“If you only look at the water, you don't know the sea.” Rainer Kaune

Below, you will find information on current and past projects of the Scientific Diving Center as well as a list of present topics for qualification theses at the SDC:

3D underwater photogrammetry

Selected objects for investigation using 3D photogrammetryThe method of photogrammetry is state of the art in remote sensing and has been tried and tested in many ways. There is also a wide range of uses underwater. The mathematical process is based on several perspectives for the alignment and reconstruction of real objects.

For this purpose, a large number of overlapping images are aligned with one another by means of key points (a) and used for the reconstruction of a dense point cloud (b). This forms the basis for a network (c) using an unstructured grid. The texture (d), small real image sections, is projected onto the individual surfaces.

Georeferencing and scaling provide a real 3D image of an inaccessible structure for further research, measurements and investigations. Different output formats such as an orthorflected image (e) as well as an elevation model (f) can be used for this.

Process of 3D photogrammetry using the example of a wreck in Croatia with the taking of the photos, the connection of the points a), the generation of a dense point cloud b), the networking c), the texturing d), as well as the creation of an orthoreflected image e) and a depth map f).

Areas of application and use:

  • documentation, measurement and mapping of underwater objects, structures, wrecks, statues, and reefs for subsequent measurement and evaluation by specialists
  • monitoring of reef structures in terms of vegetation and condition
  • data bases for dive preparation and work planning
  • basis for data collection and assignment of sampling and measuring points
  • creation of georeferenced underwater maps

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River diving

We are all too familiar with breathtaking underwater photographs and videos of divers and nature in crystal-clear tropical waters. But what can be discovered beneath the surface of our local rivers? Our scientific divers take a look at this underwater world using research methods and will embark on a new challenge this year in cooperation with Make Science Halle - scientific diving in a river, the Saale.

Test dives will take place at the beginning of June 2021. The focus will be placed on investigating the river bed and finding suitable divie sites. Samples of plants and sediments will provide information on the condition of the water at these dive sites. With the help of a boat with a multibeam sonar and a flying drone, the riverbed and the adjacent banks will be digitized. The models to be created from this endeavour will offer various possibilities for dealing with the river ecosystem.

In a next step, amateur divers and the interested public will be encouraged to get involved in a following citizen science project. They can participate in the diving process as well as in the analysis and processing of the data.

The photos and videos of the expedition will be exhibited in a gallery and will amaze the public.

Freshwater shrimp
Basket shell bank
Unionids between basket shells
Freshwater sponge
Freshwater sponge (close-up)

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RoBiMo (Robot-assisted inland water monitoring)

On 01 January 2020, the interdisciplinary ESF junior research group RoBiMo started their work at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg on the topic of robot-assisted inland water monitoring. The project will be supported by the Free State of Saxony with resources from the European Social Fund until the end of December 2022.Graphic project outline of the project “RoBiMo” with the swimming robot “Elisabeth” in the water. The robot is equipped with a multi-parameter sensor chain and a sonar, and it communicates with a base station on the bank.

The main objectives of the ESF junior research group are:

  • 3D depth-resolved recording of inland water quality parameters with an autonomously driving swimming robot
  • development of new sensors for the determination of nitrate and microplastic contents
  • validation of the results through in situ measurements and sampling conducted by scientific divers to carry out further analytical methods
  • geoscientific evaluation of water quality parameters and respiratory flows for a better understanding of limnic processes
  • data visualization by means of artificial intelligence and virtual reality

Tasks of the Scientific Diving Center:

  • development of a microplastic filter system for the sampling of inland waters by scientific divers, and its integration into the measurement concept of the swimming robot “Elisabeth”
  • coordination and technical support of 3 measurement campaigns above and under water
  • determination of ground truth data by in situ measurements of selected water quality parameters
  • exploration of the investigated inland waters through targeted sampling of selected areas (groundwater ingresses, thermoclients, pore waters)
  • further development of measurement technologies and methods for the subaqua investigation of waters and sediments
  • detection of underwater obstacles with the aid of photogrammetry in order to obtain training data for the artificial intelligence algorithm
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General information about the expedition to Iraq

From 2009 to 2015, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funded the project Geoscience Resources Iraq (GRI) with a total of almost 2 million Euros. The aim of the project was to support Iraqi universities in the reconstruction of geoscientific teaching and research.

