaches. The metabolic activity of these bacteria in the sea floor and the temperature regulation of the dominant mineralization processes will be analysed by experimentel techniques during the research period in Ny Ålesund. The focus will be on the enzymatic cleavage of polymeric carbohydrates, the anaerobic respiration through sulfate reduction, the reduction of iron and mangenese oxides, and the turnover of volatile fatty acids and hydrogen. Subsequently, psychrophilic bacteria are isolated from the anoxic sediments and studied in pure culture. The bacterial populations in the sediment are studied by molecular methods to analyze their diversity and metabolic activity.
3-D GPR (ground penetrating radar) profiling of permafrost deposits and examination of their geocryologic and sediment properties for verification of GPR profiles. The scientific project has the following aims: To improve the understanding of how GPR (ground penetrating radar) reflections are generated in frozen ground; to reveal the main factors (geophysical and sedimentary) controlling electromagnetic reflection characteristics and their spatial continuity as examplarily studied along a continuous permafrost section, i.e. to distinguish between physical (dielectricity, conductivity and density) and sedimentary (ice/water content, grain size distribution, content of organic matter, texture) properties and estimate their proportionate quantity on the origin of the wave reflections.