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Frederique Kirkels (MSc Earth Sciences, track Geoecological Dynamics) won the Esscher Prize 2015 for the best Dutch Master's thesis in Earth Sciences. She carried out her research on organic carbon as source for CO2 soil erosion under supervision of Dr Erik Cammeraat (IBED) and Prof. Karsten Kalbitz (TU Dresden).

Frederique Kirkels taking monsters for her research project. Photo: Francien Peterse (via 'Geobrief')

'An expertly carried out research project and exceptionally well-written thesis,' according to the jury report. In her research, Kirkels studied the faith of organic carbon in erosion processes across a dozen locations in Europe. She was particularly interested to learn what happens to organic soil carbon during transport from land to water. How fast is the soil organic matter converted into CO2?

Organic carbon in soil is an important carbon storage (larger than in vegetation or atmosphere). A point of scientific contention is whether erosion in rural agricultural areas contributes to extra storage of carbon in soil or, conversely, to a loss of carbon into the atmosphere, which would then contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Since graduating, Kirkels works as PhD candidate at Utrecht University.