Within the framework of the GRI project, which was initiated and led by Prof. Merkel from the Geological Institute of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, the establishment of a Scientific Diving Center at the Marine Science Center of the University of Basrah in the south of Iraq took place from 2011 to 2015. During this period, Iraqi students and scientists were trained on site in diving and scientific work under water under the leadership of Dr. Pohl.

The practical part of the training took place in the Persian Gulf in the estuary area of the river Shatt al-Arab (formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris) as well as the Sawa Lake (about 280 km southeast of Baghdad). The Sawa Lake is an endorheic lake in the desert in a karst structure fed only by groundwater.

Students of the TU Freiberg participated in several training and research campaigns in both of the aforementioned waters in order to undertake scientific investigations for their respective bachelor and master theses.

Overview of previous training and research projects in Iraq

12/20152 WeeksSawa LakeResearch
12/20142 WeeksSawa LakeResearch
08/20143 WeeksPersian Gulf & Sawa LakeTraining
06/20143 WeeksPersian Gulf & Sawa LakeTraining & Research
10/20134 WeeksPersian GulfTraining
06/20132 WeeksPersian Gulf & Sawa LakeTraining & Research
20126 WeeksBasrahTraining
20112 WeeksPreparationTraining
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Scientific divers back from Iraq

Just in time for New Year's Eve, the team of researchers flew back to Germany. A detailed report on their trip can be read on the website of the university's press office. Here you can find a photo gallery of the expedition.

From left to right: Dr. Thomas Pohl, Julius Pätzold, Kevin Schmelzer, Matti Seifert, Marc Hildebrand

Sensational finding: Researchers from Freiberg discover tropical coral reef in Iraq

Octocoral Manella with different brittle stars (image section equals 30 cm); picture: Dr. Thomas Pohl, TU Bergakademie FreibergScientists from the TU Bergakademie Freiberg have found a living coral reef off the Iraqi coast spanning 28 m2. They have encountered the unknown reef in the turbid coastal waters by chance.

It was hitherto considered improbable for corals to settle in such extreme conditions as they occur within this maritime region. The researchers present their results in the latest issue of the journal “Scientific Reports” of the Nature Publishing Group.

Further information can be found in the corresponding press release by the TU Bergakademie Freiberg. The scientific findings have also been published as a Paper in the renowned scientific journal “Nature Geoscience”. Moreover, additional press reports can be found online as follows:

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Beyond that, the following article about the exploration was published in the German newspaper “Freie Presse” (region of Chemnitz) on 07 March 2014:

Freiberg researchers make sensational discovery in the sea

Researchers of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg have located a coral reef in the polluted Persian Gulf off the Iraqi coast

By Gabi Thieme

Freiberg – The sea is extremely cloudy, with an underwater visibility of less than one meter. Normally, you can only find fish and a few sponges in this undersea area - nothing divers would make to much fuss about. However, a team of scientific divers from the TU Bergakademie Freiberg swoons over the turbid coastal waters of Iraq: In September 2012 and May 2013, they were on the spot for training purposes, together with their Iraqi colleagues from the University of Basrah. The coastal stretch measures only 58 km in length, and the diving researchers at first were just fishing in murky waters.

Corals in the northern part of the Persian GulfHowever, that didn't prove to be a bad omen, as in this section of the Persian Gulf - ironically right where the rivers of Euphrates and Tigris, and thereby also the sewage of many big cities enter the sea - they spotted a living, 28 km2 large coral reef from only 8 m below the water surface.

“This discovery has been a sensation to all of us,” Hermann Ehrlich, Professor for biomineralogy and extreme biomimetics, reports. “Tropical coral reefs are an extremely sensitive ecosystem. They usually occur only in clear waters with temperatures rarely falling below 20 °C.” Off the coast of Iraq, however, temperatures vary between 13 °C in winter and 34 °C in summer. In addition, the water is very turbid, subject to strong currents, and characterized by a highly fluctuating salinity.

By now, first examination results are available. They confirm noticeable differences to other reefs in the Persian Gulf, as they occur off the coastlines e.g. of Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Quatar, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates.

