PhD position: Greenland fjords as gateways between the ice sheet and the ocean

This vacancy is the result of the collaborative research call between Utrecht University (UU) and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate to investigate the interaction between the Greenland Ice Sheet and the fjords.

2021-10-01 00:46:45

VACANCY ID:                     2021-56
CLOSING DATE                 October 31st , 2021.



The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is losing mass at an accelerated rate, notably so at its marine terminating glaciers, where the ice sheet meets the ocean. The project aims to study the interaction between Greenland’s marine-terminating glaciers and the fjord. Heat transport from the ocean to these glaciers has been identified as one of the critical processes for understanding future mass loss. Yet, despite the presence of warm water at the continental shelf, this heat does not necessarily easily reach the glacier fronts as fjords play a crucial role as gateway between the ocean and the ice sheet. In addition, the fjords modulate the exchange of freshwater emanating from the GrIS with the ocean.  Understanding the transformation of freshwater in the fjord is crucial in projecting the impact of the shrinking GrIS on the ocean and vice versa. In this project, a consortium of oceanographers and glaciologists aims to advance our understanding of the exchange of heat and freshwater in Greenland fjords.


The successful candidate will investigate the freshwater flux to the fjord and to what extent this freshwater is modified in the fjord. Additionally, the relative importance of the different heat sources in melting of the glaciers will be studied. The goal is to parametrize the exchange of heat and freshwater between the glacier and the fjord. The study will exploit an existing dataset of Nuup Kangerlua (Godthåbsfjord in SW Greenland), a large glacier-fjord system in southwest Greenland that has experienced significant glacier retreat in the last decade. The dataset consists of seasonal multiannual oceanographic data (conductivity, temperature, depth profiles and data from moored instruments) and glaciological data (glacier surface mass balance, runoff and remote sensing data). In addition, the candidate will participate in field campaigns in different regions in Greenland to collect new oceanographic data.

Applications should include a cover letter indicating your motivation and relevant research experience, a detailed curriculum vitae, academic transcripts, and the contact information of at least two references.


We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate holding a master’s degree in Earth Sciences,  Oceanography, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Engineering, or a related field. Knowledge of mathematics, physical processes in the ocean and/or glaciers are an advantage, good skill in programming and data analysis is required. Furthermore, the optimal candidate must be interested in joining an interdisciplinary project. Applicants must be able to work independently and in a structured manner and demonstrate good collaborative skills. The candidate will have two supervisors. Due to the international character of our research, applicants must be proficient in both written and oral English. We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse background, including LGBTIQ+ communities, to join us.



Utrecht University  is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts Researchers, Professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community. At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

The Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU)  offers a unique research and teaching environment, in which the fundamentals of the climate system are studied. Research is organized in five themes: Atmospheric Dynamics, Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry, Coastal and Shelf Sea Dynamics, Ice and Climate, and Oceans and Climate. The Ice and Climate group at IMAU is an inspiring, high-quality, and versatile research group focusing on ice sheets, sea level, and climate. The group is world-leading in modelling of the ice sheet surface including firn, and maintains a dedicated network of automatic weather stations. Currently our research group has 5 staff members, 10 Postdocs, and 8 PhD candidates.

Royal NIOZ is the national oceanographic institute in the Netherlands and performs excellent multidisciplinary, fundamental and applied marine research, addressing important scientific and societal questions pertinent to the functioning of oceans and seas. At the same time, NIOZ serves as the national marine research facilitator for the Dutch scientific community, and stimulates and supports marine education an policy development in the national and international context.

The department of Estuarine and Delta Systems research (EDS, NIOZ-Yerseke) studies how the interplay between biota, hydrodynamics, sediment dynamics and biochemistry shapes the estuarine, deltaic and coastal environments in the context of natural and human-induced environmental changes. Central to our department is a multidisciplinary holistic approach that combines state-of-the-art biophysical, biochemical, ecological, physiological measurements, remote sensing, and manipulative experiments with mathematical and numerical modelling to create in-depth understanding of the processes that control estuarine and delta systems.


Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ in Yerseke 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 Lorenz Meire  or Willem Jan van de Berg . For additional information about the procedure, please contact Sigrid Moerbeek (senior HR advisor). 

For more information about the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU) at Utrecht University see here; for more information about the Department of Estuarine and Delta Systems research at NIOZ, see here.

Find more information about the UU-NIOZ projects here.

Interviews will be held online in week 46 or 47.            


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