Geoscience Center

Geoscience Center

Follow us @ Any news to report? Contact David and he'll post it for you.


Do you have any plans for Saturday morning? (2022-11-07, DB)

On three Saturdays in November, scientists present current research from various fields, interestingly and understandably.

Saturday Morning Science is a series of lectures by young STEM researchers in Göttingen in cooperation with the JungChemikerForum (JCF), the young German Physical Society (jDPG), the Biology and Earth Sciences departments of the University of Göttingen and is aimed at students interested in science who want to learn how and what research is done at a university.

The first part of the series will deal with different aspects of life, spanning from the first traces of life over the amazing regenerative capacity of a few living things to the physics of cells. The second part will be about asteroids, the importance of glaciers with respect to climate change, and light in modern applications. If you are interested in research and science in the natural sciences and have always wanted to know from real experts what is being researched at the university, then come along!

You can find more information about the lectures on the flyer.

Where and when?
The lectures on Nov. 12 will be held in lecture hall MN14 in the GZG, on Nov. 19 in lecture hall 1 of the Physics and on Nov. 26 in lecture hall MN30 of the Chemistry.

Glowing fossils: fluorescence reveals colour patterns of earliest scallops (2022-10-28, DB)

Göttingen University geobiologist discovers diversity of patterns in 240 million-year-old seashells

UV light makes it possible to see intricate structures of fossils that are barely visible in normal daylight. This method has often been used on the fossilised seashells from the Earth’s current geological era to reveal patterns of colour that had long since faded away. Now, research by a scientist from the University of Göttingen shows that fluorescent colour patterns can even be found in shells that are around 240 million years old, from the Earth's Mesozoic Era. This makes them the oldest fluorescent colour patterns found so far. The results of this study have been published in the journal Palaeontology.
In fossils from the Mesozoic Era, traces of colour patterns are very rarely observed. However, the investigation with UV light of scallops from the Triassic period – right from the beginning of the Mesozoic Era – shows that colour patterns are preserved much more frequently than previously thought. UV light, which is invisible to the human eye, excites organic compounds in the fossils causing them to glow. This reveals a surprising variety of colour patterns: different variations of stripes, zigzags and flame patterns. The diversity of colour patterns is similar to those of today's seashells found on a beach.
However, the colour patterns of today's scallops do not show any fluorescence. "In the case of the Triassic shells, fluorescent compounds were only formed in the course of fossilisation through oxidation of the original pigments," explains Dr Klaus Wolkenstein from the Geosciences Centre at the University of Göttingen, who is currently carrying out research at the University of Bonn. Surprisingly, the fossil shells show different fluorescent colours, depending on the region where they were found. "The colour spectrum ranges from yellow to red with all the transitions in between, which suggests that there were clear regional differences in the fossilisation of these scallops," adds Wolkenstein.

Image: Different fluorescent colours in the fossil scallop Pleuronectites.

Wolkenstein, K. (2022): Fluorescent colour patterns in the basal pectinid Pleuronectites from the Middle Triassic of Central Europe: origin, fate and taxonomic implications of fluorescence. Palaeontology. DOI

Contact: Klaus Wolkenstein

Press release

Eric Runge receives the Paul-Ramdohr Award (2022-10-04, DB)

Eric Runge, a PhD researcher at the GZG, received the prestigious Paul-Ramdohr Award of the German Mineralogical Society (DMG), which distinguishes outstanding contributions by young scientists. Eric received the award for his excellent talk at the GeoMinKöln2022, entitled "The taphonomic fate of biominerals in hydrothermal sulfide systems – implications for the reconstruction of microbial life in deep time".
The research is part of an Emmy Noether Research Project led by Jan-Peter Duda, Professor of Geobiology at the University of Göttingen. The project is also associated with the Geomicrobiology Group in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Tübingen, led by Prof. Andreas Kappler.

Image: A photo of Eric Runge.