Four of the coral groups that have been identified in the interim: They are slow-growing, massive species that are robust enough to develop under the rough environment, Prof. Broder Merkel, head of the scientific diving center of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, outlines.

He estimates the reef to be “less than 10,000 years old”; however, investigations are still in an early stage. Above all, the question sought to be answered is how corals can actually manage to exist at all under such extreme conditions, and are even able to grow (albeit very slowly).

The research team has urged the government of Iraq to place the concerning coastal stretch under strict protection. Corresponding buoys are already set, meaning that there is a fishing and anchoring ban in this section.

“We have been signaled to treat our recommendations seriously, even though I realize that the country has many other problems. Even so, fishermen need to be sensitized to this issue,” the professor continues.

He is also worried about another problem: Since there is no deep-sea harbor in Iraq, the oil pumped up onshore is piped to large platforms at sea, from which the huge freighters are eventually refueled. Although no platform is situated in the area of the reef, according to Prof. Merkel, there still is a considerable risk of contamination in view of the proximity.

The scientific divers from Freiberg are very proud to have discovered the reef: Due to the heavy water turbidity, no satellite had ever been able to spot the coral reef out of the air - not even the United States could locate it. Further investigations are planned in the spring and autumn of this year.

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Diving in the mountain lake Issyk-Kul in the Tian Shan range (Kyrgyzstan)

From 22 to 29 July 2016, Prof. Merkel, Dr. Thomas Pohl, M.Sc. Julius Pätzold and Dipl.-Geol. Fred Franzke from the Scientific Diving Center flew from Berlin to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) to conduct preliminary discussions and investigations at Issyk-Kul.

Issyk-Kul is the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan. Spanning an area of 6,236 km2, it is the second largest mountain lake in the world (after Lake Titicaca in South America). Issyk-Kul is 182 km long, 60 km wide, 668 m deep, and is situated 1,607 m above sea level. The lake presumably hasn't had an outlet for several hundred years.

In collaboration with Dr. Zheenbek Kulenbekov (a former PhD student at the TU Freiberg) from the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, as well as the Ministry of Emergency and their diving base at Issyk-Kul, some exploration dives could be performed in the lake.

The aim is to set up a training and research center for scientific diving under mountain lake conditions. Potential research tasks are, for instance, the cause of the high uranium content in the lake water, the impact of wastewater discharges on water quality and biodiversity, as well as neotectonics and the documentation of archaeological settlements under water.

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Information on the field trip to Sveta Marina (Croatia)

Photo mosaic of various aerial and underwater pictures of the dive spot at Sveta Marina (Croatia)From 2003 to 2005, the final practical stage for the training of scientific divers, as well as the performance of research work for qualification theses took place in Sveta Marina, Croatia around the end of August or the beginning of September. From 2006 onwards, the field trip was carried out in Panarea until 2018.

During the 3 years in Croatia, underwater investigations were conducted for 2 diploma and 4 student project theses. Those qualification theses covered the topics of submarine karst water entries, the mapping of the steep face, the influence of tourism on water quality, the underwater flora and fauna as well as the development of sub-aquatic research methodology.

In 2019, the expedition will once again be held in Sveta Marina.

Key data about the field trip 2019Map of the dive spot at Sveta Marina (Croatia)

  • When: 31 August - 14 September 2019
  • Where: Sveta Marina, Croatia
  • What:
    • Detection of karst water entrances
    • Photographic mapping
    • Sediment sampling

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Information on the Panarea expedition

Panarea is the smallest of the 7 Aeolian (or Lipari) islands, with an area of 3.4 km2. Located in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea (approx. 50 km north of Sicily), this volcanic archipelago is part of the Aeolian Arch, caused by the subduction of the northern edge of the African under the Apulian plate.

In 2000, the Aeolian islands, which are very important in the fields of volcanology and geology, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Panarea is part of the currently active volcanic and therefore actuogeological system of the volcano Stromboli on the island of the same name. Typical features of such a volcanically active system, as gas leaks and hydrothermal water, can be observed through diving, as well as on the water surface.

Submarine fumaroles on the island of Panarea

The CO2 probably comes from the earth's mantle and the subducting plate or the decomposition of carbonates of marine sediments. The gas composition and the gas volume flow change over time and allow indications and conclusions about changes in the magma.

