Marine chemist Helmuth Thomas nominated
[Photo: University Oldenburg]
Oldenburg. Prof. Dr. Helmuth Thomas has been appointed to the joint professorship for Marine Alkalinity at the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Sea (ICBM) at the University of Oldenburg and the Helmholtz Centre Hereon in Geesthacht. There, the chemist is head of the Institute for Carbon Cycles. Thomas studied chemistry in Düsseldorf and completed his diploma thesis at Kiel University. During his doctorate at the Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde, he investigated the carbon cycle in marginal seas and determined for the first time how much carbon dioxide the Baltic Sea absorbs from the atmosphere. After working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hamburg, he conducted research at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Marine Research on the island of Texel (Netherlands) from 1998 to 2004. He then moved to Dalhousie University in Halifax (Canada), where he was associate professor and worked from 2012 on as a full professor. In 2019, Thomas returned to Germany to found the Alkalinity Working Group at Hereon (back then Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht) as part of the Franco-German climate research initiative "Make Our Planet Great Again". This became part of the newly founded Institute for Carbon Cycles in 2021, of which Thomas has been the director ever since.
Thomas' research focuses on chemical processes in the ocean, especially in marginal seas such as the North and Baltic Seas or the Arctic Ocean. Among other things, the 55-year-old is involved with the carbon cycle and the so-called marine carbonate system. The content of dissolved carbonate - the salt of carbonic acid - in seawater determines the acidity of the water and is related to the concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. With his team, Thomas is investigating the gas exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere. The marine chemist's work provides important contributions to climate change management as well as to topics such as carbon cycles, carbon sinks and decarbonisation. Thomas is a member of the steering committee of the large-scale project ECOTIP (Ecological tipping cascades in the Arctic Seas) funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme and coordinates the BMBF-funded joint project CARBOSTORE (Carbon Storage in German Coastal Seas - Stability, Vulnerability and Perspectives for Manageability), in which other ICBM researchers are also involved.