David Uhlig, former PhD student in the GFZ section Earth Surface Geochemistry, will be awarded the Potsdam Young Scientist Award 2020. The prize will be awarded today by Potsdam's Lord Mayor Mike Schubert during the celebration of the Einstein Day of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (BBAW). The event can be joined via livestream on the BBAW website starting at 7 pm.
With the annual "Potsdam Young Scientist Award", Brandenburg’s state capital Potsdam honours special achievements of young scientists at the beginning of their scientific careers. David Uhlig receives the prize, which is endowed with 5000 Euros, for his dissertation entitled "The deep Critical Zone as a source of mineral nutrients to montane, temperate forest ecosystems", which was evaluated "with distinction".
In his doctoral thesis, Uhlig describes for the first time the complete nutrient cycle of plants and adds a detailed analysis of the nutrient balances outside to the already well understood biological processes within the plants. In particular, using novel isotope methods developed at the GFZ, he makes use of chemical fingerprints, so to speak, to track where and how plants absorb mineral nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium or magnesium. In doing so, he has uncovered two essential processes: Not only the organic soil close to the surface, but also the underlying rocks, part of the geosphere, play an important role as a supplier of nutrients. And their contribution varies according to the efficiency of the nutrient recycling via the utilisation of the plants own leaf litter.
“At a time when the effects of climate change and the question of world food supply are confronting mankind with great challenges, we need young scientists like David Uhlig who are resolute and creative in finding their own ways. The combination of new technical methods and new ways of thinking is essential to open up such complex issues and to propose solutions. With his interdisciplinary work, David Uhlig also makes a significant contribution to the further development of an innovative research field, namely the linking of the biological and geosciences," says his doctoral supervisor Friedhelm von Blanckenburg.
David Uhlig was born in Berlin in 1986. He studied geochemistry at the Free University of Berlin and completed his doctorate there and at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam in the section "Earth Surface Geochemistry" headed by Friedhelm von Blanckenburg. Since the beginning of 2019 he has been continuing his research as a post-doctoral fellow at Helmholtz Centre Jülich. As part of the BMBF project "Soil as a sustainable resource for the bio-economy", he is investigating how his findings on nutrient cycles in millennia-old forest ecosystems can be transferred to the nutrient supply of annual agricultural crops.