The Rolex Awards for Enterprise
German marine biologist Antje Boetius is renowned for her contributions to the understanding of life at the bottom of the sea, particularly the Arctic Ocean, one of the world’s habitats most affected by climate change. As a Professor of Geomicrobiology at the University of Bremen and leader of the Deep Sea Ecology and Technology Group of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven and Bremen’s Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Boetius is spearheading studies of the effects of ice retreat and ecosystem responses in the Arctic. She and her team use innovative technologies and methods to observe, for example, the impact of global warming on the polar ecosystem. “For us it was a sensation to discover how fast the Arctic is changing even in its deep basins,” she says. Boetius developed her sense of adventure at an early age when she read books by Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne’s classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. She studied biology and biological oceanography at the University of Hamburg and at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, later receiving a doctorate in biology from the University of Bremen. In the ensuing years, she taught, authored articles in respected journals and carried out cutting-edge research at leading German institutions in fields such as biological oceanography and geomicrobiology. She has participated in 45 expeditions; her scientific research also includes exploration of extreme environments in the ocean such as hot vents, cold seeps and mud volcanoes. For her outstanding achievements Boetius received Germany’s prestigious Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, and a European Research Council Advanced Grant for exceptional research leaders. Boetius’s next deep-sea mission takes her to the Pacific to study potential impacts of deep-sea mining on life at the seafloor. “We really need to know impacts and recovery timescales before we are exploiting deep-sea resources,” she says.