Junior Researchers on the Coast
The central research topic of Helmholtz’s new group of junior researchers at the Institute for Coastal Research is the origin and environmental behavior of reactive nitrogen in flat coastal seas, such as the Baltic Sea and the southern part of the North Sea. Dr. Kirstin Dähnke, a biologist, is leading the junior researcher group, which is being supported by the Helmholtz Association. Reactive nitrogen is of central importance to all of life’s processes, including plant growth for example. Through the spreading of manure, waste water, or combustion processes, nitrogen enters the environment in amounts today that are clearly higher than those found during the pre-industrial era. Whether as nitrates, nitrogen oxide or ammonia, the presence of nitrogen represents a clear burden both on people and the environment.
Kirsten Dähnke is researching the nitrogen cycle in the North and Baltic Seas and their watersheds along with three researchers and an engineer using a variety of approaches. For one, they are using water and sediment samples to reach conclusions about the sources and paths of nitrogen. In addition, they are calculating the route of nitrogen in the atmosphere using computer models. Furthermore, lab experiments will show how algae and other organisms take in and process nitrogen. This latter research is pursuing a question that is not only exciting to natural scientists: This work could show which measures can be particularly effective in regulating the over-fertilization of coastal waters in the future.
The Helmholtz group of junior researchers around Kirstin Dähnke is thus far made up of some 130 young scientists, who have named the project “Sources, sinks and internal cycling of nitrogen in coastal waters – Identification of key processes using stable N isotopes”. This group makes up a central part of the Helmholtz Association’s support for young researchers. Kirstin Dähnke’s works with this group is centered in the “Biogeochemistry in Coastal Regions” section of the Institute for Coastal Research, under the direction of Prof. Kay Emeis, and is thus associated with the University of Hamburg.
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