Mourning for Professor Dr. Winfried Lampert

The staff of the Institute mourns the death of Professor Dr. Winfried L a m p e r t who passed away on March 6, 2021, at the age of 79.

March 12, 2021

With Winfried Lampert, our Institute and the Max Planck Society have lost a world-renowned limnologist, a wonderful colleague, and a person whose dedication to the institute remained as strong after his retirement, as during the years of his tenure.

After graduating from high school, Winfried Lampert first did an apprenticeship as a book printer before he decided to study biology in Freiburg. After completing his doctorate and habilitation in Freiburg, he took on a lectureship in ecology in Frankfurt.

Winfried Lampert began his impressive scientific career at the Max Planck Society in 1980 as head of an independent junior research group at the then Max Planck Institute for Limnology. Only a few years later, thanks to his outstanding achievements in his field of research, he was appointed Scientific Member and Director at the Institute. In his department, which Winfried Lampert headed for more than two decades until his retirement in 2006, he was able to identify the decisive key problems in aquatic ecosystems and to pursue them with a wealth of new ideas, methods and extremely interesting results.

His main research object was Daphnia (small crustaceans known as "water fleas"), which eat algae and bacteria and thus influence the water quality and clarity of lakes, as well as significantly control the ecological processes in lakes. He was able to show how they communicate with their predators (e.g., fish) using chemical signals, evolved a variety of strategies to evade different enemies, and genetically adapt to changing environmental conditions. Among other approaches, he used "plankton towers," which are unique in the world, thus bringing the lake into the laboratory. He was also an avid diver and worked as a nature filmmaker with spectacular underwater movies of marine areas around the world, which won national and international awards.

His merits were not limited to his research work. He was particularly interested in young scientists, whom he supported with extraordinary energy and wide-ranging expertise, so that many of his former colleagues are now leading their own research groups all over the world.

Winfried Lampert also initiated the reorientation of the Institute towards evolutionary biology, as the mechanisms of evolution are the basis of ecology. His lifetime achievements included the highly prestigious Redfield Lifetime Achievements Award of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, which he received for fundamental contributions to current understanding of interactions between phytoplankton (algae) and zooplankton (filter-feeding small crustaceans), food webs in lakes, and evolutionary adaptations of organisms in freshwater ecosystems.

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