On Thursday, 18 new international Master’s students started their first semester with a foray into the great outdoors. The students, who hail from seven countries including Nigeria, Iran, China, and the USA have all just begun the interdisciplinary Master’s degree program “Integrated Climate System Sciences.” The orientation week gave them the opportunity to get their first hands-on experience with core aspects of their studies: marine physics, biogeochemistry, the socioeconomics of climate change – all of which the international group got to see live during their trip to the coast of the North Sea near Dithmarschen.
At the Eider Barrage near Tönning in Schleswig-Holstein, the focus was on tides and tidal ranges, storm surges and coastal protection. With the introduction of Germany’s largest coastal protection structure, major sections of the Eider River’s estuary were drained. This area, now the Katinger Watt nature reserve, became home not only to new farmland, but also conservation zones and bird sanctuaries. While offering protection, the barrage still preserves the tide cycle, so as to avoid harming flora and fauna in the hinterland.
The next stop on the tour was the dyke at Vollerwiek, where Andreas Hadenfeldt, certified soil scientist and a local from Dithmarsch, led the group. He filled the students in on why cattle can only graze behind the dyke but sheep can graze on either side, why local farmers receive compensation when huge flocks of geese devour their grass, and just what the “Wadden Sea Ecosystem” is all about.
The subsequent wade though the intertidal zone was a special treat for the international students – complete with lugworms, mats of algae and gobs of anaerobic silt that clung to their bare feet, and the two small houses in Westerhever, which share a lonely hill with a lighthouse, surrounded by salt marshes. The final talk of the day was in Tönning, where the last cutters sell their crabs to the tourists every morning, and focused on land use and associated conflicts, as well as on the tourism industry.