Scientist from the IOER receives Research Award 2022 of Friends of the Earth Germany

Josefine Gottschalk, a researcher at the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER), has been awarded the 2022 Research Award of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) for her Master's thesis on holistic marine protection in European marine spatial planning. With this award, BUND recognises ground-breaking work by young scientists conducting research on sustainable development.

Josefine Gottschalk receives the BUND Research Award 2022 for her Master's thesis "Scratching Below Surface. Is the maritime spatial planning of the European Union ready for adequate marine conservation?” She wrote the thesis as part of her studies in Environmental Planning at Technische Universität Berlin. In her thesis, the young scientist points out that holistic marine protection is not sufficiently taken into account in the EU’s marine spatial planning.

In her work, Josefine Gottschalk specifically identifies the weaknesses of European marine spatial planning from the perspective of nature. Her conclusion: holistic marine protection has been given too little consideration in marine spatial planning up to now. As an example, the award winner examined the marine spatial planning of the German Exclusive Economic Zone in the North Sea and Baltic Sea and analysed various planning documents. She proves that both structural (biodiversity) and functional (ecosystem functioning) components of the natural marine environment play an insufficient role in the European Union's current marine spatial planning process. "This means that, on the one hand, biodiversity protection is not sufficiently taken into account in the planning. On the other hand, current European marine spatial planning does not ensure that marine ecosystems are maintained as intact habitats. That is a reason why it is so important to preserve the functionality of marine ecosystems and to create the space they need to evolve and to fulfil their most important functions, despite increasing human activities at sea," she says. In her work, Josefine Gottschalk also describes how a lack of biological and ecological marine data hempers ecosystem-based marine spatial planning. However, she also makes clear that marine protection must now be advanced in this sense – even without this knowledge and data.

With Josefine Gottschalk's Master's thesis, BUND has awarded research on a marine topic for the first time. “The honour underlines that sustainable spatial development is not only crucial on land, but also at sea. The oceans not only play an essential role in the global climate system. Due to human intervention, marine natural spaces are undergoing rapid change, but we hardly notice it,” says Prof. Dr Gerold Janssen, who is project leader at the IOER and responsible for research on marine spatial planning. “It is of the highest social relevance that we achieve sustainable spatial development at sea. Unfortunately, the trends are pointing in a different direction at the moment. But we still have the chance to learn from the mistakes once made in spatial planning on land. We can guide the transformation of marine space into a truly sustainable direction, as long as the change is still viable in the long term and environmentally compatible," says award winner Josefine Gottschalk.

With its Research Award, BUND aims to promote scientific commitment to sustainable and future-proof strategies. 46 papers were submitted for the 2022 Research Award. According to the BUND's press release (in German), they are proof that the realisation continues to prevail that the design of sustainable strategies can only succeed in interaction with ecology. The official award ceremony will take place in mid-November during BUND's national delegates' meeting. The Sustainability Award for Master's theses is endowed with 1,000 euros.

About the scientist

Josefine Gottschalk has been working at the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER) since January 2022. She is a research associate in the Transformative Capacities research area and conducts research in the MSP-SpaCeParti project (Coastal Fishery, Biodiversity, Spatial Use and Climate Change: A Participative Approach to navigate the Western Baltic Sea into a Sustainable Future) on regulatory options for marine spatial planning contributing to sustainable coastal fisheries. Josefine Gottschalk studied Political Sciences and Sociology at Kiel University (CAU), where she obtained her Bachelor's degree. This was followed by a Master's degree in Environmental Planning at Technische Universität Berlin and in Coastal and Marine Biology and Ecology at the Università del Salento in Lecce, Italy. Even as a child, the scientist was fascinated by the sea. Ever since she worked on a project to protect sea turtles in Guatemala in 2012, it was clear to her that she would like to continue her professional and private commitment to a healthy and intact marine environment. Working at the IOER offers her this opportunity.

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BUND stands for Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation). It is an independent, federal NGO that has been dedicated to protecting nature and the environment since the mid-1970s. BUND is one out of 73 national member groups of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network called Friends of the Earth. In 2022, BUND has offered its Research Award for the sixth time. With this award, BUND honours young scientists who conduct research on sustainable development. The aim is to raise public awareness of scientific achievements in this field of research. The award is decided by a jury consisting of members of the BUND Scientific Advisory Board and external experts.

More information on the Research Award (in German)

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

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This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.