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Paranal Deep Drilling 2022 - Weekly report No. 1

On Monday, January 10, our group of three CRC researchers: Jacob Feller, Damian Lopez, and Volker Wennrich arrived in Antofagasta, Chile, for the Deep Drilling operation in the Paranal claypan. In February, the team will be complemented with Barbara Vargas Machuca, a Ph.D. student from the A02 subproject that will investigate plant remains in the sediment record.

After fulfilling the sanitary requirements with a PCR test and a short mandatory quarantine, we were able to meet our colleague Juan Cristobal Rios Contesse, a Ph.D. student from the UCN who also joined us for the Drilling operation. We spent the following two days organizing the logistics and getting all the necessary material to spend the next two months in the Atacama Desert.

Finally, on Thursday the 13th we entered the claypan along with a team of six Chilean drillers and a cook from the company Superex S.A. In the following days, we set up the camp in the place that will become our home for the next eight weeks. Our small “village” consists of several structural tents including a kitchen, dormitories for the drillers, and an office tent for the scientists. Our team on the other hand is lodging in individual camping tents. We also have a chemical toilet and an improvised shower that can be used depending on the water supply to remove the layer of dust accumulated on our bodies during the day. 

One day after arriving, on Friday the 14th, we were lucky to experience one of the very rare precipitation events in the driest desert on Earth. For a few hours, it brought some mm of rain to the area in a totally unexpected spectacle of nature. Maybe in a few weeks, we will see a flowering as a result!

On Sunday the 16th, we started drilling into the claypan surface with the goal of recovering up to a 150 m sediment record of Neogene climate change in the Atacama Desert. Despite some technical problems that slowed down the advance of the drilling process, we already recovered 11 meters of sediment that yielded some severe environmental changes. At about 6 meters from the surface, we hit a solid gypsum layer that was also visible in the data of a seismic survey conducted in the claypan in 2018, which is a result of a longer-lasting lake phase. Now we are looking forward to seeing what the next cores will bring!



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First short visit of Z2 and Z3 to Chile during 2nd phase of the CRC1211

During the first visit to Chile of the 2nd phase of the CRC1211 (delayed due to Corona/Covid-19 travel restrictions), Z2 and Z3 installed the first four standard fog collectors (SFCs) in different parts of the Atacama, i.e., at weather stations S22 and S32, as well as new weather station S41. These SFCs are already operated at the research station of Alto Patache (weather station S20) since a longer time period, using a 1x1m mesh surface in 2-3m height above ground for recording fog occurrences and intensities. Overall, 10 of these fog collectors shall additionally be installed at selected permanent weather stations during the next year, additional 9 SFCs are planned to be used in combination with our new Onset Hobo mobile weather stations.

In addition, two new permanent and two mobile weather stations were established during the field campaign. One mobile station is closely located to one permanent station (S22) for comparisons of all parameters and particularly fog water yields. The other mobile weather station is capturing weather data at the long-term insect trap site of subproject B6.

During the field campaign, samples of biological soil crusts (BSCs) and other soil surfaces were taken (cooperation with B4), a UAV-based survey of the Paranal claypan (A2) was conducted, and zebra stripe monitoring sites (former C3) were re-visited. The field campaign also served as an initial field sampling effort for the new project C08 - samples for this new subproject were taken from 2 sites in the northern focus area of the CRC, i.e., in the Coastal Cordillera and in the Precordillera.

In summary, this successful though rather short field trip focused on logistics and preparation for the upcoming field work planned for spring 2022.

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Permanent and mobile weather stations with SFCs at S22
(Pisagua area/N focus area)
  SFC and permanent weather station S32 in fog conditions
(Paposo area/S focus area)

CRC 1211 partakes in Graduate School Scholarship Programme awarded to GSGS, Cologne

logo GSGS DAADSupported by the Graduate School Scholarship Programme (GSSP) of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Graduate School of Geosciences (GSGS) at the University of Cologne offers two promising international doctoral candidates the opportunity to pursue a doctorate as a part of an existing coordinated research programme, including CRC1211, supervised by a Cologne Geoscientist.

