Who is who

The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) includes the Core Theme (CT) and Work Package (WP) leaders and co-leaders, and the project director (Christoph Heinze) and vice-director (Thorsten Blenckner).  We present a short biography and contact details for members of the SSC.

Christoph Heinze
Christoph Heinze

Christoph Heinze - Project director &  CT4 leader 


Christoph Heinze is a biogeochemical oceanographer with 30 years’ experience in the field. He has specialized in global three-dimensional modelling of marine biogeochemical cycles with special emphasis on carbon and silicon. His specific research interests are devoted to feedback processes between climate and biogeochemical cycles, the understanding, interpretation, and simulation of the marine sedimentary paleo-climate archive, and the quantification of the global carbon and silicon cycles. He had coordinated the EU FP5 Integrated Project CARBOOCEAN and the EU FP6 large-scale integrating project CARBOCHANGE - both on the changing ocean carbon sink.

Heinze is the project director of COMFORT, as well as the leader of CT4 - Cross cutting issues - and co-leader of all the WPs (7-10) within this CT. Apart form coordinating the project , Heinze and his group work on Earth system model data evaluation with respect to tipping points, abrupt changes, irreversibility issues, and robustness of model results (WPs 1,2,6).

Thorsten Blenckner
Thorsten Blenckner

Thorsten Blenckner - Project vice-director & WP4 leader  


Blenckner holds a MSc in Biology and a PhD and docent in limnology. His current research is in developing and using advanced quantitative analysis and modeling tools to analyse the dynamics of marine systems. Blenckner focuses on further developing theoretical thinking of resilience, tipping points, novelty and ocean health through quantitative analysis of system responses to changes in climate and human activities. He is involved in many international projects such as the Baltic Health Index and a FORMAS project on cumulative impacts in the Baltic Sea. Blenckner has published over 70 peer-reviewed articles in both natural and interdisciplinary science journals. He is a Visiting Fellow of the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS) University of California, US. Since January 2021 he is a member of the European Marine Board of coastal resilience and the IMBeR Science Steering Committee.

He is the vice-director of COMFORT and leader of WP4 - Integrated impact assessment. His group at Stockholm University is contributing to the project with a system view of tipping points, novelty and the method development of safe operating spaces.

Nicolas Gruber
Nicolas Gruber

Nicolas Gruber - CT1 leader


Nicolas Gruber (Ph.D. 1997, University of Bern, Switzerland) is full Professor of Environmental Physics at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. He is interested in the ocean and its interaction with climate, with a strong focus on the global cycling of carbon and other biogeochemically relevant elements. In his studies, he combines the analysis of observations with modeling studies. He has written more than 180 peer-reviewed publication, with more than 25 of those having been published in the Nature and Science family of journals. For the last three years, he has been recognized as a highly cited author. He authored together with Jorge Sarmiento the textbook “Ocean Biogeochemical Dynamics” that has become a standard text in the field. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to Marine Sciences, Dr. Gruber received the Rosenstiel Award from the University of Miami in 2004. In 2012 he was elected fellow of the American Geophysical Union. He is chair of ETH’s Center for Climate System Modeling, is member of several international research boards and serves as a review editor for Science Magazine and as an editor for AGU Advances. He is also member of the governing board of Climate-KIC, the largest European public-private partnership fostering innovation in the field of climate change.

Within COMFORT he leads CT1 - Abrupt climate change, tipping elements, and tipping points -

Marion Gehlen
Marion Gehlen

Marion Gehlen - CT2 leader 


Marion Gehlen is Research Director at LSCE (Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement), Gif-sur-Yvette, France. Her research focuses on (1) quantifying impacts of climate change, ocean acidification on marine biogeochemical cycles, ecosystems and associated feedbacks; (2) understanding recent and future evolution of the marine carbon cycle; (3) assessing the predictability of ocean biogeochemical state and its variability. Her approach combines biogeochemical modelling applied to process understanding and to the interpretation of observed, but also projected ocean biogeochemical states. She works across disciplinary borders by connecting omics and biogeochemical modelling, the development of high resolution physical-biogeochemical model systems for research and operational application, as well as the reconstruction of recent variability of the marine carbon system through innovative machine learning approaches.

Within COMFORT she leads CT2 - Impacts and safe operating spaces - and contributes a study on tipping points in subsurface benthic ecosystems

Fortunat Joos
Fortunat Joos

Fortunat Joos - CT3 leader


Fortunat Joos is a Professor of Physics at the University of Bern and interested in the scientific basics of climate change and the carbon cycle. He studied environmental physics at ETH Zürich and graduated at the University of Bern. Research stays followed at the University of Princeton and the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, USA. He authored or co-authored more than 150 publications and is recognized as “Highly Cited Researcher” by Thompson Reuters. With his team, he develops and applies a hierarchy of Earth System Models. He investigates, by combining observational data and models, recent to glacial-interglacial periods for improved projections of greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and climate change and impacts over the 21st century and beyond.

