News Release

German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Stifterverband honor marine researcher Antje Boetius with the Carl-Friedrich-von-Weizsäcker-Prize 2022

Grant and Award Announcement


Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius, marine researcher and microbiologist from Bremerhaven, is awarded the Carl-Friedrich-von-Weizsäcker-Prize for her many years of dedication to exploring the deep sea and its influence on material cycles, biodiversity and worldwide climate change. Endowed with €50,000, the award from the Stifterverband and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina is presented for valuable scientific contributions to tackling the challenges facing society today. It is therefore the German award for scientists working in the area of science-based policy advice.

"Antje Boetius delivers pioneering work with her research in the areas of deep sea and polar research", says the President of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Prof. (ETHZ) Dr. Gerald Haug. "Her work in the oceans, from the methane consuming microbe communities in the deep sea to the ecological consequences of the sea ice decline in the Arctic, reflects the wide range of her scientific work. She builds bridges between biology, chemistry and Earth System Science and thus significantly contributes to the development of the new discipline of biogeochemistry."

"Alongside her extremely successful scientific work, her community involvement should also be noted," says Prof. Dr. Michael Kaschke, President of the Stifterverband. "Antje Boetius is particularly committed to promoting interdisciplinary dialogue within and beyond the scientific community as well as stimulating discussions about controversial topics in research. In doing so, she intensively deals with the diversity and quality of science communication formats."

Antje Boetius, director of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, is currently focusing on the effects of climate change on the biogeochemistry and biodiversity of the Arctic Ocean. Boetius researches microorganisms that live on parts of the ocean floor and have a sizeable, long-term impact on the earth system. Large amounts of methane develop in the deep sea, which is stored as methane hydrates in the ocean floor or escapes as gas. Boetius discovered microbial communities that break down a large part of this methane without needing oxygen to do so. This process is of great significance for methane flows in the oceans as well as for the climate system. After all, these microbial communities prevent large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane, 25 times more harmful for the climate than CO2, from escaping into the atmosphere. Boetius was the first to be able to assign previously unknown microorganisms to this process of anaerobic methane oxidation, AOM for short. She is currently investigating the diversity of deep-sea communities beneath the Arctic Ice as well the effects on the sea floor’s ecosystem when polymetallic nodules are removed.

Antje Boetius studied biology at the University of Hamburg and biological oceanography at the University of California, San Diego in the United States. In 1996 she received her doctorate from the University of Bremen and in 2001 was appointed Professor for Microbiology at the International University of Bremen. Since 2008, she has been the head of the Joint Research Group for Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology of the Helmholtz Association and the Max Planck Society at the AWI and the MPI for Marine Microbiology in Bremen. She has been a professor of geomicrobiology at the University of Bremen since 2009 and since 2017 the Director of the AWI in Bremerhaven. Antje Boetius has been honoured for her scientific work and her community involvement with numerous awards, including the Leibniz Prize from the German Research Foundation in 2009 and the Advanced Grant from the European Research Council in 2011. In 2018 she received the Communicator Award from the German Research Foundation and the Stifterverband, as well as the German Environmental Award. In 2009, the Leopoldina elected Antje Boetius as a member in the Section Earth Sciences. She is also a member of a range of German and international academies.

The Carl-Friedrich-von-Weizsäcker-Prize is the science prize from the Stifterverband and is endowed with €50,000. Together with the Leopoldina, the Stifterverband awards the prize every two years to scientists or research teams who have made a valuable scientific contribution to tackling the challenges facing society today. The first Weizsäcker-Prize was awarded to Prof. Dr. Jens Reich, scientist and civil rights activist, in 2009. Prof. Dr. Christian Dustmann, economist, received the prize in 2020.

The award ceremony will take place on Monday 12 December 2022 in Halle (Saale) as part of the Leopoldina’s traditional Christmas Lecture, which will be held by this years’ prize winner on the topic of "Ocean Life". During the event, the special edition of the Carl-Friedrich-von-Weizsäcker-Prize will be awarded to the haematologist, oncologist and immunologist Prof. Dr. Christoph Huber. The special edition prize should have been awarded in 2021 but was postponed due to the pandemic.

More information on the Christmas Lecture programme is available here:

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About the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
As the German National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina provides independent science-based policy advice on matters relevant to society. To this end, the Academy develops interdisciplinary statements based on scientific findings. In these publications, options for action are outlined; making decisions, however, is the responsibility of democratically legitimized politicians. The experts who prepare the statements work in a voluntary and unbiased manner. The Leopoldina represents the German scientific community in the international academy dialogue. This includes advising the annual summits of heads of state and government of the G7 and G20 countries. With 1,600 members from more than 30 countries, the Leopoldina combines expertise from almost all research areas. Founded in 1652, it was appointed the National Academy of Sciences of Germany in 2008. The Leopoldina is committed to the common good.

About the Stifterverband
Around 3,000 companies, company associations, foundations and private persons work together as the Stifterband to further advance education, science and innovation. With improvement programmes, analyses and recommendations for action, the Stifterverband safeguards the infrastructure of innovation: high-performance universities, strong research institutions, and productive discussion between business, science and general society.

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