7 March 2019

Dutch and German polar and marine researchers join forces

Under the watchful eye of King Willem Alexander and Queen Máxima, a large delegation of Dutch polar and marine researchers has signed a letter of intent to collaborate with the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven. The ceremony was held during a working visit by the royal couple to the German port city.

Discussions during the visit covered a variety of topics. Amongst other things, the King and Queen spoke with a large group of scientists about climate change and its effect upon ecosystems, the impact of melting ice caps, tackling microplastics and overfishing and the opportunities being opened up by easier access to the Arctic region.

The signing in the presence of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima, Karsten Sieling and Alexia Sieling (standing); Seated: Niek Lopes-Cardozo (NWO), Henk Brinkhuis (UU-NIOZ), Anton Pijpers (Utrecht University), Michael Schulz (MARUM) and Antje Boetius (AWI). Photo: Esther Horvath.

Intention agreement

For the large delegation of Dutch polar and marine researchers accompanying the royal couple, the visit was a chance to agree mutual collaborations as well as a future working relationship with the Bremerhaven-based Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), a leader in polar, marine and coastal research. Anton Pijpers, President of the Executive Board of Utrecht University, and AWI Director Prof Antje Boetius signed a letter of intent for a memorandum of understanding between their institutions. This extends a relationship which has existed since 2005.

Utrecht delegation

As well as Pijpers, the Utrecht delegation included geochemist Prof. Jack Middelburg, physical geographers Prof. Piet Hoekstra and Dr Maarten van der Vegt, atmospheric scientist Prof. Thomas Röckmann and meteorologist Willem Jan van de Berg. Also present at the signing ceremony were Prof. Stefan Schouten, Prof. Katja Philippart, Prof. Tjeerd Bouma, Prof. Gert-Jan Reichart and Prof. Henk Brinkhuis, all of whom combine positions at Utrecht University with work at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). The ceremony was preceded by a Dutch-German workshop focusing upon changes in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, the effects of rising sea levels and climate change upon coastal areas and the relationship between climate and the global carbon cycle.


 “I am proud that we are further strengthening our role in international polar and marine research in this way,” says Pijpers. “This is urgent and very wide-ranging work, which you cannot do without good partnerships. Working with AWI, together we have an even greater impact within this topical research theme.”

Three more agreements

In addition to the letter of intent, another three agreements were signed during the royal visit: between AWI and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), between AWI and NIOZ and between marine environmental sciences centre MARUM (part of the University of Bremen), NIOZ and the Faculty of Geosciences at Utrecht University. According to Piet Hoekstra, “Not only do these agreements create closer links between excellent Dutch and German polar and marine research, they also lay the foundation for more intensive exchanges of knowledge, expertise and infrastructure so that we can jointly tackle problems in our shared North Sea and Wadden Sea.”