2004 Albert Maucher Prize awarded to Hildegard Westphal and Oliver Rauhut

05/05/04

Key focus on palaeoclimatic research and the development of dinosaurs

This press release is also available in German.

Once again this year, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) will award the Albert Maucher Prize to young scientists for outstanding research in geoscience. Geologist Hildegard Westphal (35) from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg and palaeontologist Oliver Rauhut (34) from the Humboldt University of Berlin will each receive the prize, which is worth 10,000 euros. The ceremony will take place on 10 May during a commemorative event held by the DFG Senate Commission on Collaborative Research in Geoscience in Potsdam.

The prize, to be awarded for the twelfth time this year, is named after Albert Maucher (1907-1981), former professor of geology in Munich, who donated it shortly before his death. In 1980, he provided a sum of 200,000 DM to the DFG to distinguish young geoscientists funded by the DFG for their outstanding work and original approaches. Maucher himself received funds from the DFG at the beginning of his scientific career.

This year's prizewinners are:

Dr. Hildegard Westphal
Hildegard Westphal carries out research in the field of palaeoclimatology, which holds an important position among the geosciences as research on climatic fluctuations in geological history enables a better understanding of climatic changes in the modern age. To achieve this, Hildegard Westphal has researched carbonate sediments which, as a kind of climatic archive, supply certain environmental factors such as fluctuations in sea level, temperatures or atmospheric humidity, thereby enabling the conditions affecting the origin of sediments to be reconstructed. To allow the best possible error-free interpretation of carbonates, Hildegard Westphal is involved in working out parameters, with the help of which atypical carbonates can also be clearly categorized. In this context, she is working on a sequence of carbonates from large areas of geological history: from geological antiquity to the modern ages. In addition, Hildegard Westphal is also researching carbonates as natural gas and petroleum reservoir rocks.

Hildegard Westphal studied geology and geophysics at the University of Tübingen in Germany and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. She completed her doctorate in 1997 at the GEOMAR Research Centre for Marine Geosciences at the University of Kiel, Germany. After a one-year visiting researcher post at the University of Miami in Professor Gregor P. Eberli's working group, Westphal held a position as a university assistant at the University of Hannover. Since 2003, she has been working at the Palaeontological Institute of the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. She completed her qualification as a university lecturer early this year and was awarded the title venia legendi in geology.

Dr. Oliver Rauhut
Oliver Rauhut does research on dinosaurs or, more specifically, groups of vertebrates that developed during the so-called Mesozoic era. This group of dinosaurs is interesting for him because they have been well-preserved as fossils, making them suitable models for examining the development of vertebrates during the Mesozoic era. Rauhut has especially studied the biodiversity, the manner in which they were related to one another, their evolution and the geographical distribution of carnivorous dinosaurs in the southern hemisphere. Rauhut's research offered new possibilities for comparison, as previous conceptions on the evolution of dinosaurs were mainly based on research done in the northern hemisphere. His analysis of dinosaur finds in South America showed that originally there were very few differences between these dinosaurs and their northern relatives, but that these differences increased over time and led to the development of different groups of dinosaurs. In his new project, Rauhut will deal with questions on the conditions under which dinosaurs were able to develop their gigantic size.

Oliver Rauhut studied geology and palaeontology at the Free University in Berlin and received his doctorate at the University of Bristol in England in 2000. A post-doctorate fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service first took him to Argentina for two years, where he carried out extensive research in Patagonia. After working briefly as a research assistant at the Palaeontological Museum in Trelew, he returned to Germany and continued his research at the Humboldt University in Berlin. He will soon take over as head of an independent junior research group in a DFG Research Unit at the Institute of Palaeontology.

Portraits and CVs of both prizewinners are available on the Internet under www.dfg.de

The prize will be awarded on Monday, 10 May at 6.30 p.m. in the GeoResearch Centre (GeoforschungsZentrum, GFZ) in Potsdam, Telegrafenberg (House G). It will be presented by Albert Maucher's former assistant, Professor Hubert Miller, from the Department for Geosciences und Environmental Sciences at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Journalists are welcome to attend. Please register with Franz Ossing, GFZ, Tel.: 49-0-331-288-1040, e-mail: ossing@gfz-potsdam.de.

More information on the Albert Maucher Prize can be obtained from the DFG's Programme Director, Dr. Sören B. Dürr, Tel. 49-0-228-885-2328, e-mail: soeren.duerr@dfg.de.

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