Where to Look for Polar Careers


Germany has two major institutions that focus on polar research: the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe, BGR).

Next Wave Germany has put together the following profiles of these two potential employers of young scientists interested in polar research. Please let us know if you find this information helpful; if you do, we'll run similar potential-employer profiles--specifically targeted toward German readers--in subsequent features as well.

But first, a cautionary word about job openings for polar researchers: Each one comes with its own set of prerequisites. Therefore, it is impossible to give standard requirements. There are, however, a number of things you should be prepared to offer in addition to a university degree: good communication skills (usually English and at least one other foreign language--French or Spanish--as well!) and flexibility, for example. And for those who want to spend a winter in Antarctica, you should start getting your body in shape by the time you are seriously considering applying for that job.

Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)

Polar and marine research are key areas of earth systems and global change research. AWI promotes polar and marine research with its own research work in the Arctic, Antarctic, and moderate latitudes.

The research mission of AWI is to improve our understanding of the complex relations between the oceans, ice, atmosphere, the ocean floor, and the plant and animal kingdoms. Earth management can only be carried out effectively if the research community succeeds in improving our understanding of the global environmental changes induced by natural causes and human interference.

AWI is a foundation that comprises the following research establishments: the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, the AWI Research Centre in Potsdam, and the Helgoland Biological Institute and the Wadden Sea Station Sylt. AWI also maintains a fleet of research vessels, the Polarstern--among the most renown German research ships--being its largest.

In 2000, the foundation had a staff of 750 and a total budget of about DM 170 million. It is a member of the Hermann von Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. The Federal Ministry for Education and Research carries 90% of the budget, the State of Bremen provides 8%, and the states of Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein add an additional 1% each.

Job openings, especially those for PhD candidates and overwintering personnel for the Antarctic Neumayer Station, can be found on the AWI Web sites. To find out more about working at AWI, please also read Barbara Niehoff's article for the Polar Feature.

Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR)

The Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) is the central advisory institution on geosciences for the Federal German Government. It is a subordinate organization of the Federal Ministry for Economics, and it is located in Hannover--with an additional subdivision in Berlin.

BGR advises and informs the Federal Ministries on matters related to the economics of mineral resources and on geoscientific problems concerning environmental protection and conservation of resources. Commissioned by the Federal Government, BGR conducts projects at home and abroad, particularly in developing countries.

The main responsibilities of the BGR are:

  • Advising the Federal Ministries

  • Exploration for and assessment of mineral and energy resources

  • Investigations in the fields of engineering technology, geotechnics, groundwater, soil, and environmental protection

  • Geotechnical studies related to the permanent disposal of radioactive waste

  • Technical cooperation with developing countries

  • Research and development

  • Marine and polar research Ocean Drilling Program (ODP)

  • Seismology

  • Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany on international geoscientific committees

In 2001, BGR had approximately 730 staff members and a total budget of about DM 115 million. Currently, BGR employs people with very diverse academic backgrounds and degrees in disciplines such as geology, geophysics, mineralogy, chemistry, informatics, agriculture, biology, and forestry (among others). Open jobs can be found on BGR's Web site. For Next Wave's feature on careers in polar research, Georg Delisle from BGR has contributed a report about how he became involved in a very interesting field of research--hunting for meteorites in Antarctica.

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