Helmholtz International Research School TRACER | © Pictures: iStock photo ID:23936695Bartosz Hadyniak

TRACER (TRajeCtories towards watER security) is a Helmholtz International Research School funded for 6 years by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the President of the Helmholtz Association. The establishment of International Research Schools, which are focused on a scientific topic, creates possibilities to use synergies between the German and international partners to increase research performance while at the same time offering a structured program of doctoral education.

With TRACER we aim to develop a new comprehensive understanding of temporal trajectories of human impacts on natural water systems and reciprocal effects on societies. This understanding will be globally transferable across wide ranges of economic and societal settings. In detail, TRACER will develop methods to

  1. Back-cast multi‐decadal hydro‐ecological trajectories of human impacts on water and vice versa,
  2. Disentangle human pressures and natural variability, and
  3. Reliably forecast future pathways to achieve water security.

Graphical illustration of the PLAN-B framework of TRACER | © TRACER Team
Graphical illustration of the PLAN-B framework of TRACER which strikes a balance between sufficient complexity to appropriately describe the dominant phenomena in coupled human natural systems in relation to water, and sufficient simplicity to resonate with policy makers and resource managers. We isolate four key categories of the drivers of hydro-ecosystem impacts and responses: the activities of people and their consumption behaviours (P) resulting in per-capita consumption, outputs or loads of those people (L) (related, for example, to their lifestyle), the ability of the people to attenuate their impacts with the full range of source control, technical and others measures within the human system (A), and the natural ability of the natural hydro-ecosystems (N) to buffer or attenuate their impacts. We aim at river basins (B) as the targeted spatial scale to address the three aspects of water security for humans and environment: water quantity, water quality and ecosystem health.
© Ralf Merz
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. | picture: Harris & Ewing. Library of Congress LC-USZ62-47817, source: Wikipedia

TRACER incorporates competences from 4 research partners

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
University of Florida
Purdue University
Technical University Dresden together with the cooperation partners
German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA)
European Environmental Agency
and the
United Nations Environment Program to develop solutions for global water security.

TRACER is organised as an international and interdisciplinary team of
approx. 28 PhD students and their supervisors,
a coordinator for the support of the students and their projects,
a scientific and educational steering committee consisting of representatives of all partners which is responsible for all strategic decisions
and a Council consisting of all scientists and supervisors which ranks PhD applications.

In TRACER we are aware of gender and ethnic/racial disparities in science. We want to realize open-minded and diverse working groups and are supported in this by the equals’ opportunity officer of the UFZ. We emphasize a balance governance, diverse supervision teams and role models in workshops and anti-bias training for all our members.