Strategic orientation

The overall aim of the envisaged HVI PolarTime is to create a center of excellence of international standing to study the principles, interactions and evolution of endogenous biological rhythms and clocks in polar pelagic organisms. Emphasis will be placed on invertebrate key species who’s biology is so pervasive as to dictate ecosystem functioning.

Antarctic krill Euphausia superba. Photo: Alfred Wegener Institute

In the first place, the Southern ocean key species Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba (hereafter referred to as krill) will act as model organism to study the endogenous clock machinery and its effect on daily and seasonal life-cycle functions. The results will act as solid basis to study and understand the mechanisms of temporal synchronization of other key polar pelagic organisms such as calanoid copepods e.g. Calanus finmarchicus (northern sub polar and polar seas), C. glacialis (Arctic), Calanoides acutus (Southern Ocean), as well as pelagic tunicates in the Southern Ocean (e.g. Salpa thompsoni) and amphipods in the Arctic. Embedded modeling studies will enable us to understand and predict how the ongoing environmental changes will impact the clock machinery and consequently the life cycle of key species and hence the whole polar marine ecosystem.

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) will be the coordinating Helmholtz Centre within the virtual institute. The AWI is one of the world’s leading research centers on both Polar Regions. The section Polar Biological Oceanography at AWI has a long track record in studying polar pelagic key species and groups combining field observations with process and experimental studies at multiple scales, from the ecosystem level down to molecular approaches. The Antarctic krill group within the section has a high international reputation and in the last 10 years has made significant breakthroughs on ecophysiological and ecological aspects of the life cycle of krill (see state of the art). The virtual institute will bring together the expertise of the AWI with the key competencies of another Helmholtz Institute, the Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ and with those of two German universities, the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin – CUB; and the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg – UO as well as two international partner institutions, the Australian Antarctic Division – AAD and the University of Padua – UP. Our interdisciplinary network of cooperation partners combine significant research topics such as the biology of marine pelagic key species (AWI), ecology and aquaculture of Antarctic krill (AAD), molecular chronobiology (CUB and UP),population genetics (U), individual-based modeling (UFZ), and modeling of population and community dynamics (UO). This innovative scientific network will create a unique center of excellence and international standing to study the molecular basis of endogenous rhythms and clocks in polar pelagic organisms and thereby to explore the regional impact of global climate change on polar pelagic ecosystems. This, overall, will form a new standard in polar marine research. The HVI will strengthen scientific excellence as well as increasing international competitiveness and will place the Helmholtz Association in general and the AWI with its cooperation partners in particular in a unique leading position by establishing this innovative research field.

The envisaged HVI PolarTime contributes significantly to achieve the corresponding goals of the Helmholtz research program “Polar Regions and Coasts in a changing Earth System” (PACES). This is especially true for Topic (T) 1, Work Package (WP) 3: “A bi-polar perspective of sea ice- atmosphere-ocean-ecosystem interactions”, T1 WP4: “Antarctic Circumpolar Climate and Ecosystem Study” as well as T1 WP6: “Warming Ocean and acidification”. In addition, the overall goal of the HVI PolarTimes underpins the strategy of the Helmholtz research field “Earth and Environment”. A central concern of this research field is the provision of guidance and practical advice that can be used by administrators, politicians, economists and the public. Important implementation steps towards this goal include:

  • The identification and analysis of key natural processes, which substantially determine geo- ocean, climate- and eco systems and thus the habitat of the people
  • The global, regional and local monitoring of critical parameters and key trends
  • Further development of capacities for global, regional and local modeling and simulation of processes.