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Senior researchers in the spotlight: Renate Treffeisen

5 March 2024

In order to promote the amazing researchers working on PolarRES, we are introducing them in the form of short interviews on our website. It’s Renate’s turn in the spotlight!

Please introduce yourself (Who are you? Where do you work?)

My name is Renate Treffeisen. I am environmental engineer by education and work at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Potsdam, Germany. After my PhD in atmospheric research where I investigated the aerosol concentration of the atmosphere in both polar hemispheres, I took over the head of the climate office for polar regions and sea level rise at the AWI in 2008. Here and since then, I develop knowledge transfer activities and formats at the interface between science and society.

What do you do for PolarRES? Have you worked on similar projects in the past?

In PolarRES I am responsible for the development of a citizen science project, where we try to bridge the societal awareness of Arctic Change with scientific results and exchange the gathered knowledge between these two fields. Arctic change is perceived differently, beyond scientists who work on causes and effects of Arctic change and people and societies, who visit the Arctic, live there or are of indigenous origin with long nature-based experiences. Bridging these fields of knowledge can push forward science and society to a more sustainable living. I have worked on many different knowledge transfer projects, many of them in collaboration with Helmholtz Climate Initiative “Regional climate change and humans (REKLIM)”.

What is the most interesting thing you learned working on PolarRES?

There is still a long way to go when it comes to sharing different areas of knowledge. Inter- and transdisciplinary research is the key to a better and holistic understanding of climate change and its impacts.

How does this project fit into your career path? Did the project inspire you to explore research topics outside of your area of expertise?

Our Work Package in PolarRES and many other knowledge transfer projects at the interface between science and society can become game changer, when taken it serious as immanent part of science. Looking outside the box enables a new understanding of processes and the importance of research for everyday life.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

At school, I was always interested and enthusiastic about math and working with numbers and diagrams. That’s why I decided to study mathematics and later switched to a more applied and environment-related career path.

Who is your science idol? Someone you wish you could have a conversation with (from the past or contemporary)

I would love to talk to one of the great explorers of the Arctic, e. g. Roald Amundsen. What fascinated him about the polar regions already as a student, how did he endure the many hardships of continually facing the challenges of the unknown, and how was he able to deal with the responsibility for himself and his team in the difficult situations?

Can you share a fun fact or go-to icebreaker about the Arctic or Antarctica?

As I’m not a very tall person, it was always a challenge and fun for me when I tried on polar clothing for expeditions to the Arctic or Antarctic, because even in the smallest clothing sizes I was always a bit immobile and looked like I was “drowning”.