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AIAS JCS Fellow Peter Teglberg Madsen awarded the Elite Research Prize 2019

As a sensory physiologist Peter T. Madsen has developed an advanced biologging technology that is tagged with suction cups on whales. A technology that has contributed to a unique knowledge on how echolocating whales navigate and capture their prey, and how they are affected by human noise from e.g. vessels.

Photo: Peter Teglberg Madsen. By: Melissa B. Yildirim.

Today, Former AIAS Jens Christian Skou Fellow Peter Teglberg Madsen, Professor of Zoophysiology at the Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University, has been awarded the prestigious Elite Research Prize 2019, given to outstanding researchers under 45 years of international excellence by the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science. 

Peter Teglberg Madsen studies animal sensory physiology, focusing on marine mammals’ use of sound to navigate and find prey and the effects that human noise causes on the ecosystem of the marine environment. Peter Teglberg Madsen has developed an advanced biologging technology that is mounted with suction cups on the skin of e.g. a whale to measure the movements of a marine mammals. 

‘I am honored of receiving this prize. But I also have to note that research is collective work. So it may seem unfair that only one person receives the Elite Research Prize, and therefore I wish to dedicate the prize to my research group’, said Peter Teglberg Madsen about the award. 

Peter Teglberg Madsen who has been a JCS Fellow at AIAS from 2018 to 2019 up to the award of the EliteForsk Prize notes that:

'My year at AIAS has uniquely allowed me to push my research forward in ways that could never happen in a normal university Professorship'.

Physiological measurement and behavioral studies combined

The development of the biologging technology has resulted in a unique research that has made it possible to combine animal physiological measurement with behavioral studies of animals in their natural environment – e.g. when they are deep diving in thousands of meters in the oceans. 

Peter Teglberg Madsen’s research has hereby given us insight into how the world’s largest predators find food in the deep ocean, what their metabolic rate is, and how their use of ‘click’ sounds for communication, also termed echolocation, is affected by the increasing manmade noise in the oceans. 

Whales and the ecosystem

The world’s about 300,000 sperm whales eat fish and squids in one kilometer’s depth. This amounts to about 100 million tons every year. The same amount that all humans eat from the ocean every year. We have a significant amount of biomass deep down in the ocean that is of importance for the carbon cycle. If we disrupt the ocean’s ecosystems, it will affect the climate. 

‘The whales that I am studying are top predators. They are important for an ecosystem. If the diversity of species decreases, a few species will dominate the whole system’. 

With his research, Peter Teglberg Madsen points to the importance that we are aware of how and to what extent humans disrupt the ecosystems – with our way of living and with our technologies as e.g. vessel noise, noise from sea wind power plants etc. If not, we are leaving great challenges for our children.   

Short bio of Peter Teglberg Madsen

Peter Teglberg Madsen received his biology degree in 2000, his PhD in 2002 and in 2014 he became a full professor, all at Aarhus University. He has held a number of international employments, among other places in the USA and Australia. He is currently an adjunct professor at Murdoch University in Australia. From 2018 to 2019 Peter held a Jens Christian Skou Fellowship at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS). 

Peter Teglberg Madsen has published more than 140 journal articles and has a h-index of 40. 

Peter Teglberg Madsen has supervised 14 PhD students and 12 postdocs. Two of his PhD students have received a Sapere Aude grant from Research Fund Denmark and have continued their postdoctoral careers at Princeton University and Stanford University. Peter Teglberg Madsen has also received grants from e.g. the ERC, FNU and the Carlsberg Foundations’s Semper Ardens. 

About the Elite Research Prize

The Elite Research Prize (in Danish the EliteForsk-pris 2019) is awarded to outstanding researchers under 45 years of international excellence. The Ministry for Higher Education and Science annually distributes five prizes. Each prize is 1.2 million. 200,000 is a personal award and 1,000,000 goes to research. 

Read interview with Peter by the Ministry for Higher Education and Science (in Danish only) 

Peter Teglberg Madsen’s project at AIAS



Peter Teglberg Madsen, AIAS JCS Fellow
Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies and
Professor at Dept. of Bioscience, Aarhus University
Aarhus University

E-mail: peter.madsen@aias.au.dk
Mobile: +45 5177 8771