Moving Surfaces – University of Potsdam applies for Cluster of Excellence at the Interface between the Geosciences, Biology and Climate Research

The University of Potsdam was the only academic institution in Brandenburg to apply  for a cluster of excellence in the framework of Germany’s federal and state-level strategy of excellence. An application has been submitted for a cluster of excellence that deals with interdisciplinary research on the dynamics of the earth’s surface – our habitat. Research will focus on the interactions of the geo, bio and climate sciences, as well as new approaches in the analysis of highly complex data sets.

Currently our understanding is limited to the concept of how geological, biological and climatic processes work together to influence and shape the earth’s surface. Scientists at the University of Potsdam therefore want to work with partners at other research institutions to investigate these dynamics and how they work: in complex, intertwined ways. This led them to submit an application for a cluster of excellence to the federal and state strategy of excellence.
“Earthquakes, landslides, floods, forest fires: the earth’s surface is formed by the interplay of geological, biological and climatic forces that become truly impressive in these kinds of events,” explains Bodo Bookhagen, Professor for Applied Remote Sensing at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and spokesperson for the application project. “Up to now, the perspective and methods of individual disciplines have been used to perform research on such events and the processes associated with them. Now though we have to go one step further, because the complexity of the research methods have to match the complexity of these processes. This is why geoscientists, biologists and climatologists came together to create this application. Our research approach also brings in data sciences, which will make it possible to use statistical analyses to identify complex connections.”
The president of the University of Potsdam, Prof. Oliver Günther, PhD, also noted the cluster application’s interdisciplinary approach: “I am very pleased that we have succeeded in bringing together two of Potsdam’s greatest research strengths – geosciences and biosciences – and that we have included our long-term research partners from extramural institutions. It’s no secret that I, as a computer scientist, am also very excited that the data sciences also play an essential role in the application. This will also be an important topic in the University’s new Digital Engineering Faculty, which was formerly the Hasso Plattner Institute.”
The partner institutions are those research institutions outside of the University with which the University of Potsdam has long enjoyed close cooperation, and with whom it shares several joint professorships: the Helmholtz Center Potsdam – the Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ), the Alfred Wegener Institute – the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Ocean Research (AWI) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the Natural History Museum of Berlin – the Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Research (MfN), and the Technical University of Berlin.
A total of 195 draft proposals for clusters of excellence were submitted to the German Research Foundation (DFG) in Bonn, which administers the funding competition for clusters of excellence. A decision will be issued on September 28, 2017 regarding which proposals will make it to the final proposal stage, and the clusters of excellence that win funding will be announced in September 2018. Funding begins on January 1, 2019. About €385 million in funding is planned for 45 to 50 clusters of excellence.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Bodo Bookhagen, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Tel.: +49 331 977-5779
Email: bodo.bookhagenuni-potsdamde
Photo:The dynamics of earth’s surface are revealed in impressive ways in high mountain valleys, as here in the central Himalaya: meltwater and rainwater constantly reshape the landscape. (Source: B. Bookhagen)

Press Release 11-04-2017 / No. 046
Matthias Zimmermann 

University of Potsdam
Department for Press and Public Relations
Am Neuen Palais 10
14469 Potsdam
Tel.: +49 331 977-1474
Fax: +49 331 977-1130
Email: presseuni-potsdamde

Published online by: Agnetha Lang
Contact the online editorial office: onlineredaktionuni-potsdamde