Team members

Aaron Micallef (AM) is the leader of the Marine Geology & Seafloor Surveying (MGSS) group at the University of Malta. He is a marine geologist with expertise in seafloor geomorphology, marine hydrogeology and seafloor surveying. Aaron leads a related groundwater project funded by the ERC called MARCAN. He graduated from the University of Oxford with a Master’s degree in geomorphology, and completed his PhD in marine geology at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

Amir Haroon (AH) developed the Differential Electrical Dipole (DED) system for groundwater research in shallow marine environments. His expertise include time-domain EM data acquisition, processing and interpretation. He joined GEOMAR for a three-month employment between July and September 2017, where he collaborated with. S. Hölz & M. Jegen to process and interpret the coincident-loop transient EM data from the JC138 cruise. Before re-joining GEOMAR in January 2018, Haroon worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the EM Group of the University of Southampton, United Kingdom. His current research interest focuses on 3D forward modeling of CSEM data and 2D inversion of time-domain EM data for groundwater research. Currently, AH is employed on his own DFG project to develop a 2D adaptive finite element inversion algorithm for time-domain electromagnetic applications.

Christian Berndt (CB) is professor of marine geophysics at GEOMAR and Head of the Research Unit Marine Geodynamics. In addition to these thematic contributions CB was also engaged in technological developments that will be put to work in the proposed project. CB is one of two inventors of the P-Cable 3D-Seismic System. This system provides very efficiently high-resolution 3D seismic data. He has been working on different aspects of fluid migration in the sea-floor for the past 20 years including gas hydrate dynamics, sea-floor stability, and subsurface sediment deformation, and published widely on these topics. He was chief scientist on 18 major research cruises and participant in more than 30 cruises. 

Christian Hensen (CH) is senior researcher in the Research Unit Marine Geosystems. He is a marine geochemist with specific focus on fluid geochemistry, early diagenetic processes and modelling of transport-reaction processes in marine sediments. His central interest is to deepen the understanding of how deep-sourced geochemical processes are related to fluid generation and fluid flow. CH is currently coordinating the EU-funded COST Action FLOWS (Impact of Fluid circulation in old oceanic Lithosphere on the seismicity of transfOrm-type plate boundaries: neW solutions for early seismic monitoring of major European Seismogenic zones), where he is addressing the role of seismic activity affecting fluid migration and seafloor seepage.

Hela Mehrtens (HM) is a marine meteorologist by education, she moved onto working as a scientific data manager, supporting interdisciplinary and large-scale projects in internal communication, data description, data exchange and publication. She was the Equal Opportunity Commissioner at GEOMAR from 2015 to 2019.

Marion Jegen (MJ) has 25 years of experience in designing and building marine EM instrumentation and carrying out marine electromagnetic experiments. Focus of her recent studies involves imaging shallow seafloor processes (methane hydrates, offshore aquifers and massive sulfide deposits) using controlled source electromagnetics. An integral part of her work is the integration of electromagnetics with other geophysical methodology. A longstanding interest is tectonic research, i.e. subduction zones, hot-spots and rifting structures. MJ has built up and heads the marine electromagnetic group at GEOMAR since 2006.

Mark Everett (ME) is a professor of geophysics at Texas A&M University, USA. Mark holds BSc and MSc degrees in Physics from York University, Canada and a PhD in Geophysics from the University of Toronto. He is the author of a recently published book on Near- Surface Applied Geophysics and is the Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Applied Geophysics. In SMART, ME will provide expertise on land-based geophysical measurements, processing, and interpretation and will participate field and teaching workshops at the University of Malta.

Mark Schmidt (MS) is a member of the Marine Biogeochemistry Division of the German research institute GEOMAR and Associate Professor at the University of Kiel (“Privatdozent”). He started his scientific career in the 90’s as an environmental/physical chemist (PhD in atmospheric chemistry), and then changed to earth sciences (habilitation in geosciences in 2006). Over the last decades his research interests concentrated on investigating fluid geochemistry in the water column and sediments to reconstruct subsurface processes. Actually a more applied and industry-related research is in focus, i.e. gas sensor development, under-water mass spectrometry, autonomous sensor platforms. MS participated on more than 40 international research cruises including offshore submersible, ROV, AUV, CTD, coring, and Lander operations. 


Thomas Müller (TM) is project manager of SMART and a postdoctoral researcher in the marine biogeochemistry group at GEOMAR. He is a hydrogeologist by training and employs a wide range of tools to study the dynamics of groundwater flow. An integral part of his work is numerical groundwater modeling and the application of environmental tracers. Using these, questions on the source of the water or the groundwater residence times can be answered. A longstanding interest is the paleo climate, i.e. the availability of (ground) water in the distant past.


Volker Liebetrau (VL) is a geochemist with a 20 year-track record working on sediment geochemistry with an emphasis on carbonate systems. Moreover he is an expert in geochronology using stable- and radioisotopes. He is operating the radio-decay counting laboratory at GEOMAR and will supervise the analysis within SMART.



Zahra Faghih (ZF) completed her Master’s degree in Marine Geosciences in Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel. She joined marine electromagnetics group at GEOMAR in July 2017 and wrote her Master’s thesis on the topic of “Offshore Groundwater Investigation in the Canterbury Basin, New Zealand using Time-domain Controlled-source Electromagnetic (CSEM) Data” as a part of MARCAN project. She is now beginning her PhD within the framework of SMART and will explore topics including 2D inversion of CSEM data and better integrating seismic and CSEM data offshore Malta.