PhD position: Avian subsidies on small sandy islands

This vacancy is the result of the collaboration between Utrecht University and NIOZ. The Department of Coastal Systems (COS) at NIOZ (Texel) and the Department of Physical Geography at the University of Utrecht are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with a strong interest in coastal ecology and biogeomorphology, and the ability to combine and integrate field and laboratory work with statistical models.

2021-10-01 00:04:00

VACANCY ID:              2021-55
CLOSING DATE          October 31st , 2021.


NIOZ is the national oceanographic institute and principally performs academically excellent multidisciplinary fundamental and frontier applied marine research addressing important scientific and societal questions pertinent to the functioning of oceans and seas. Second, NIOZ serves as national marine research facilitator (NMF) for The Netherlands scientific community. Third, NIOZ stimulates and supports multidisciplinary fundamental and frontier applied marine research, education and marine policy development in the national and international context.

The department of COS studies integral coastal ecosystems and their populations of fish, birds, and other marine animals in the North Sea and Wadden Sea as well as on a global scale. The department focuses on key physical, chemical and biological processes that determine the productivity and the ecological functioning of coastal areas. The coastal system is studied as a unity by considering the interrelations between the key compartments of the ecosystem (water, sediment, microalgae, macro zoobenthos, parasites, fish and birds).  

Utrecht University
Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development. The Department of Physical Geography excels in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. Our research focuses on processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s continental and coastal systems, and on the interaction between these processes. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations.



Each year, millions of coastal birds visit the Wadden Sea region to refuel on their migration route between winter and breeding habitats. Small sandy islands play an important role as roosting, staging and breeding habitat. The development and stability of these small islands is steered by positive interactions between vegetation growth and sediment transporting processes. In this project, you will investigate how birds impact the biogeomorphic feedbacks that determine island morphodynamics and habitat suitability for breeding and roosting birds through their faecal excrements. You will concentrate on the small islands in the Wadden Sea region (e.g., Griend, Richel, Zuiderduin, Rottums) and will investigate the relations between coastal bird populations, vegetation dynamics and island morphological development. Your work will consist of a combination of field surveys, remote sensing data, statistical models and manipulative lab and field experiments.    

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with a strong interest in coastal ecology and biogeomorphology, with the ability to integrate statistical models on existing data (e.g., bird counts, vegetation productivity and coastal lidar) with designing and conducting empirical research (e.g,. surveys and manipulative experiments). You must hold a master degree (or equivalent) in ecology, biogeomorphology, earth sciences or a related field. A multidisciplinary interest, with emphasis on geomorphological and ecological interactions, is necessary. Additionally, we expect you to be able to work in a group, have an appetite for both fieldwork and computer analyses and to have a pro-active, inquisitive, enthusiastic, creative and self-reliant mindset. You must be proficient in communication in written and verbal English and already possess a good command of a programming language (R, Python or Matlab), or are willing to learn such a language. We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse background, including LGBTIQ+ communities, to join us.

Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ is by NWO (The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research). We offer a position for a period of 1 year (fulltime). At the end of this first year, the employment will be extended for a fixed-term of a maximum of 4 years, if the first year evaluation held with the employee is positive. The salary is compliant to the CAO-OI (Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Research Institutes), a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus of 8,3%, flexible work arrangements and arrangements and 42 days of holiday leave (fulltime position).

You may expect attractive secondary employment conditions. We offer generous relocation expenses for employees coming from abroad and support with finding accommodation.

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Valerie Reijers (Assistant professor Coastal Ecology UU) and Kees Camphuysen  (senior scientist NIOZ). For additional information about the procedure, please contact  Sigrid Moerbeek (senior HR advisor).

For more information about the Department of Physical Geography, at Utrecht University see here; for more information about the Department of Coastal Systems at NIOZ, see here.

Find more information about the UU-NIOZ projects here. 

Interviews will be held online (Microsoft Teams) in week 45.


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