PhD position “How to restore intertidal flats for ecological value?”

Tidal flats and salt marshes are valuable intertidal ecosystems that support rich food webs and may also contribute to coastal safety. Many of these intertidal environments have been lost during the last decades, raising questions on how to manage or restore these valuable systems?


LOCATION:                           ROYAL NIOZ-YERSEKE

VACANCY ID:                       2017 – 042

CLOSING DATE:                  September 1st , 2017



The department of Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS, NIOZ-Yerseke) aims at understanding how the interplay between organisms, hydrodynamics, sediment dynamics and chemistry shapes the sub- and intertidal landscape and how it affects the functioning and resilience of the diverse communities living in these landscapes. We take a multidisciplinary approach that combines state-of-art biophysical and biochemical measurements, remote sensing, and manipulative experiments with mathematical and numerical modeling to obtain in-depth process-based understanding. We do Frontier Applied science, meaning that we link fundamental understanding to societal usage. In doing so, we aim to actively support managers with insight needed for ecosystem conservation, ecosystem restoration and creating nature based flood defense.



The vacancy is part of a larger integrated multidisciplinary research program, aimed at understanding the ecological and bio geomorphic development of intertidal flats in response to engineering measures that were specifically done to improve the environmental quality of those tidal flats.

At a number of locations along the Scheldt estuary, breakwaters were constructed to enhance sediment accretion and thereby create suitable intertidal habitat for benthic animals, on which (migratory) birds and other species like fish can feed. The construction of the breakwaters have recently been finalized, and measurements of sediment accretion, hydrodynamics and benthic community sampling has been started. The research goals go beyond “merely” monitoring these tidal flats: within this project, you will address questions like i) which factors control the successful settlement of benthic animals, ii) what is the importance of sediment dynamics as driver of habitat quality and iii) to what extent can sediment dynamics be related to hydrodynamic forcing. The selected candidate will combine field studies with state of the art equipment (wave loggers, SED-sensors) with laboratory experiments including the use of wave mesocosms or experimental flumes. The project explicitly aims to provide fundamental understanding of the intertidal flat ecosystem, to enable the local government to optimize the management and restoration of the estuarine system.



We are looking for a highly-motivated candidate with an MSc degree in ecology, biology or physical geography. The candidate should have a keen interest in frontier-applied research, where fundamental knowledge is developed, in order to provide a knowledge base for managers. Interest and experience with experimental work and good statistical knowledge are a prerequisite. A good feeling for mathematics (and basic physics) is a benefit. Candidates should be capable to plan and organize their own work independently, organize and carry out field experiments, and meet deadlines imposed by the project.

Most importantly, the candidate should be open and communicative, and keen on interacting with both end-users and interdisciplinary project partners (i.e., WMR, HZ-university of applied sciences, Deltares). Excellent communication skills and an open collaborative attitude are essential for the success of the research. Good English oral and writing skills are demanded, as the candidate must publish the findings in scientific journals and effectively communicate results to end-users.



We offer a fulltime PhD-position for 4 years, a pension scheme, a yearly 8% vacation allowance, year-end bonus, flexible employment conditions and a good operating budget for the project. Advanced training opportunities are available. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of Research Centers. Cost of relocation and help with housing is provided by Royal NIOZ.

The position will be based at the NIOZ-Yerseke, which is at commuting distance of cities like Antwerpen, Breda, Middelburg and Vlissingen.



For additional information about this vacancy, please contact the 2 promotors: Prof. dr. Tjeerd Bouma or Prof dr. Tom Ysebaert. For additional information about the procedure, please contact Sigrid Moerbeek, sr. HR advisor.

Please note: job interviews are foreseen on October 5th, 2017


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