Postdoc position in the simulation of the dispersion of ocean plastic pollution (1.0 FTE)

Postdoc position in the simulation of the dispersion of ocean plastic pollution (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
1 Sep 9 Oct Utrecht

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Join our project and develop new ways to simulate the dispersion of macroplatics on the ocean surface

Job description

Plastic items larger than a few centimetres (macroplastics) are a visible testament of the pollution in the ocean. They impact marine organisms, even more so when they fragment into microplastics. However, the amount of these macroplastics varies by orders of magnitude on kilometre scales and per day. In a large project funded by an NWO Vici grant, our team will develop a new numerical tool to understand this variation and predict the amount of macroplastic on Northwest European seas and coasts. This tool could be used to optimise beach clean-ups and thereby prevent macroplastics from fragmenting into large numbers of microplastics.

As Postdoc you will focus your research and use your skills to develop and optimise the parameterisation of this numerical tool. You will use the OceanParcels Lagrangian framework to encode the most important oceanic processes that are not captured by ocean general circulation models on buoyant virtual macroplastic particles. This means formulating and implementing parameterisations for Langmuir circulation, Stokes drift, tides, and coastal phenomena, etc.

During the project, you will be involved in:

  • (re)formulating parameterisations for subgrid-scale processes in a Lagrangian framework;
  • writing python code for these parameterisations on virtual microplastic items in the OceanParcels framework;
  • testing the parameterisations in idealised flow fields;
  • collaborating with a PhD student who will use the kernels to simulate dispersion of macroplastic in an ocean general circulation model of the Northwest European shelf;
  • further developing and improving the OceanParcels code;
  • working within a large, interdisciplinary project.

At the end of the project, you will have:

  • a deep understanding of the physical oceanographic processes that control the dispersion of buoyant macroplastic items;
  • expertise in developing for open-source software projects such as OceanParcels;
  • had the opportunity to set your own research questions and goals;
  • further advanced your skills in numerical modelling and data analysis in python;
  • enhanced your skills to communicate your scientific results to a wide audience including peers, media, and the general public.


Utrecht University


Our ideal candidate has a driven and collaborative spirit and has multiple of the following:

  • a PhD in oceanography, physics, applied mathematics or similar field;
  • strong skills in python programming;
  • motivation to cooperate within a dynamic, diverse, multidisciplinary research team;
  • excellent level of written and spoken English.
  • preferably, you also have a proven affinity with physical oceanography.

Conditions of employment

We offer:
  • a position (1.0 FTE) for 2 years with the option to extend by 1 more year;
  • a full-time gross salary ranging from €3,226 to €5,090 in scale 10 of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO);
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities;
  • embedding in and learning from a great team of multi-disciplinary oceanographers.

In addition to the employment conditions from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, sports and cultural schemes and you get discounts on software and other IT products. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow. For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Shaping science, sharing tomorrow.

At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects. Find out more about us on YouTube.

You will work at the Institute of Marine and Atmospheric research at the Department of Physics of Utrecht University,  specifically within the Lagrangian Ocean Analysis group. This group, led by Professor Erik van Sebille, develops the OceanParcels framework and creates and analyses simulations of the transport of material (plastics, plankton, fish) by ocean currents and its impact on climate and marine ecosystems. Within the group, we adhere to Open Science principles and aim to create a collaborative and inclusive atmosphere.


  • Postdoc
  • Natural sciences
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €3226—€5090 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 1214359



Heidelberglaan 8, 3584CS, Utrecht

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