The largest recent crisis with major eruptions occurred on 03 November 2002. A sudden significant increase in gas emissions and discharging hydrothermal fluids near the islets of Bottaro and Lisca Bianca - located around 2.5 km east of Panarea - could be observed. The bursts decreased to a state of low degassing by July 2003. Almost within the same time frame, from 28 December 2002 until 22 July 2003, a rise in the volcanic activity of Stromboli island happened.

A series of regional seismic and volcanological incidents, like the offshore earthquake on 06 September 2002 between Palermo and Ustica island, followed by several hundred aftershocks until December 2002, as well as the eruption of Mt. Etna between 27 October 2002 and 28 January 2003, had preceded the aforementioned events.

Since 2006, the SDC Freiberg has monitored and measured fluid leaks at specific points once to thrice a year. Gas and thermal water samples have been taken and analyzed.

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Reports of past expeditions

► 2018

Group photo of the participants in 2018 on the island of PanareaThe field trip to the island of Panarea has been the culmination of the training of our scientific divers for the past 13 years. From 31 August to 14 September 2018, 15 students and researchers from all over Germany have again conducted investigations on the underwater volcano.

In a picturesque work environment, the participants respectively completed 2 to 3 scientific dives in order to survey and sample active underwater areas.

The energy of the soil is permanently palpable and visible. At the majority of the dive spots, hot fluids and gases of up to 130°C flow from the seabed and served as the focal point of the scientific work. Each of the participants was assigned to their own topic.

On this occasion, we were very pleased to welcome two renowned divers on board. Underwater cameraman Andreas Trepte (working, inter alia, for the German television stations ARTE, ARD, and MDR) accompanied us throughout the expedition and recorded the impressive submarine phenomena in a film. From 05 September onwards, globally active underwater photographer Alexis Rosenfeld (working for magazines such as National Geographic, Stern etc.) joined us on the island. He accompanied us for a report on underwater volcanism in Italy.

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► 2017

Scientific studies of underwater volcanoes on mercury emissions and relevant geological processes

Device for the measurement of submarine gas volume flowsThe 2017 expedition of the Scientific Diving Center of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg took place from 01 to 15 September on Panarea island (Aeolian archipelago, Italy) and dealt with the specific geological, morphological, and hydrochemical conditions of this volcanically active area. The main emphasis was placed on analyzes of occurring mercury emissions in hydrothermal fluids.

The amount of leaking mercury released into the seawater by the submarine volcano should be detected. In addition, the focus was laid on the study of occurring lithological units and tectonic processes in order to gain a better understanding of the local geological development.

18 students and scientists from various disciplines (geologists, hydrogeologists, engineers and chemists) devoted themselves with great effort to the sampling, measurement, and surveying of the following parameters:

  • pH level, conductivity, temperature and chemical composition of the exiting fluids
  • formation of precipitates from hydrothermal solutions, mineralogical composition of volcanic rocks and sediments, as well as tectonic structures
  • quantification of gas volumes streaming out of the seafloor

Apart from the training of the students to become certified scientific divers, the primary aim of the underwater investigations on the island of Panarea was to find out about the existence of elevated levels of natural mercury that may accumulate in the food chain. Furthermore, a better understanding of the volcanic activity should be provided to improve early warning systems.

Here are some photographic impressions from the Panarea expedition 2017:

Group photo of the participants 2017
The participants explore the geological formations ashore
Temperature measurement of the steam outlet on shore in the area of La Calcara
Device for the temperature measurement on land
Participants on the way in their boat off the coast of Panarea
Underwater airlift for the removal of sediment over geological formations
Diver carrying a device for the measurement of gas volume flows under water
Device for the measurement of submarine gas volume flows in operation
Geological formation at the bottom of the sea
2 scientific divers under water during their decompression stops
Temperature measurement and documentation under water by a scientific diver
Videographic documentation of the study area and dive spot by a scientific diver
View from the water surface on the participants sitting in their dive boat
View from the dive boat on the poppling water surface
Entrance to the field lab of the SDC on Panarea island
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► 2016

Information about the expedition in 2016 will follow shortly.

