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Key research areas of Geo.X

Geo.X – Our Mission

The comprehensive geoscientific expertise in Berlin and Potsdam is bundled in the Geo.X research network that brings together partners from universities and non-university research institutions. The key motivation for the cooperation of the Geo.X partner institutions is the fundamental recognition of the strong potential of joint performance. In light of this, the partner institutions commit themselves to a close cooperation in the areas of research, teaching, joint infrastructure, internationalisation and transfer into society and industry. This commitment is reflected in joint research projects, joint promotion of young talents and networking initiatives. Geo.X is strictly organised bottom up, oriented towards the needs of member scientists. 

Building on expertise from the network, Geo.X will groom next generation geoscientists, to sustain a vibrant, concentrated and productive regional research network that serves as a blueprint for perpetuating collaborative multi- and interdisciplinary science and, in this way, to provide answers to grand challenges that shape the future of our society.

Geo.X-Themenfelder

Three dimensional numerical modelling of mantle convection in the interior of the Earth, Modelling: A. Plesa, Institute of Planetary Research, DLR

The evolution of planetary bodies is significantly driven by the forces acting inside them and the resulting mechanisms. They influence the shape, the gravity field and the rotation of the body, as well as deformations and formation of geological structures at the surface, and can also influence the development of the atmosphere through related volcanism. With geodetic space techniques, the corresponding tectonic movements and deformations can be measured directly. Coupled with the mapping of gravitational and magnetic fields by space sensors, these data can provide relevant insights into geodynamic processes.

Although the terrestrial planets share many general properties regarding their origin, their chemical composition and their inner structure, they also differ substantially  concerning certain characteristics. The investigation of the common features and differences (of the relevant geodynamic processes) also serves a deeper understanding of the special position of the Earth among the terrestrial planets, especially with regard to the development of habitability and natural hazards.

We conduct research in the following areas:

  • Rotation parameters and global shape of planetary bodies
  • Inner structure of planetary bodies
  • Mantle convection in planets and moons
  • Gravitational and magnetic fields
  • Deformation measurement
  • Tidal deformation
  • Volcanism and geotectonics
  • Seismology of planetary bodies
  • Thermal evolution
World map of tectonic stresses 2016 | The stress map shows the direction of the maximum horizontal stress SHmax in the earth's crust (Heidbach et al. 2016). The symbols indicate the SHmax direction of various stress indicators. Colors indicate the stress regime: normal faulting (NF), strike-slip (SS), thrust faulting (TF) and unknown (U). Spurce: GFZ

Geo-risks arise where nature and humankind come into contact with each other. Their control necessitates not only a fundamental grasp of the underlying natural processes and their integration in quantitative risk models, but also a painstaking analysis of vulnerability that integrates the historical dimension, as a means of optimizing data collection and assessment. The extreme dynamics of the risks resulting from the conjunction of hazard and vulnerability demand a new approach that is not exclusively geared to the optimum quantification of present threats, but also factors in their fluctuations over time. Risk identification and control, the prediction of future risk patterns and the development of suitable protective strategies rank among the most urgent challenges currently facing geo-risk researchers.

We conduct research in the following areas:

  • Earthquakes
  • Tsunamis
  • Mass migration
  • Volcanism
  • Asteroid impacts
  • Extreme meteorological events
  • Flooding
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Glacial retreat
  • Sea level rise
  • Desertification
  • Species extinction
Quartz Tungsten Sulfide ore vein in Panasqueira, Portugal. Source: Robert Trumbull, GFZ Potsdam

Throughout its history, humankind has made use of the Earth's resources. Yet, at many locations, technical progress and population growth have brought about an overexploitation of the natural environment and, in some cases, even the destruction of entire habitats. Future developments will largely depend on striking an acceptable balance between conservation and use of key geo-resources such as air, water, land, soil and raw materials. The scientific challenge addresses both basic research into process understanding and systems analysis, and the application-oriented research focusing on the availability and exhaustibility of geo-resources.

We conduct research in the following areas:

  • Fossil fuels
  • Mineral raw materials
  • Metal deposits
  • Geothermal energy
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Air
  • Radiation
In higher atmospheric layers (approx. 5.5 km), a constant high pressure area extends from North Africa over Central Europe to Scandinavia. Because of the similarity to the Greek capital Ω meteorologists speak of an "Omega weather situation". Source: German Weather Service

The scope of global change extends beyond environmental and climate change processes. Indeed, humankind's economic activities entail dramatic shifts in land use and land cover. Intensified research into rural land use coupled with a switch to carbon-free energy production using bioenergy will be needed if the world's population is to be fed. Climate impact researchers will have to deliver answers on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New strategies are required for adapting to the already inevitable consequences of climate change, particularly in conurbations. With over half the world's population now living in urban centres, these are the locations suffering the most radical interventions into the natural resource base.

We conduct research in the following areas:

  • Carbon capture and storage
  • Use of underground space
  • Geomaterials and new materials
  • Soil/land use
  • Water management
  • Management of rural areas and metropolitan regions
  • Air quality/ozone depletion
Cyanobacteria under the microscope (Photo: GFZ).

One of the major unknowns are the complex interactions between the geosphere and the biosphere, which have so far been little studied and understood. These interactions (hydrological, biogeochemical, geophysical, biological, etc.) take place on very different spatial and temporal scales and determine the expression and function of our habitat. In particular, such changes are also noticeable in border regions of civilization, as in the high mountains and the high latitudes of the earth. Against the background of a steadily increasing world population and the continuous shortage of important resources such as water, food, soil and mineral raw materials, interdisciplinary research in the fields of geosciences and life sciences is urgently needed. Without the holistic view of biological and geological systems and the interactions existing between them, the processes in the upper part of the earth's crust and their development can not be sufficiently understood. In addition, there are clear indications that the deeper Earth's interior and the cycle of plate tectonics are also influenced by geo-bio-interactions.

We conduct research in the following areas:

  • Long-term stability of geotechnical storage sites
  • Exploration of rare raw materials
  • Water management
  • Land use
  • Palaeo climate
  • Permafrost areas
  • Planetology and Astrobiology