PhD-position: Developing 3D-printed biodegradable shellfish reef mimics

PhD-position: Developing 3D-printed biodegradable shellfish reef mimics

Published Deadline Location
8 Jun 30 Jun Den Hoorn Texel

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NIOZ is looking for a highly motivated PhD student with a background in Engineering, Industrial Design, or Ecology to join the current team of 24 PhDs, 18 Post-docs and 12 Principal Investigators working at the Department of Coastal Systems research (COS). In this 4-year position, you will design and test 3D-printed biodegradable structures for the restoration of shellfish reefs in the Wadden Sea.

Job description

Shellfish reefs shaped by mussel and oysters form vital habitat form many species of invertebrates, fish and birds in the Wadden Sea. At present, however, their aerial extent is insufficient to meet current nature management targets. Natural establishment of mussel and oyster reefs is often difficult and unpredictable because settling recruits have a hard time finding suitable attachment substrate on the sandy seafloor, where they are also vulnerable for predation. An important characteristic of healthy mussel and oyster beds is that they facilitate the next generation by generating complex reef structures that provide stable hard substrate and protect recruits from predators.

As part of the project “Engineering with Ecosystem Engineers” (“Bouwen met Biobouwers”), you will design and test 3D-printed structures in the field that temporarily mimic shellfish reefs to allow successful settlement of mussel and oyster recruits in the Wadden Sea. Once the settled mussels and oysters have grown large enough to form their own reef (typically after 2-4 years), the structures should naturally biodegrade, leaving only a natural reef. The prototypes you develop may have various shapes and can be constructed from a range of materials, including biopolymers and concrete-like materials. The work is performed in collaboration with technicians and ecologists from within and outside NIOZ, including Utrecht University, The Fieldwork Company and Bureau Waardenburg.


Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)


We are seeking an enthusiastic candidate with a strong interest in combining multiple scientific disciplines – particularly engineering, industrial design and ecology – for the restoration of marine ecosystems. In addition, the candidate should have experience or affinity with lab- and fieldwork, remote sensing analyses, and computer programming. You should be a real team player, willing to work with a diverse group of researchers, technicians and project stakeholders, and have the ability and interest to communicate your work to both scientific peers and a broad audience. You must hold an MSc degree (or equivalent) in Engineering, Industrial Design, Ecology, or a related field.

Conditions of employment

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.

We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse background, including LGBT+ and BAME communities, to join us.

Royal NIOZ is located on the beautiful island of Texel in the World Heritage Wadden Sea. Texel offers sun, wind and beach, and a diverse but moderate level of facilities, including a thriving tourist industry, shops, sports facilities, primary schools and a high school. It is connected to the main land by an hourly to half-hourly ferry service, with crossings taking 20 minutes. The Royal NIOZ is situated next to the ferry terminal.


The Department of COS

The Department of COS is one of three research departments of NIOZ located on the island of Texel. COS integrates state-of-the art laboratory, field, and numerical modelling studies in frontier explorations of the drivers of the dynamics of marine habitats and food webs. COS examines how physical, chemical and biological processes interact to determine the distribution, composition and productivity of marine species - from primary producers to top predators - and marine habitats - from the coast to inter/sub-tidal and pelagic environments. Research is applied at both the regional and global scales. Special emphasis is given to maintaining long-term ecological time series (on phytoplankton, macro zoobenthos, fish and birds) in the Wadden Sea.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Natural sciences; Engineering
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • €2441—€3128 per month


Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)

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Landsdiep 4, 1797 SZ, Den Hoorn Texel

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