Maria Scheel

I am a PhD student at Aarhus University in Denmark. Within the Arctic Section, my research group focuses on Biogeochemistry of Arctic Ecosystems, so particularly greenhouse gas fluxes from Greenlandic tundra and permafrost dominated habitats. Gases, such as CO2 and CH4 can be both taken up by the vegetation and soil microorganisms as well as emitted. This fine balance is highly sensitive to ambient warming and changes of rain and snow. I am researching, which (heavily underrated as tiny) microorganisms are living in permafrost (>2 years frozen soils) how they adapt to the changing climate and if or how they turn these thawing soil carbon stocks into climate relevant gases.

I studied at various European institutions, such as the MPI Bremen, Sorbonne, CCMAR Portugal and AWI and have a background in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation M. Sc. (EMBC+). Being able to work and live freely across Europe and learn from so many great institutions is one of my biggest privileges! Through these, I got on board a research cruise with the R/V Polarstern into the Arctic Fram Strait, hooking me both on the polar beauty and the use of molecular tools. I used them to understand temperature induced stress in marine zooplankton – and now on soil bacteria!

I am fascinated by the level of environmental understanding we can gain by looking on a scale as small as nucleic acids – or genomes. Also, there are many unexpected parallels between Arctic soils and the vast oceans, both in terms of the importance of biodiversity, the sensitivity to climate change and the often limited ways to access these pristine ecosystems.

As we witness direct climate change impacts in the Arctic nature and communities increasingly, finally the public seems to wake up, too. This pushed me towards science communication more and more. Working in academia, we have a great privilege to translate the latest research for the people who need to hear it loudest and I belief in the potential this bears globally.

I am also part of the Danish national APECS (Association of Polar Early Career Scientists) committee, which seeks to connect polar young scientists in Denmark for social and career purposes. After all, change is only possible, when we stick together.


Christensen, T.R.,…Scheel, M., et al. 2020. Multiple Ecosystem Effects of Extreme Weather Events in the Arctic. Ecosystems .

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