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► 2015

Experience reports 2015

Looking back on the past field trip to Panarea, in the following you will find a few student reports on their personal experiences:

Anna-Lena (geology):

The fortnight-long expedition of the Scientific Diving Center took us to Panarea, a small island north of Sicily. In advance, it was very beneficial that everyone could decide whether or not to arrange the trip there individually. On site, we were divided into several groups according to our study program or preference.

We were housed in various accommodations and thereby roughly divided into working groups, which benefited the team meetings. I myself was a support diver for a fellow student of the geo-group who worked on her master thesis. Our cooperation above and under water went very smoothly: I helped her with the sampling, and we did the mapping, drawing, and photographing together.

Performing three dives a day was very exhausting, as one also had to take some refreshment in between and didn't have a lot of break time. In the evening, we had to prepare the protocols before going to sleep.

On other days, though, we would only do one dive and could use the remaining time to look around the island or go snorkeling in one of the beautiful bays.

The diving itself was great fun, and the whole flora and fauna, as well as the submarine gas and water outlets were very impressive.

Another highlight was the ascent of the active volcano Stromboli with an overnight stay on the beach. The good group dynamics further contributed to making this field trip a great experience.

Martin (microbiology):

For me, the expedition to Panarea was great fun and just as great an experience. The days started early and ended late, were relatively tightly organized, and there was always lots to do. All this, however, was not disturbing at all.

The dives and dive spots were amazing, both from a scientific perspective and simply because of their beauty. After finishing your work underwater, and in case there was still enough air left in the tank, you could just enjoy diving along the stunning underwater scenery: between swarming fish, past moray eels, watching an octopus and evading stinging jellyfish when surfacing (maybe not all in one dive ...).

The island itself was also very appealing: In the morning and evening you could smell the flowers, and the local people were very friendly to us - even though they had to endure our miserable attempts to speak Italian. If you had the time for it, you could also explore some of the attractive hiking trails on site. The ascent of the volcano Stromboli was a memorable experience: After a long march, we sat on top of the crater rim on warm ash. There was a noticeable smell of sulfur, and about a hundred meters below us, low levels of lava was popping up.

The whole experience alone would have already been very exciting for me. But what made this trip even better was the fact that I was fortunate to be in such pleasant company of very nice, relaxed, and effervescent people. Of course, we were all very focused on our assignments, had lots of discussions about our respective challenges, and constantly had to resort to our improvising skills.

But all of that almost always happened in a humorous atmosphere, and we never passed up a quip whenever the opportunity presented itself. The cooking sessions in the evening - usually comprising pasta with tomato sauce and cheese - were not very varied, but always a blast, as we would sit together on the terrace, talking, joking, and commenting on each other's work like a smart aleck ;-)

Thomas was very caring to us when the first earaches occurred after around 4-5 days. Throughout the whole expedition, I gained a lot of technical expertise. Whenever you discovered something new, somebody within the group was able to elaborate on it - whether it was related to diving technology, flora, fauna, geology, meteorology, boats, ocean currents, or even cultural details. Representatives of all pertinent disciplines were present on site, willing to share their knowledge - and finally, someone else wanted to learn about it ;-) And oneself was happy when able to explain something to others.

Although the expedition was very expensive and took a lot of preparing, it was definitely worth all the efforts.

Sophie (biology/ecology):

After fulfilling the prerequisites for participation in the expedition, namely through successful completion of the module “Scientific Diving I” as well as obtaining the diving certificate CMAS**, I embarked on the trip to Panarea on 28 August. Together with 30 other participants, I stayed on the island until 11 September 2015.

Panarea is a small island located in the southern Thyrrenian Sea, about 50 km north of Sicily, and is part of the active volcanic system of the Stromboli. From our accommodation on the island, we also had a grandstand view of the same. Around the island, underwater characteristics typical of an active volcanic system, such as gas leaks and hydrothermal fluids, can be observed.

For ten years now, the Scientific Diving Center has been traveling to Panarea each year with students from the TU Bergakademie Freiberg in order to conduct underwater research. The special feature of this island is its shallow water depth - varying between 15 and a maximum of 26 m - which offers scientific divers direct sampling opportunities as well as the possibility of in-situ investigations. That way, it is feasible to explore a volcanic system, which would not be achievable on the earth's surface, as the volcanic and atmospheric gases immediately mix.

