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Research Program

The research program is organized into three closely intertwined Research Units that examine the ocean floor from different perspectives.

Research Units

Ocean Floor as RECEIVER

  • Controls on the biological pump
  • Benthic-pelagic element cycling
  • Transfer of matter and signals into the ocean floor

Ocean Floor as REACTOR

  • Seawater-crust interactions
  • Deep biosphere and element
    cycling in sediments
  • Processes at vents and seeps

Ocean Floor as RECORDER

  • Perturbations and feedbacks in the Earth system
  • Paleobiodiversity and
    paleoecosystem function

Cross-Cutting Enablers
Deep-sea Technology and Ocean-Floor Observing Systems (TECHNOLOGY)
Molecular and Isotopic Tracers (TRACERS)
Ocean Floor Modeling Framework (MODELING)

Early Career Researchers Support Program
Research and Knowledge-Transfer Platforms
Underwater Technology – Analytical Facilities –
Core Repository – Research-Data Management – Public Engagement


The Ocean Floor as RECEIVER approaches the ocean floor with a downward view through the water column, investigating how matter is being partitioned between the shelf and open ocean, transferred and transformed on its journey to the ocean floor, and how today’s oceanic system properties are embedded in the sedimentary record.

The Ocean Floor as REACTOR centers on geochemical and biogeochemical reactions at and within the ocean floor, their relationships to biological communities exploiting these reactions in a wide range of habitats, and fluxes of matter into and out of the overlying ocean.

The Ocean Floor as RECORDER will look into the past and decode proxy information stored in sedimentary records in order to elucidate the three-way relationships between physical climate processes, perturbations of the Earth system, and marine ecosystems, to provide a better understanding of the climate system and enable more robust projections of future climate change.

Enabling technology and methods will be developed across the Research Units. These crosscutting
enablers include innovative Deep-Sea Technology and Ocean-Floor Observing Systems (TECHNOLOGY), Molecular and Isotopic Tracers (TRACERS), and a Framework for Ocean-Floor Modeling (MODELING). The expected advances in knowledge will be made possible by a unique combination of expertise in Research and Knowledge-Transfer Platforms that include state-of-the-art analytical capabilities and provide direct access to the ocean floor by means of cutting-edge underwater technology. A further cross-cutting activity is the support of early career researchers.

The three Research Units are organized according to commonalities in underlying approaches and methods. At the same time, each Research Unit addresses several of the overarching objectives, ensuring integration of research across the Research Units. This research strategy will allow us to address the wide range of timescales associated with the overarching research questions and to combine instrumental observations with information from ocean-floor archives.

Ocean-floor processes addressed in the overarching research objectives cover seasonal to million-year (›Geological‹) timescales and will be studied across the three Research Units RECEIVER (RVR), REACTOR (RCT), and RECORDER (REC). The Cluster will build on instrumental observations, as well as on information from ocean-floor archives and numerical models to integrate information across timescales.