Within COMFORT Fortunat serves as leader of CT3 - Mitigation and projections - and explores with his team safe operating spaces using large ensemble simulations.

Judith Hauck
Judith Hauck

Judith Hauck - WP1 leader


Judith Hauck studied marine environmental sciences in Oldenburg in Germany, before moving to AWI for her Ph.D. She was awarded the Annette-Barthelt Award for the best Ph.D. thesis, entitled  “Processes in the Southern Ocean carbon cycle: Dissolution of carbonate sediments and inter-annual variability of carbon fluxes”, in the field of marine sciences in Germany. She is now head of the Helmholtz Young Investigator Group for MarESys, as well as the Deputy Head of Marine Biogeosciences at AWI. Coupled ocean and Earth system models are now her primary research tool, and among her main research interests are the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean every year, the mechanisms behind marine carbon absorption, the future development of marine carbon sinks, and changes in the biogeochemical environmental conditions for marine life.  She is a member of several international research committees working on the assessment and reporting on the global carbon budget and ocean carbon research. With regard to the annual carbon budgets prepared by the GCP, she is responsible for coordinating and analysing estimates of the ocean carbon sink.

Within COMFORT Judith co-leads WP1 - Ocean state under climate change and conducts research on Antarctic Bottom Water formation as a tipping point for carbon sequestration in the Southern Ocean and on changing ecosystem dynamics in the Arctic Ocean in response to reduced sea-ice cover.

Thomas Frölicher - WP2 leader


Thomas Frölicher is currently a SNSF Assistant Professor at the Climate and Environmental Physics Division of the University of Bern and the head of the ocean modelling group. He is interested in marine ecosystem-carbon climate interactions with focus on ocean extreme events and their impacts on marine organisms and ecosystem services. He studied environmental sciences at ETH Zürich and graduated in Physics at the University of Bern. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and as a senior researcher at ETH Zürich. He is the recipient of the 2019 Theodor Kocher Prize of the University of Bern and he recently made it on Reuters‚ Hot 1000 Climate Change Researchers‘ list. Thomas authored or co-authored 75 peer-reviewed publications, including work on marine heatwaves. He was the lead author of chapter six on Extremes, Abrupt Changes and Managing Risks of the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, including the summary for policy makers, and contributed to the fifth and sixth assessment report of working group I and II of the IPCC.

In COMFORT he is the leader of WP2 - Dynamics, extremes, early warning indicators, and reversibility. In particular, Thomas and his group investigate the distribution and changes of extreme events such as marine heatwaves and ocean acidity extremes as well as compound biogeochemical extremes, and their role for crossing tipping points.

Stephanie Henson
Stephanie Henson

Stephanie Henson - WP2 co-leader


Stephanie Henson is a Principal Scientist at the National Oceanography Centre and Honorary Professor at the University of Southampton. She leads an active research group in global marine biogeochemistry, currently made up of 18 research staff and students. Her particular research interests aim at understanding natural variability and climate change effects on phytoplankton populations and subsequent impacts on the biological carbon pump. Her research exploits autonomous vehicles, satellite and in situ data, as well as output from biogeochemical models. In 2012, she received the EGU Award for Outstanding Young Scientist for her ‘fundamental contribution to the study of marine ecosystems’ and in 2016 she was awarded a prestigious European Research Council Consolidator Grant.  She is a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 6th Assessment Report, on the chapter “Carbon and other biogeochemical cycles and feedbacks”. 

Steph co-leads COMFORT WP2 - Dynamics, extremes, early warning indicators, and reversibility and her personal research in the project centres on assessing future change in phytoplankton diversity in response to climate change.

Patrick Lehodey
Patrick Lehodey

Patrick Lehodey - WP3 leader


Patrick Lehodey holds a PhD in Marine Biology on the topic of deep sea fisheries over seamounts. He was then recruited at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (Nouméa, New Caledonia) to investigate relationships between oceanography and Pacific tuna fisheries. With this objective, he started to develop the SEAPODYM model which integrates knowledge on micronekton and large oceanic predators. Nowadays, he leads the development of this model, and the micronekton model outputs are now provided also as new ocean variables in the European Copernicus catalogue. He was a member of the Scientific Steering Committee (2000-05) of the international programme GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics) and co-chair of the GLOBEC/CLIOTOP (Climate Impacts on Oceanic Top Predators) until 2010. In 2006, he joined CLS (Toulouse) to develop the Marine Ecosystem Modeling activities for the management of marine resources under the combined impacts of fisheries, climate variability and climate change. Patrick Lehodey is author or co-author of more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific articles and book chapters dealing with tuna, fish population dynamics, micronekton, marine ecology, climate variability and climate change.