Sophie with her dive buddy Lena with the counting frame for the seagrassAll participants had already gathered in working groups in advance, since many things had to be prepared even before the start of the expedition. Above all, the necessary technical and scientific on-site equipment had to be sorted out, as it had been sent to the island in a box upfront. I myself belonged to the group of biologists and ecologists, but we had four other groups covering the scientific fields of geology, gas and water chemistry, microbiology, and temperature and heat measurement.

Within my group, we dealt with seaweed fields and macroalgae, particularly red algae. To this end, we investigated whether there is a depth gradient with regard to the plant height and density of shoots of seaweeds, and which macroalgae occur within the seaweed beds. In addition, we also sampled snails and growing seaweed in order to later examine them on microplastics.

Counting frame within a seaweed field to record the number of shootsApart from our work, we also had a lot of fun, both while diving and ashore. At the halfway point, we spent two days without diving and climbed up the Stromboli, which for me was very impressive. At dusk, we went all the way up to the crater with a guide, so that we arrived there in the dark and could observe several lava fountains, which is really awesome! Equipped with headlamps, respiratory and eye protection against the fine ash particles, we then descended the volcano again. Afterwards, we treated ourselves to a pizza, and then stayed and slept at the beach under beautiful starry skies.

Also, there was a lot to observe and explore during our dives in addition to the scientific work, especially for someone like me who had never dived in the sea before. The variety of plants and marine creatures is very impressive indeed! From sea urchins to mussels, plaice, a barracuda, fireworms, jellyfish, moray eels and sea cucumbers, there was always something new to discover on every dive.

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► 2014

Information about the expedition in 2014 will follow shortly.

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► 2013

The diving expedition of the Scientific Diving Center Freiberg to Panarea in 2013 took place from 30 August to 13 September.

Group photo of the participants in 2013 on the island Panarea

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► 2012

Group photo of the participants in 2012 on Panarea islandFrom 31 August to 14 September 2012, the team of the Scientific Diving Center of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg once again successfully completed their annual expedition to Panarea, Italy.

This year's 14-day field trip was carried out on the Aeolian island for the seventh time. 17 participants, including students, lecturers and external divers conducted various experiments, measurements and samplings.

Several groups joined forces to work on various assignments interdisciplinarily. For this purpose, the entire team had previously been divided into different working groups of the following research areas:

  • biotechnology
  • gas and water chemistry
  • gas volume flows
  • geology
  • microbiology
  • geothermics
  • underwater documentation
Results of the investigations could be presented at the 3rd International Workshop “Research in Shallow Marine and Fresh Water Systems” in Bremen from 14 to 15 January 2013. The Scientific Diving Center Freiberg was able to present their projects at the conference in 3 lectures.

Measurements were not only performed under water at several dive spots, but also carried out on land. In the bay of “La Calcara”, temperature records and gas samples were taken.

  • Submarine gas sampling by means of a Giggenbach bottle
  • Submarine gas sampling by means of a funnel
  • Submarine gas sampling

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► 2011

Gruppenfoto der Exkursionsteilnehmer auf der Insel PanareaFrom 29 August to 14 September 2011, the diving expedition for the training year 2010/2011 took place. For the sixth time, Panarea's caldera - a wide hydrothermal area to the east of the Aeolian island - was the subject of our research.

We were able to test new sampling techniques and also continued with our systematic investigations that had begun in our previous field trips. For the submarine volume flow measurements, two devices had already been installed in May, of which the results could now be read out.

The scientific results of the expedition were presented in the southern Italian city of Cesareo for the 3rd International Symposium on Occupational Scientific Diving of the European Scientific Diving Panel (ESDP). The measurements and examinations carried out also lay the foundation for several bachelor, master, and diploma theses.

At the annual general meeting, the participants received their respective international CMAS certificates as “Scientific Diver” and “Advanced Scientific Diver”.

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Dam Quitzdorf

Sediment sampling in the dam QuitzdorfIn 2015, as part of a research project to reduce the phosphate content in the dam Quitzdorf, methods for sampling lake sediments were investigated.

In a bachelor thesis, the conventional method of sampling sediment cores from a boat was compared with their sampling by divers.

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Information on the field trips to the Dead Sea

At and in the Dead Sea, the inflow of groundwater below the water surface has been investigated since 2014 in cooperation with the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). In November of 2012 and 2014, as well as in April 2018, Prof. Merkel and Dr. Pohl were in Engedi, Israel for several diving operations.