International Short Course on Sedimentary Provenance Analysis (SPA 2022) held at the Geoscience Center (2022-09-21, DB)

After a 2-years break due to the pandemic, the 10th International Short Course on Sedimentary Provenance Analysis (SPA) was held at the Geoscience Center of the University of Göttingen (GZG) from September 5 to 9, 2022. The course was well attended by 26 participants from 11 countries from five continents, among them 21 PhD students, 1 M.Sc. student, and 4 post-docs. The short course was organised by the Department of Sedimentology and Environmental Geology, and the lectures were given by István Dunkl, Keno Lünsdorf, and Hilmar von Eynatten (all GZG) as well as Gert-Jan Weltje (KU Leuven, Belgium) and Róbert Arató (National Academy of Science, Hungary) as invited guest lecturers.
The first day of the course was devoted to the principles of sedimentary provenance analysis, including an introduction to petrographic and geochemical bulk sediment techniques. At the ice-breaker on Monday evening, the participants got in touch with each other as well as the lecturers, along with some drinks and finger food. On the second day morning session, an introduction to heavy mineral analysis (HMA) was given along with an initial part on HM varietal studies. This was followed by an introduction to Raman spectroscopy in the afternoon, further elaborated by a demonstration of automation procedures and applications in HMA. On Tuesday late afternoon, the attendees were given the opportunity to present their own data, case studies, and problems during a poster session. The posters were available during the coffee breaks for the rest of the week to enhance further exchange among the participants as well as the lecturers. The third day addressed the full spectrum of HM varietal studies, including detrital geochronology and the interpretation of crystallisation vs. cooling ages. In the late afternoon, a laboratory tour was offered to the participants to demonstrate some of the technical and analytical facilities at the Geoscience Center Göttingen and how these techniques are handled by the operators. On the morning of the fourth day, we came back to bulk sediment provenance techniques focussing on a robust statistical analysis of compositional data, which provide a fundamental prerequisite for provenance modelling. On Thursday afternoon, low-temperature thermochronological techniques such as fission track and (U‒Th)/He analysis were introduced, followed by a lesson on the statistical treatment of detrital thermochronological and geochronological data. The final part on Friday morning was devoted to the presentation of various case studies along with a kind of ‘provenance quiz’. Most sessions throughout the course were complemented by small exercises in order to gain some practical experience and to demonstrate the huge potential of sedimentary provenance analysis in both academic research and the exploration for raw materials.
The course has been evaluated by the participants, and we received very positive feedback that encouraged us to start planning for SPA 2023. Financial support from the International Association of Sedimentologists (IAS travel grants) and the Deutsche Geologische Gesellschaft ‒ Geologische Vereinigung (DGGV) is gratefully acknowledged. Excellent administrative, as well as logistic support, was provided by GZG staff Ines Ringel and Anna Wolf.

Image: Participants and lecturers of the 10th Short Course on Sedimentary Provenance Analysis (SPA) at the University of Göttingen, held in September 2022.

Contact: Hilmar von Eynatten

Students from the Universities of Göttingen and Helsinki on a joint excursion in the tundra (2022-09-03, DB)

The interest in small plants and in the large tundra biome unites 30 students from the Universities of Göttingen and Helsinki, who studied plants, ecosystems, and land use conflicts of the Scandinavian tundra in a course led by Prof. Jouko Rikkinen from the University of Helsinki and Prof. Alexander Schmidt from the Geoscience Center Göttingen.

The first internationally linked course of the Ecosystem Management bachelor's program with another university took place in June at the Biological Station of the University of Helsinki in Kilpisjärvi in the extremely north-west of Finland. In addition to the study of the arctic and subarctic flora, the students focused on regional land use conflicts and other challenges in nature conservation. While most reindeer-herding Sámi families respect Malla National Park and adjacent special protected areas in the border triangle of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, others regularly herd a few hundred reindeer into these refuges. The effects of this far too high reindeer population on the lichens and birches are obvious. “The lichen cover can no longer regenerate, and there are practically no birch seedlings left. The next generation of these trees is completely missing here,” explains Jouko Rikkinen, who has been documenting the changes in the vegetation in the region for almost two decades. For comparative studies, the lecturers took the students to a neighboring region in Norway where the number of reindeer is low.

The situation in northern Finland is very complex. In addition to overgrazing, accidentally introduced plant species that can establish themselves in the tundra due to rising temperatures are also a problem. They are tracked and removed if possible, while the rarest tundra plants are constantly monitored, and some are even fenced off to keep the livestock away.

The excursion was accompanied by unusually warm weather conditions of more than 30°C, which set temperature records for the region and neighboring northern Norway. "If climate change continues, certain bog types will disappear from this landscape in less than 50 years," says Prof. Henry Väre from the Botanical Museum of the University of Helsinki, who accompanied the course as a renowned expert on the local flora, while inspecting a permafrost-influenced bog.