Deadline for applications is 3 January, 2022.

Further information can be found through the call website.

B-Cluster started Field Work in Namibia

Joint field work of the B-Cluster projects nearly finished the sampling in the coastal transect and gathered additional data for the B projects and clusters.

A special highlight was the joint activity with Gobabeb as well as the support by John Irish participating in the field work. For the 200 km transect at the Namibian coast line more than 600 beetles (Brinckia debilis & Carchares macer) as well as > 300 plants (Zygophyllum clavatum) were collected in ten plots for joint population genetic analyses. Additional sampling of beetles, silverfish and plant populations outside the transect, such as Zygophyllum stapfii and Kissenia capensis a Nambian endemic supplement the B-cluster projects.


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Photo 1: Participants of the joint field work (left to right): Julia Bechteler, Rosa-Stella Mbulu, Dietmar Quandt, Alvaro Zúñiga-Reinoso, & Reinhard Predel.


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Photo 2: Joining forces with Gobabeb (left to right): Eugene Marais, Reinhard Predel, Gillian Maggs-Kölling & Alvaro Zúñiga-Reinoso.


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Photo 3: Reinhard Predel and John Irish at the National Earth Sciences Museum Windhoek pointing at the general DFG & CRC information.



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Photo 4: In the transect …...



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Photo 5: John Irish collecting in the transect.



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Photo 6: Beetle sampling at night in the transect.



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Photo 7: Two of our target species: Brinckia debilis feeding on a flower of Zygophyllum clavatum.


Successful retreat of IRTG students

The PhD-representatives of the IRTG were excited to announce the first student-retreat of the CRC-phase back in September. The retreat successfully concluded on Wednesday, December 1st, after one and a half days of intensive teambuilding and getting to know each other much better in the beautiful village of Monschau.

The third-party program provided by Outdoor Kreativ shed light on a variety of social and personal aspects related to group dynamics in a way that everyone could profit from.

The retreat was rounded out by a long walk through the historic center of Monschau and a movie night.

We are very happy with the outcome and hope for this event to become the root of many more to come!


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IRTG Retreat of the 2nd Phase
Photo: Barbara Vargas

IRTG (Z05): Two IRTG Fellows have been granted a DAAD Scholarship. Congrats!

IRTG FellowshipAugust 2021. We are very happy to announce that IRTG Fellows Camila Riffo Contreras (D03) and Tiago Menezes Freire (A04), both have been selected to receive a 48-month DAAD scholarship to pursue their respective doctoral research projects within the CRC, starting from 1st December 2021.

Currently, both Camila and Tiago receive an IRTG Fellowship funded by the CRC aimed at initiating new collaborative projects. These gave them time to prepare a funding proposal for their doctoral research project jointly with their respective supervisors, Michael Staubwasser and Patrick Grunert.

Both competed successfully in an international field of applicants from 8 countries within the Graduate School Scholarship Programme awarded to the Graduate School of Geosciences (GSGS) at Cologne, funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Many congratulations!


Prof. Dr. Tibor J. Dunai
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne
Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3229 | tdunai@uni-koeln.de
  Managing Director:
Christian Tiede
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-89833 | christian.tiede@uni-koeln.de


Prof. Dr. Martin Melles
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49a | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-2262 | mmelles@uni-koeln.de
Tim Schlüter
Institute of Geography | University of Cologne

Otto-Fischer-Str. 4 | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3735 | webmaster@sfb1211.de


Prof. Dr. Dietmar Quandt
Nees Institute for Biodiversity of Plants | University of Bonn

Meckenheimer Allee 170 | 53115 Bonn
+49 (0)228 73-3315 | quandt@uni-bonn.de
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