Below, you will find a more detailed report on their latest trip:

Diving in the Dead Sea

From 14 to 26 April 2018, Prof. Broder Merkel and Dr. Thomas Pohl from the Scientific Diving Center went on a ten-day research mission to the Dead Sea. On site, they examined undersea groundwater sources in the extremely saline waters (with a density level of 1.24 g/cm2), which are related to the rapid lowering of the water level.

The Dead Sea's water level drops by about a meter every year, which causes the formation of cavities in the coastal area. As a result, buildings are in danger of collapsing, roads can be damaged, and human lives are in jeopardy. The Dead Sea only has one major inflow, the Jordan river, which serves as the principal freshwater source, both for the supply of the regional population with drinking water and for the irrigation of the agricultural areas in the Negev desert. The water level of the Dead Sea is currently lying 432 m below sea level.

The researchers of the TU Freiberg had been invited by the Geological Service of Israel. They collaborate with scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig and Halle as well as the Ben-Gurion University of Jerusalem, and are continuing a series of underwater explorations from 2012 and 2014.

To allow for an early localization of the cavities, the saline leaching must be examined in the underground. To this end, samples were taken from undersea groundwater sources at depths between 3 and 20 m, and are now being analyzed in German and Israeli laboratories.

The conditions during the expedition were dry and hot, with air and water temperatures up to 45 °C and 27 °C, respectively. As the diving sites were not always accessible by off-road vehicle, the reaserchers had to carry their heavy equipment of about 400 kg in total through the challenging terrain to the water on foot.

Due to the high salinity of the Dead Sea, divers need about 60 kg of extra weight on their bodies just to be able to work under water. A full-face mask protects their eyes and mouth against the extremely aggressive brine. Enough fresh water must be available after each dive to rinse the brine from the divers and their equipment.

Photo gallery of past expeditions

View from afar across the beach of the Dead Sea
Prof. Merkel gets his diving mask donned by Dr. Pohl onshore
Prof. Merkel and Dr. Pohl embark a boat with their equipment
Prof. Merkel and Dr. Pohl during their boat trip on the Dead Sea
Dr. Pohl to the right of saline precipitations under water in the Dead Sea
Underwater shot of the beach area of the Dead Sea
Dr. Pohl helps Prof. Merkel get out of the water in the tricky clayey shore area
Prof. Merkel rinses Dr. Pohl on the beach with fresh water
Dr. Pohl gets rinsed by his colleague on the beach with fresh water

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Student qualification theses

