Dr. Kai Mangelsdorf

Group Leader
Dr. Kai Mangelsdorf
Building B, Room 424
14473 Potsdam

Function and Responsibilities:

  • Head of working group "Biogeochemistry and Environment"
  • Laboratory manager of the Organic Geochemistry group

Research Interests:

My research interest is focussed on the interplay between organic matter (OM) transformation in the subsurface carbon cycle and microbial communities. To address this interaction I investigate both OM transformation processes and the involved microbial ecosystems combining the science disciplines of Organic Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry. In my research I focus on OM-microbial interactions in deep sedimentary systems (deep biosphere) and in extreme near-surface environments such as permafrost and desert regions. My analytical approach is the application of biomolecules (biomarkers) and their carbon isotope signals providing valuable information on the origin and fate of the organic matter in the carbon cycle and on living and dead microbial biomass. My work range from fundamental to applied research and I contribute to the GFZ Research Units Georesources and Geoenergy as well as Earth Surface and Climate Interaction. Some of my research topics are:

  • Biogeochemistry: Microbial life and activity in the deep biosphere and other extreme environments; Interaction of the microbial life with the subsurface carbon cycle; Identifying microbial degradation processes; Interaction of microbial communities with their life habitats; Biogeochemical characterisation of microbial key players; Microbial markers as paleoclimate and paleoenvironmental indicators; Microbial membrane adaptation processes to ambient habitat conditions; Negative impacts of microbial activity in petroleum and geothermal production facilities etc.
  • Organic Geochemistry: OM characterisation; Compositional changes in the OM structure during diagenetic and catagenetic alteration; Origin and fate of petroleum hydrocarbons in sedimentary systems; Substrate potential of OM transformation to feed deep microbial ecosystems; Quality assessment of permafrost OM to release substrates for microbial greenhouse gas production; Identification of new biomarkers etc.
  • Method development: Development of new analytical approaches to address my science topics; Development of new tracers for OM quality and for paleoclimate and paleoenvironment assessment etc.


  • April 2017: Acting head of GFZ-Section 3.2 Organic Geochemistry
  • September 2007: Senior Scientist of the GFZ-Section Organic Geochemistry
  • September 2007: Laboratory head of GFZ-Section Organic Geochemistry
  • Juni 2001: Scientist (PostDoc) at the GFZ-Section Organic Geochemistry
  • 1996-2000: Scientist in the Organic Geochemistry laboratories of the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), University of Oldenburg


  • 1996-2000: Ph.D. in Organic Geochemistry at the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), University of Oldenburg
  • 1993-1996: Diploma in Chemistry (University of Oldenburg)
  • 1991-1993: Pre-diploma in Chemistry (University of Oldenburg)
  • 1989: High school diploma at the Ubbo Emmius Gymnasium Leer

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