Within COMFORT he is the leader of WP3 - Impacts, risks, thresholds: Case studies. Patrick and his group at CLS investigate trends and potential tipping points due to projected climate changes in ocean ecosystems (using simulations of global zooplankton and micronekton functional groups) and also in global tropical tuna fisheries. To carry out their work, they use the SEAPODYM numerical model and data from the Copernicus marine service web.

David Keller
David Keller

David P. Keller - WP5 leader


David Keller completed a Ph.D. in Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Science from the University of Maryland in 2010 and then joined the Marine Biogeochemical Modelling Department at GEOMAR in Kiel where he is now a senior research scientist. David uses Earth system models to conduct much of his scientific work. His research expertise and interests include assessing the potential and feasibility of carbon dioxide removal (negative emissions) approaches for climate change mitigation, understanding feedbacks between biogeochemical cycles and the climate, and investigating interactions between marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles.  David currently leads the EU Horizon 2020 project OceanNETs, and co-leads the Carbon Dioxide Removal Model Intercomparison Project (CDRMIP). He is a contributing author on the topic of carbon dioxide removal to the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report (Working Group I Sixth Assessment; AR6).

Within COMFORT, he leads WP5 - Ocean mitigation options assessment. In particular, David leads a research effort to assess if ocean-based carbon dioxide removal options can be used to mitigate climate change and avoid tipping points. 

Jörg Schwinger
Jörg Schwinger

Jörg Schwinger - WP6 leader


Jörg Schwinger has a broad background in earth system modelling. After studying Geophysics he obtained a PhD from the University of Cologne (Germany). The topic of his PhD was assimilation of stratospheric chemistry observations into an atmospheric model. After some work on data assimilation for land surface models, he moved to Bergen (Norway) where he started to work on biogeochemical cycles in the Earth system. Generally speaking, he is interested in the interactions of these cycles with the climate system and in describing these complex processes with numerical models. He has been one of the main developers of the ocean biogeochemistry module of the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM) over the past years.

In the COMFORT project, he leads WP6 - Projections and works on assessing how well Earth system models are able to project the evolution of ecosystem stressors (temperature increase, oxygen decline, acidification) under a changing climate, and on narrowing down the uncertainties in these projections. He is also interested in assessing climate mitigation pathways and options using Earth system model scenario simulations and experiments.

Helena Martins
Helena Martins

Helena Martins - WP7 leader


Helena Martins has a PhD in Sciences Applied to the Environment, from the University of Aveiro and a MsC in Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment, from the Technical University of Lisbon. In 2016 Helena moved to Sweden to work as science communicator at the Rossby Centre, the climate modelling research unit at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. She engages in climate science communication towards the general public, others researchers and decision-makers. Helena led the knowledge dissemination task in the H2020 CRESCENDO project.

In COMFORT she leads WP7- Providing added-value to decision and policy makers and is responsible for the stakeholder engagement. Her goal is to incorporate stakeholder knowledge and expertise in COMFORT’s ongoing work to help shape the project’s final outcome and to make project results easily accessible for stakeholders.

Benjamin Pfeil
Benjamin Pfeil

Benjamin Pfeil - WP8 co-leader


Benjamin Pfeil is the head of the Bjerknes Climate Data Centre at the UiB (Norway) and has been the Acting and Deputy Director of the Ocean Thematic Centre of RI ICOS. He has been involved in major international data management efforts in the field of marine biogeochemistry (SOCAT and GLODAP) and his group has been responsible for the data management for more than 25 projects. He has a strong link to the international scientific marine biogeochemistry and data management community through various networks. He is currently co-chair of the data sub-committee for SOOS. His group is leading marine data activities ICOS OTC and Norwegian EMSO.

Benjamin is involved in the COMFORT project as a data manager and leads WP8 - Data management. He is in charge of providing continuous technical and organizational data management for observational and model output data within the project. His group also provides a common disk space for exchange of new COMFORT data sets as well as for sharing access information to already existing data sets.

Dagmara Rusiecka
Dagmara Rusiecka

Dagmara Rusiecka - WP9 & 10 leader, WP7 co-leader


Dagmara Rusiecka completed her PhD in biogeochemistry of trace metals at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton (UK) and GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel (Germany). In 2019 Dagmara moved to Bergen to start a position of the COMFORT project manager at the Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research.

Dagmara is an overall project manager and a communication manager of COMFORT, as well as a leader of WP9 - Management and communication and WP10 - Ethics requirements, and co-leader of WP7 - Providing added-value to decision and policy makers. She is responsible for development and execution of the internal and external communication plan, coordinate the work between all work packages, as well as external networking with other national and international projects, agencies and stakeholders.