PhD Student Marine Time Machine

PhD Student Marine Time Machine

Published Deadline Location
1 Oct today Leiden

Job description

Naturalis is looking for a PhD student for the project ‘Marine Time Machine’, to study Species interactions and food web responses of natural marine communities under predicted climate change scenarios.

The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) recently awarded a grant to the project Marine Time Machine: Trajectories of change for tropical marine biodiversity in the Anthropocene, led by Dr. Lisa Becking. What will coral reefs look like in a future with rising sea surface temperature and progressive eutrophication? The present, coral-dominated reef ecosystems host a high biodiversity, which results in complex food webs where energy and nutrients are transferred between species through a multitude of trophic pathways. Loss of coral dominance will result in shifts in biodiversity. These shifts in coral reef biodiversity could lead to major transitions in food webs, which will have detrimental effects on fisheries, coastal protection and other ecosystem services. How can we predict the future appearance and functioning of coral reefs? Marine lakes - islands of seawater – are our marine time machines. These remote lakes currently provide natural states of predicted environmental scenarios, and allow glimpses into past biodiversity dynamics with dated sediment cores. In this project, we will integrate field-observations of natural patterns with experiments, both in aquaria and in situ in marine lakes and across open water reefs at different levels of eutrophication. Using analyses of genomics, images, stable isotopes, water-quality, and paleontology, we will obtain crucial data to develop a dynamic model to identify the main feedbacks and interactions that can determine the future trajectories of coral reefs. A total of 2 PhD positions and 1 Postdoc are available through this project including the current PhD position on species interactions and foodweb response of natural communities to increased temperature and progressive eutrophication.

In this project, a PhD-position is available for a motivated individual to work on foodweb ecology and species interactions in natural communities in response to rising sea surface temperature and eutrophication. The aim of this project is to develop new understanding of energy transfer and interactions between major benthic players in present and predicted future tropical coral reef scenarios.
For this PhD project, the research will focus on how food web structure and species interactions change with increased temperature and increasing levels of eutrophication across natural communities, both in the marine lake model system and in open water coral reefs. Using image analysis, aquarium and incubation experiments, we will study the competitive and trophic interactions among the major benthic groups (coral, macroalgae, sponges, benthic cyanobacterial mats). Using this data we will identify whether self-sustaining feedback mechanisms may be reinforced by increased temperature and external input of organic matter.
To successfully take part in this PhD-position you will participate in and organize lab- and fieldwork in Indonesia and The Netherlands, analyze data, write a PhD thesis including scientific manuscripts for peer-reviewed scientific journals and present research at conferences and meetings. You will take part in teaching efforts, including on site supervision of BSc and MSc students from Dutch and Indonesian Universities. You will collaborate with other scientists and students who participate in the Marine Time Machine project. There will be frequent fieldwork in Indonesia, in collaboration with among others University of Papua, Bogor University, and the Indonesian National Institute of Science (LIPI), as well as periods of laboratory work at Wageningen University.




General requirements and skills
Preferably the candidate has the following qualifications:

  • MSc. degree in Marine Ecology, Biological Oceanography or Biology
  • Experience in conducting in-situ incubation experiments in the field
  • Experience in designing experiments correctly to allow for robust statistical analysis
  • Good organizational and time management skills
  • Fluency in oral and written English
  • Willingness to spend consecutive months abroad
  • Scientific diving experience
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to work independently as well as collaboratively within the team
  • Experience in conducting aquarium experiments, isotope analyses and/or 3D-photogrammetry analysis are a plus

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

We offer
A contract (36 hours per week) for a period of one year, to be extended with three more years after a successful first year evaluation (4y in total), and a monthly starting salary of € 2,840.- (circa € 37,500.- gross per year). The candidate will be based at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden (there will be periods of laboratory work at Wageningen University and/or University of Amsterdam) and will obtain a PhD degree from Wageningen University and Research (WUR). Supervision will be by Dr. Lisa Becking (Naturalis & WUR), Dr. Ronald Osinga (WUR) and Dr. Petra Visser (University of Amsterdam). We work in a collaborative team, where there is space for the candidate to develop a project, while being supported in the group and receiving a thorough PhD training and education program from the graduate school.


Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden is the Dutch national research institute for biodiversity and systematics. With our collection of 42 million specimens, one of the world's largest natural history collections, and our state-of-the-art research facilities we offer the (inter)national research infrastructure for species, identification and monitoring (for example in the ARISE and DiSSCo projects). We closely collaborate with many Dutch universities, research institutes, industry and government. We host over 120 researchers including 13 academia embedded professors and 40 PhD students. We present the history of our planet, and the diversity of life on Earth, through permanent and temporary museum exhibitions, educational programmes and online presence, with more than 400,000 visitors per year. All in all, a unique combination of science and culture in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world!
The research department is organised in 9 research groups comprising researchers and their postdocs and PhD-students. The current position will be in Plankton Diversity and Evolution, led by Dr. Katja Peijnenburg. Naturalis has a completely new lab building, including state-of-the-art molecular facilities, microCT scanners and electron microscopy (SEM and TEM).

Additional information

Naturalis Biodiversity Center offers an inspiring working atmosphere with effective and efficient supervision of our PhD candidates. Our Research Coordination Office also provides ample support to our scientific staff. Our institute promotes gender equality and wants to enhance the diversity of staff members. Feel free to contact Dr. Lisa Becking with questions about the position: with subject ‘Vacancy PhD’. For procedural questions related to the application please contact HR:

Procedure Applicants are invited to submit their application, including:

  • cv (max 3 pages)
  • motivation letter including among others your motivation for joining the project, your past experience, what you would bring to the project, and how you work in a team (maximum 2 pages)
  • short video clip of maximum 3 minutes, where we’d like to hear what research you think is needed for this PhD project, which skills you have to do this and which skills you would like to learn. Please add video as googledrive-link or dropbox-link to your motivation letter, should the upload in the application form fail.

Please send your application no later than October 18, 2021, 17.00h CEST. Online interviews are foreseen to take place on November 4th, 2021.
Naturalis endorses the Cultural Diversity Code. In the case of equal suitability, preference is given to the candidate who reinforces diversity within the team.
Acquisition is not appreciated


  • Research, development, innovation; Technical and laboratory; PhD
  • Natural sciences; Engineering
  • max. 36 hours per week
  • max. €2840 per month
  • University graduate
  • SP PhD Student MTM


Darwinweg 2, 2333 CR, Leiden

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 18 Oct 2021 23:58 (Europe/Amsterdam).