Currently available thesis topics

Completed theses since 2004

  • Gutekunst, Valentin (2017): Eine integrative Taxonomische - Übersicht über die Schwammfauna eines neu entdeckten iraktischen Korallenriffes, mit der Erstbeschreibung von Ciocalypta colorata n.sp., Diplomarbeit, IBBS-Abteilung Zoologie, Universität Stuttgart, TU Freiberg
  • Kakuk, Fabian (2016): Entstehung der Präzipitate im Geothermalgebiet La Calcara (Panarea, Italien), Masterarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Meinardus, Folke (2016): Chemical investigations of groundwater and submarine hydrothermal fluid exhalations at Panarea, Italy, Masterarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Pätzold, Julius (2016): Mineralogical and hydrochemical investigations on the formation of Lake Sawa, South Iraq, Masterarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Höftman, Meiko (2015): Untersuchung von Sedimentproben / Schlammproben der Talsperre Quitzdorf und ein Vergleich der Probenahme als Scientific Diver und der konventionellen Probenahme vom Boot, Bachelerarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Lucas, Maik (2014): Isotopenkreislauf des Schwefels im flach-marinen Hydrothermalsystem von Panarea, Äolische Inseln, Italien, Bachelorarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Winkler, Katja (2013): Accumulation of trace and rare earth elements in algae-bacteria aggregates and Posidonia Oceanica of Panarea Island, Italy, Masterarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Canzler, Woolfram (2013) Characterisation of the shallow submarine geothermal active system of Panarea, Italy." Bachelorarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Prautsch, A. (2012): Geochemical-mineralogical investigation of degassing structures caused by recent volcanic hydrothermalism; Case study: La Calcara at Panarea, Aeolian islands (Italy), Bachelorarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Stolze, Erich (2012): Scientific Diving - Redox potential measurement, Bachelorarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Stanulla, Richard (2012): Geological record of submarine hydrothermal gas and water escape structures – morphology and geochemistry of the recent volcanic system of Panarea, Italy, Masterarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Sauermilch, I. (2011): Scientific Diving - pH-Bestimmung in Panarea, Bachelorarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Schiffer, S. (2011): Untersuchung des Einflusses von submarinen Gas- und Wasseraustrittem auf das Ökosystem, Studienarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Müller, Ch. (2011): Geothermal state of shallow submarine geothermal systems and isotopic signatures of Panarea, Aeolian Islands (Italy). Freiberg Online Geology (FOG), Volume 30.
  • Hamel, M. (2010): Investigation and modelling of the geochemical processes in the hydrothermal system of Panarea, Italy, Diplomarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg. Freiberg Online Geology (FOG), Volume 25.
  • Starkloff, T. (2009): CO2-Bestimmung in submarinen Hydrothermalgebieten - Laborergebnisse und erste Praxisanwendung, Studienarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Steinbrückner, D. (2009): Quantification of submarine degassing of Panarea Volcano in the Aeolian archipelago, Italy, Diplomarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg. Freiberg Online Geology (FOG), Volume 23.
  • Sieland, R. (2009): Chemical and isotopic investigations of submarine hydrothermal fluid discharges from Panarea, Aeolian Islands, Italy, Diplomarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg. Freiberg Online Geology (FOG), Volume 21.
  • Steinbrückner, D. (2007): Analyse von marinen Kolloiden in Filterrückständen mittels Rasterelektronenmikrkoskopie (REM), Studienarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Rohland, K. (2007): Investigation in submarine water and gas chemistry at Panarea, Aeolian Islands, Italy, Diplomarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Görlitz, P. (2007): Submarine gas vents in the area of Panarea as indicator for prediction of volcanic activities – Development of devices and first runs, Diplomarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Nitzsche, K. (2007): Mikrobielle Diversität an einem flachmarinen Hydrothermalsystem nahe Panarea (Äolische Inseln, Italien), Interdisziplinäres Ökologisches Zentrum IÖZ, AG Umweltmikrobiologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Tetzner, P. (2006): Characterization of geothermal water and impact of CO2 dominated fumaroles in the submarine geothermal area of Panarea Island, Italy. – Water sampling and analysis, Bachelor-Arbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Gülzow, W. (2006): Characterization of geothermal water and impact of CO2 dominated fumaroles in the submarine geothermal area of Panarea Island, Italy. – Gas sampling and analysis, Studienarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Messal, C. (2005): Habitatcharakterisierung des Limski-kanals für mediterrane Schwämme (Porifera), Diplomarbeit, Interdisziplinäres Ökologisches Zentrum IÖZ, TU Freiberg.
  • Schipek, M. (2005): Hydrochemische und Geochemische Untersuchungen zur ökologischen Beeinflussung küstennaher Standorte am Beispiel Sv. Marina, Istrien (Kroatien), Diplomarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Gaulke, D. (2005): Messung und Registrierung der Strömungsgeschwindigkeit im freien Gewässer mit Hilfe von particle tracking, Studienarbeit, Institut für Wärmetechnik und Thermodynamik, TU Freiberg.
  • Rohland, K. (2005): Submarine Grundwassereinträge in Sv. Marina, Kroatien, Studienarbeit, Institut für Geologie, LS Hydrogeologie, TU Freiberg.
  • Görlitz, P. (2004): Unterwasser-Kartierung der Flora und Fauna vor der Küste Istriens in Kroatien. Untersuchung der Artenzusammensetzung auf Abhängigkeit von Standortparametern, im Besonderen Tiefe und Licht, Studienarbeit, Interdisziplinäres Ökologisches Zentrum IÖZ, TU Freiberg.
  • Messal, C. (2004): Biodiversität an einem Steilwandprofil in der nördlichen Adria – Artenzusammensetzung und abiotische Standortparameter, Studienarbeit, Interdisziplinäres Ökologisches Zentrum IÖZ, TU Freiberg.

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