Postdoc in Systems Ecology

Postdoc in Systems Ecology

Published Deadline Location
22 Aug 5 Sep Amsterdam

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Do you have experience with systems ecology and would you like to carry out an academically and physically challenging postdoc research project? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Job description

You will carry out the project as described below, which will involve field experimental and monitoring work in Tanzania as well as biogeochemical and advanced molecular analyses in Dutch labs, as well as advanced data analyses, with the aim to publish scientifically and societally exciting papers in high-ranking international  journals


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • PhD in ecology
  • strong international publication record in ecology
  • strong at thinking in terms of concepts
  • preferably familiar with savanna ecosystems
  • ample experience with field experimental and monitoring work and preferably also with advanced molecular techniques
  • being able to cope with long periods in the field in Africa and to improvise under difficult circumstances

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 3 years.

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,709 (scale 10)
and a maximum €4,978 (scale 11), depending on your education and experience. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The employment contract will affect a period of 3 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package


The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 24,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity is one of our university’s core values. We are an inclusive community, and we believe that diversity and international activities enhance the quality of education and research. We are always looking for people who can enhance diversity on our campus thanks to their background and experience.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.
About the department, institute, project
African savannas are important for global carbon cycling. Changes in climate and land-use interfere with the functioning of these ecosystems. In this project we will investigate how specific symbioses between micro-organisms and their hosts (grazers, termites) modulate the sensitivity of carbon cycling to environmental change in savanna ecosystems. Our hypothesis is that in the savanna a large fraction of the plant material is not broken down (decomposed) on the savanna soil but rather in the digestive systems of big grazers like zebra and giraffe and inside “fungal gardens” in termite mounds. This way the decomposition process is buffered against the outside environment (drought, fire), which could make it less sensitive to climate change. We will test the hypothesis along gradients of climate and landuse in the Serengeti savanna in Tanzania. We will compare the decomposition rates of plant material, and the composition of the decomposing microbial organisms, in savanna soil, processed by termites and in the digestive systems of big grazers (via analysis of their dung). We do this experimentally by including or excluding big grazers and termites, respectively using fences and small cages and through molecular analyses of the microbial communities in the plant material. We will also map the populations of big grazers and termites as well as climate and fire regime along the gradient.
The project will be coordinated by Hans Cornelissen at VU in close collaboration with Michiel Veldhuis at Leiden University, with Matty Berg and other VU colleagues and Han Olff at Groningen University.


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Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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