"PhD fellowship in Quaternary Palaeoecology and Palaeoclimate"

"PhD fellowship in Quaternary Palaeoecology and Palaeoclimate"

Published Deadline Location
26 Oct 1 Dec Amsterdam

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Do you have a MSc in Earth Sciences, Environmental Science or related? Are you motivated to do research in Quaternary Palaeoecology and Palaeoclimate? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

Job description

A challenging position at the VU Earth Science Department. The Southern Hemisphere plays a crucial, yet understudied, role in global climate. Southern Hemisphere mid- to high latitude climate is dominated by the rain-bearing Southern Hemisphere Westerly winds. Changes in the intensity and position of the wind belt affect both upwelling and uptake of CO2 in the Southern Ocean, the main area on the planet where the deep ocean is connected to the atmosphere. About 40% of the global oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2 takes place here. Our general objective is to deepen our understanding of Holocene natural changes in climate, and particularly in the Southern Hemisphere westerlies. Therefore, we obtained a latitudinal transect of peat bogs on a series of sub-Antarctic islands (Îles Kerguelen, Îles Crozet and Île Amsterdam) covering the modern Southern Hemisphere westerly wind belt in the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean.

With your research, you make an important contribution to addressing today's societal challenges including sustainability, climate change and natural hazards. For example, a poleward shift of the SHWs during several consecutive austral winters recently caused severe drinking water shortages in Cape Town (South Africa). Understanding natural variability of the wind belt is critical for testing the reliability of model-based austral climate change projections. The data produced by this project is thus urgently needed and of high social impact.

This PhD NWO (Dutch Research Council)-funded project Unravelling the Holocene history of the Southern Westerlies: driver of global climate and the carbon cycle.
You focus on the reconstruction of the Holocene evolution of the Southern Hemisphere westerlies from rain-fed peat bogs on Ile Amsterdam, using proxy-methods aimed at reconstructing wind intensity, precipitation and temperature. In your research, you integrate the Ile Amsterdam reconstructions with existing multi-proxy peat records from Crozet (46°S) and Kerguelen (49°S) Islands. In this way, you provide a detailed reconstruction of past westerly wind belt dynamics in the Indian sector of the southern ocean.

The project does not involve fieldwork: the cores to be studied are available. You will collaborate with experts from and spend time at leading (inter)national institutes with state of the art facilities, such as the NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research), LSCE (Laboratory for Sciences of Climate and Environment), Gif-sur-Yvette, France, the Departments of Earth Science and Biological Sciences at the University of Bergen, Norway and Department of Geology, Quaternary Sciences, Lund University, Sweden.

Your duties
  • reconstructing past peat water table depth using testate amoebae, palaeobotany (plant macrofossils) and stable isotope geochemistry (δD of n-alkanes)
  • reconstructing past wind intensity using (exotic) pollen and the local windborne minerogenic component
  • reconstructing temperature from a biomarker (brGDGTs) lipids from bacteria, abundantly present in peat deposits
  • present results at conferences and in 4 peer-reviewed publications
  • contribute to our teaching programme
  • play a role in supervising MSc and BSc students
  • finalize your work into a PhD thesis


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • you have a MSc degree in Earth Sciences, Environmental Science, Physical Geography, or related field. You have a strong scientific motivation
  • experience in generating proxy-based palaeoenvironmental and climatic reconstructions is a plus
  • you have demonstrated experience with working on a microscope
  • you are willing to perform analyses in various lab environments
  • you have a creative and problem-solving attitude
  • you are proficient in both written and oral English
  • you can work independently and in a structured way
  • you have good communication skills and can work well within a larger international research group. You are eager to contribute to the team
  • spending extended periods at collaborating institutions is no problem for you

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.

The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,541 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration 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


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor - from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

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 more than 11,000 students.

About the department
The Department of Earth Sciences has approximately 35 permanent staff members organized in twelve research groups. Research in the department is focused on two general areas: Geology & Geochemistry and Earth & Climate. The Department teaches in the Earth Sciences as well as in the Earth Sciences, Economics & Sustainability BSc programs, and in the MSc programs Earth Sciences and Hydrology. The Department's excellence in teaching is underlined by its high scores in annual national student evaluations.
See https://vuweb.vu.nl/en/about-vu/faculties/faculty-of-science/departments/earth-sciences for further information.


  • PhD
  • 30.4—38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 13020


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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