Prof. Dr. Gerold Wefer
DAAD Scholarship 1979–1980
What many people would see as exciting adventures – expeditions on board the research vessel Meteor through the pack ice of Antarctica or storms in the Bermuda Triangle – are actually part of Gerold Wefer’s everyday life as a researcher. What is more he enjoys telling the public all about it – successfully too. That is because the marine geologist at the University of Bremen is able to explain scientific subjects in a vivid and easy-to-follow way. In 2001, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany presented the scientist with the Communicator Prize worth 50,000 euros. Each year, the prize is awarded to recognised scientists who stand out in their ability to communicate their research to the general public. Wefer remained true to his mission – from 2006 to 2014 he was chairman of the Steering Committee of the scientific initiative Wissenschaft im Dialog. In 2011, he received the Alfred Wegener Medal, one of the highest honours that the European Geophysical Union can award researchers who have acquired an outstanding international reputation.
I see passing research findings onto the population as self-evident.
Gerold Wefer was born in 1944 and after finishing elementary school initially did an apprenticeship with Deutsche Bundesbahn, the German rail company. Afterwards he went on to do his Abitur, and finally studied geology and palaeontology in Kiel and Miami from 1968 to 1973. Three years later, he completed his doctorate and in 1979 Wefer went to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego as a DAAD scholarship holder. He has been professor of general geology at the University of Bremen, focusing on marine geology, since 1985.
Popular exhibitions such as the Marine Research Weeks or Open Ship Days were initiated by Gerold Wefer and colleagues at his university. These projects aim to give the public a real insight into science and stimulate their interest. During the Open Ship Days event, he used the presence of the research vessel Meteor in Bremen to spend two days showing people what work on board is really like.
Among other things, the ever-active professor headed one of the six DFG Research Centres and, until 2012, the Centre for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM) at the University of Bremen, a marine research institution that is meanwhile recognised worldwide for its excellence. The Universum Science Centre in Bremen, an interactive museum that opens up the world of science and research to the public, was co-initiated by Wefer. It gives visitors a real hands-on experience, and some 500,000 people visited the centre in its first year alone. When the Donors' Association named Bremen and Bremerhaven as the City of Science 2005, again it was coordinator Gerold Wefer who pulled all the strings.