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Center of Excellence

New Center of Excellence: Deep-sea exploration

SDU will be home to a new Center of Excellence with the aim of exploring the deepest parts of the oceans.

By Birgitte Svennevig, , 10/23/2019

A new Center of Excellence is to be based at SDU. The name will be Danish Center for Hadal Research (HADAL), and it is headed by biogeochemist and professor at SDU, Ronnie N. Glud, who has several deep-sea research expeditions behind him.

The hadal zone is found in the deepest parts of the Earth's oceans and extends from 6 to 11 km depth.

There are about 27 hadal trenches (also called deep-sea trenches) and they represent some of the most extreme and inaccessible places on Earth. Here unknown lifeforms can be found, and unexplored biogeochemical processes are taking place.

MR The objectives

HADAL has three general objectives:

  1. Investigate how material is transported to and deposited at the greatest depths of the global ocean.
  2.  Explain how organic matter and nutrients are processed in the hadal zone.
  3.  Explore the composition and function of the microbial life in the hadal zone.

MR: Measurements must be made in the deep

- The hadal trenches are largely unexplored, but our latest research shows that they have elevated biological activity and an intensified biogeochemical turnover of deposited material as compared to the ambient deep-sea environment, says Ronnie N. Glud.

Thus, they function as small "deep-sea oases" of microbial life - life that has adapted to the unique and extreme conditions at the greatest depths of the sea.

- The pressure in these trenches is enormous, and reliable measurements of biological processes and biogeochemical turnover should therefore preferably be measured directly in the trench environment rather than in decompressed and disturbed samples brought to the surface, says Ronnie N. Glud.

Centers of Excellence

In 2019, The Danish National Research Foundation will invest in 10 new centers of excellence. The Danish Center for Hadal Research (HADAL) has been granted DKK 54.6 million over six years with the possibility of an extension for another four years.

HADAL will therefore develop new instruments that will enable us to conduct experiments and measurements as well as collect samples directly at the great depths, he adds.

In addition, sophisticated high-pressure systems will be developed at SDU, enabling research on how pressure affects biological processes and microbial interactions.

The new Center of Excellence is based on the foundation of another deep-sea project, HADES-ERC, which has entered its final phase and is funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant. This project is also led by Ronnie N. Glud.

MR: An experienced research team

The experienced research team behind HADAL are:

Professor Ronnie N. Glud (SDU), Professor Bo Thamdrup (SDU), Associate Professor Peter Stief (SDU), Professor Mathias Middelboe (SDU and University of Copenhagen), Dr. Frank Wenzhöfer (Alfred Wegener Institute / Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Germany) and Professor Hiroshi Kitazato. (Tokyo University for Marine Science and Technology (TUMSAT), Japan).

In addition to his position at SDU, Ronnie N. Glud is also a professor at TUMSAT who will provide an important base for expeditions to the hadal trenches in the Northeast Pacific.

Meet the researcher

Ronnie N. Glud is a professor at the Department of Biology. He has several deep-sea expeditions behind him, including to the Mariana Trench, the Kermadec Trench and the Atacama Trench.


Editing was completed: 23.10.2019