05-MAR-1-C3 Biogeochemical Processes: Concepts

Representatives: Marcus Elvert, Matthias Zabel


The predominant number of transfer processes in the marine realm are driven by biogeochemical reactions and most of them are catalysed by microorganisms. Within the module “Biogeochemical Processes: Concepts” we want to impart the wide range of material cycles, their mechanisms and driving forces in different marine environments, from the sea surface to the ocean crust. Starting with fundamentals in this interdisciplinary field of research, specific courses will lead the students to recently discussed topics in organic geochemistry, inorganic geochemistry, biogeochemistry and geomicrobiology. The understanding of early diagenesis is one of the main prerequisites to answer most of the recent questions of the functioning of the oceanic system.

In detail, the physical and chemical behaviour of light stable isotopes (H, B, C, N, O, S) under natural environmental conditions, fractionation processes, microbially catalysed biogeochemical processes and respective research methods (cycles of C, N, P, S, Mn and Fe) will be introduced. The biomarker concept and molecular biomarkers are defined, and techniques to analyze them are described. Additionally, recent applications from a wide variety of marine scientific disciplines, including chemical oceanography, paleoceanography, marine biogeochemistry, and marine microbiology are discussed.

Learning Outcome

After attending this module the student will have expertise in a) the physical and chemical behavior of light stable isotopes under natural environmental conditions, b) the functional relationships of microbially driven processes on earth and methods to study these processes, and c) the utilization of both geo- and biomolecules as sources of information for the study of paleoenvironmental and biogeochemical processes.


Undergraduate expertise in chemistry, geochemistry, and marine geology is required. Additional basic understanding in biology and expertise in scientific calculation is advantageous.


9 CP (270 h) / 5 SWS

70 h presence / lecture time (1/3 for each discipline, see above)
150 h homework and self-revision of lectures and additional, complementary material (exercises, textbooks, etc.)
50 h study time for the final exam


module exam (one mark): oral exam


Canfield, Thamdrup & Kristensen (eds) (2005) Aquatic Geomicrobiology, Acad. Press.
Faure (1986) Principles of Isotope Geology. John Wiley & Sons
Hoefs (1997) Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Springer.
Killops & Killops (2005) Introduction to Organic geochemistry, 2nd edition.
Peters, Walters and Moldowan (2005) The biomarker guide, 2nd edition.
Schulz & Zabel (eds) (2006) Marine Geochemistry. 2nd ed., Springer.

Additionally, specific literature is recommended in each course block.