On the long journey of almost 3000 km, the Göttingen students documented the sequence of forest types from Central Europe to the tree line in the Scandinavian tundra, related them to climate data, and presented their observations to the Finnish students. "The exchange with the Finnish students, the unusual plant species, the endless days without nighttime darkness, and experiencing the midnight sun over the arctic landscape made the 'Arctic Plant Course' a very special experience," reports Charlotte Hennies, student of ecosystem management. The cooperation with the University of Helsinki is now to be permanently anchored in teaching and the 'Arctic Plant Course' firmly integrated into the ecosystem management curriculum - a novelty for this bachelor's program.

Arctic Plant Course 2022 group photo

Image: Participants of the ‘Arctic Plant Course’ at the Biological Station of the University of Helsinki in Kilpisjärvi in north-western Finland. Image: Prof. Alexander Schmidt, University of Göttingen.

Contact: Alexander Schmidt

Night of Science (2022-07-02, DB)

This week, the lucky winners of the "Geology/Mineralogy" prize puzzle were able to collect their prizes from the Faculty of Geosciences and Geography, which they won during the Night of Science on 9/7/2022 (Fig. 1).

A. Abel and A. Friedrich (B.Sc. students of Geosciences) had presented their projects and A. Lohse (MSc student of Geosciences) reported about the recent volcanic eruption of Iceland in March 2021, which she could witness during an Erasmus stay at the University of Reykjavik (Fig. 2).

A look back in time to the origins of our solar system (2022-06-13, DB)

Researchers from the Geochemistry Department analyse a rock from the asteroid Ryugu

Researchers from the University of Göttingen are among the first in the world to have analysed rock samples from the asteroid Ryugu. Asteroids are remnants from the very beginnings of our solar system and, at around 4.6 billion years old, are about as old as the solar system itself. This means they provide a unique insight into the origins of the planets. The data from the Göttingen team show that Ryugu belongs to a special class of asteroids – to date, only a very few have ever been discovered. Their composition is similar to that of our Sun, making them important reference points for cosmochemistry. The results were published in Science.

The rock sample comes from the Japanese space mission "Hayabusa 2" ("Peregrine 2"), which was launched in December 2014. Three and a half years later, in the summer of 2018, the ion-propelled probe reached the asteroid 162173 Ryugu ("Dragon Palace"), which has a diameter of about 900 metres. In February and July 2019, it took more samples, which it then dropped in a capsule as it flew past Earth in December 2020. The probe had collected about five grams of rock. To collect this sample, the probe covered a distance of an almost unimaginable 5.4 billion kilometres." Only a small number of selected laboratories around the world received fractions of the sample for initial analyses. The scientists from Göttingen University got a sliver of 2.4 milligrams.

As Prof. Professor Andreas Pack explains: "We determined the isotopic composition of oxygen. It was a great privilege for us to carry out some of the first analyses of this material. The analysis was extremely demanding. It was simply not an option to make even the slightest mistake," says Pack. "But we have been working for years on refining our techniques for measuring the isotopes of oxygen and are now one of the leading laboratories in this field. The fact that we were chosen to analyse the Ryugu material confirms that we are always pushing at the boundaries of what can be achieved."

→ Yokoyama, T., et al. (2022) Samples returned from the asteroid Ryugu are similar to Ivuna-type carbonaceous meteorites, Science, DOI

Full press release

Algae reveal clues about climate changes over millions of years (2022-05-16, DB)

Göttingen University scientists identify and investigate algae which register seawater temperatures of the warmest months

Organisms adjust their cell walls according to environmental conditions such as temperature. Some adaptations involve changes in lipids which may still be preserved long after the rest of the organisms has been degraded. Researchers at the University of Göttingen studied a specific group of lipids called long chain diols which are found in sea sediments all over the world, and which can be preserved for millions of years. The researchers discovered that these lipids are produced by an, until now, unknown group of marine eustigmatophyte algae which evolved before the currently known species originated. This finding changes our understanding of the composition and evolution of these algae, as previously they were considered to consist of a relatively small group of mainly soil and freshwater species. In addition, the researchers show that a ratio of these distinctive lipids, known as the Long chain Diol Index, can be used to reconstruct summer sea surface temperatures from the past.

