PhD position: How does midlatitude seasonality change in hothouse climates?

This vacancy is the result of the collaboration between Utrecht University and NIOZ. The Department of Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS) at NIOZ is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate holding a master degree in Geology/Earth Sciences, (Marine) Biology/Ecology, or Environmental Sciences . Experience in bivalve culturing, sclerochronology, geochemistry and advanced analytical techniques is an advantage.

2021-10-01 01:12:20

VACANCY ID:                     2021-57
CLOSING DATE                 October 31st , 2021.

The Faculty of Geosciences at UU offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. With a population of 2,600 students (BSc and MSc) and 600 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organization. The Faculty is organized in four Departments: Innovation, Environmental & Energy Sciences, Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, and Human Geography & Spatial Planning. The Department of Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid Earth and environmental Earth sciences, with activities in almost all areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeology and hydrogeology. The Department hosts a highly international group of more than 100 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers and houses a wide variety of world-class laboratories.

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 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.


Current climate change leads to an increase in global temperatures and ocean heat content. The influence on the seasonal cycle, particularly in midlatitudes, is much more uncertain but may result in excessive rain or heatwaves. In average conditions, bivalves record such information in theirs shells during growth. Fossil bivalve shells have done the same and therefore hold the unique potential to reconstruct seasonality during past hothouse climates. It is however unclear to what extent bivalves record weather extremes such as heatwaves in their shell. It is likely that during such conditions, shells “shutdown” and do not record environmental conditions anymore. This could imply that the record is incomplete with the consequence that reconstructed temperatures on basis of fossil shells underestimate the most extreme temperatures.

In this project we combine the expertise of NIOZ in culturing live bivalves with the clumped isotope expertise at UU to get insight in the short term incorporation of climate signals in present day bivalves as well as to reconstruct absolute seasonal temperatures during past key climate intervals such as Pliocene, Miocene, and Eocene

Live growth experiments performed at both Texel and Yerseke as well as in the field or laboratory in combination with novel marking techniques will inform sampling for high-resolution clumped isotopes. With this a next level interpretation of the clumped isotope records from fossil material can be made.

Integration with climate modelling will provide insights into the prospect of future seasonal temperature extremes.


We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate holding a master degree in Geology/Earth Sciences or Marine Biology/Ecology. Experience with culturing of marine bivalves and complex analytical techniques are a plus. Furthermore, the optimal candidate must be interested in joining an interdisciplinary project and willing to perform experimental work at both NIOZ locations (Texel and Yerseke) as well work in Utrecht. The candidate will be advised by both supervisors. Due to the international character of our research, good command of English, spoken as well as written, is a prerequisite.

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 years (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 Dr. M. Ziegler (UU)  or Dr. R. Witbaard  (NIOZ) additional information about the procedure, please contact  Sigrid Moerbeek (senior HR advisor).

For more information about the Department of Earth Sciences, at Utrecht University see here; for more information about the EDS or COS at NIOZ, see here. Find more information about the UU-NIOZ projects here.

Interviews will be held online (Microsoft Teams) in week  10-or 15 November with the option to meet in person in the week of 22-26 November


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