Hues of Life and Death

Kerstin Hockmann1
1 Hydrology, Experimental Biogeochemistry,

Photo contest "Picture your research" in Photo Contest

This photograph, with its striking display of vibrant iron oxides against the backdrop of dark rock, represents the intricate redox reactions in our human-impacted environment. It serves as a visual testament to the profound influence of redox processes on our planet, where even under the most hostile conditions for life, life emerges.

The image captures the essence of my scientific research, showcasing the fiery hues of iron oxides that paint a vivid portrait of redox transformations into our world. It conveys the beauty and complexity of our environment that drew me to the world of science and continues to inspire my exploration of iron oxides and their interactions with other elements. Even in the subtlest of transformations, there lies a profound story waiting to be unraveled.

I took this photo during an exploration tour with Prof. Martin Obst in a seldom-visited part of the "Glöckl" uranium mine in the Ore Mountains, while seeking iron-oxidizing biofilms. After World War II, the Soviet Union needed uranium for its atomic arms race and found abundant reserves in the Ore Mountains. Until the end of the German Democratic Republic (DDR), the state-owned Wismut AG extracted more than 200,000 tons of uranium from this region. It was the uranium from the Ore Mountains and Thuringia that elevated the Soviet Union to a nuclear superpower. Beyond its significance in geochemistry, the photo thus also holds a sad fascination for me due to its direct connection to war, geopolitical strategies, and the fates of individuals, as we are currently witnessing in Ukraine.

Titled "Hues of Life and Death," my photograph portrays a scene where iron-rich water flows like blood from a wound, seeping from the mining tunnel. Simultaneously, this process lays the very foundation for life, as it creates hospitable microenvironments where numerous iron-oxidizing bacteria thrive. Thus, from the scars of our planet, amazing opportunities for life emerge - a powerful image that I aspire to see also in the world's most troubled regions.

Hues of Life and Death
Hues of Life and Death

This site makes use of cookies More information