Algae cultures

Rampen S. W., Friedl T., Rybalka N., Thiel V., (2022) The Long chain Diol Index: A marine palaeotemperature proxy based on eustigmatophyte lipids that record the warmest seasons, PNAS, 119, e2116812119, DOI

Climate fluctuations, volcanism and geochemical transport between rain, soils, volcanic ash, and the fjords ecosystems at the end of the world (2022-04-15, DB)

A research group led by Prof. Dr. G. Wörner of the Department of Geochemistry and Isotope Geology of the Geosciences Center has worked in a long-term collaboration with Prof. Dr. Rolf Kilian in the inaccessible fjord and island zone of the southernmost Patagonian Andes in Chile to reconstruct the climate history in this region. Rolf Kilian died in May 2019 in a tragic accident during fieldwork in Patagonia. Now, the important work of a jointly supervised PhD student and an extended working group could be published in high-ranking international journals (Klaes et al., 2022a; Klaes et al., 2022b). The work is based on extensive soil analyses and, most importantly, detailed geochemical analyses on an approximately 4500-year-old stalagmite. This stalagmite is the southernmost limestone deposit of this type ever found and, based on its fine stratification, allows geochemical analyses with high temporal resolution and to reconstruct changing climate and chemical processes at the Earth’s surface. This is because the compositions of the sub-millimeter thick layers reflect environmental conditions and the climate-controlled input of chemical substances from the surrounding soils and rocks over thousands of years in the past. As a completely new finding, remnants of volcanic dust from eruptions of nearby volcanoes were found in the soils and even in the stalagmite from the cave. The volcanic input can also be proven by geochemical anomalies in the stalagmite (e.g. incorporation of sulphur) and can even be assigned to individual explosive volcanic eruptions of the geological past by dating the stalagmite layers. These volcanic deposits are of fundamental importance for the chemical processes in the moors and have a particularly strong effect under the influence of the extreme precipitation in the region. Together with detailed studies of organic and mineral components embedded in the stalagmite, new insights into the effects of eruptions of different sizes on the Magellanic peatland ecosystem could thus be clearly documented and better placed in time. Volcanic input provides nutrients and thus makes a critical contribution to aquatic bioproductivity in adjacent fjord ecosystems. This input, in turn, is directly related to the extreme climatic conditions prevailing in the region and their past fluctuations in a complex set of processes.

Klaes, B., Wörner, G., Kremer, K., Simon, K., Kronz, A., Scholz, D., Mueller, C. W., Höschen, C., Struck, J., Arz, H. W., Thiele-Bruhn, S., Schimpf, D., Kilian, R. (2022a): High-resolution stalagmite stratigraphy supports the Late Holocene tephrochronology of southernmost Patagonia. Commun. Earth Environ. 3, 23. DOI

Klaes, B., Wörner, G., Thiele-Bruhn, S., Arz, H. W., Struck, J., Dellwig, O., Groschopf, N., Lorenz, M., Wagner, J.-F., Baeza-Urrea, O., Lamy, F., Kilian, R. (2022b): Element mobility related to rock weathering and soil formation at the westward side of the southernmost Patagonian Andes. Sci. Total Environ. 817, 152977. DOI

Geothermal energy for the campus: New video on EU-project MEET and our activities within it (2021-11-11, AP)

A short video giving a general overview on the EU-Horizon-project MEET has just been released. The new approach of "Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)" focuses on the exploitation of the subsurface heat trapped in any geological setting in an effort to make geothermal heat available essentially everywhere. The Göttingen campus is one of the demonstration sites having an existing heating district system, but a very limited knowledge of the unconventional target horizon and its geological setting, "Folded and thrusted Variscan metasediments". In an interview, Bernd Leiss and Ali Abdelkahlek from GZG´s structural geology department and the Universitätsenergie Göttingen GmbH explain our approach and show first results. Our commitment is in line with a statement of the prospective new government of Germany 2021 in its coalition agreement: “We want to intensify the usage of geothermal energy by improving the data situation and by evaluating a success risk insurance for geothermal wells”.


Webpage of MEET-project:


Contact: Jonas Kley

Geowissenschaftliches Kolloquium

The colloquium is held during the semester (24.10.2022 – 02.10.2023) on Wednesdays between 14:15 and 15:30. The colloquium talks are organised in a hybrid format. Whether a talk is presented in-person or online is written in the schedule.


Kontakt: Dr. Manuel Reinhardt