PhD position Development of trophic interactions in a newly created wetland

University of Groningen

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative center of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 30,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research universities in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global center of knowledge.

The Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES)
GELIFES, the largest institute of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (FMNS) fills a special niche in the life sciences by covering and integrating mechanistic, evolutionary and ecological approaches, aiming to understand adaptation on all levels of biological organisation. Researchers pursue fundamental questions while collaborating with partners from nature conservation, industry, medicine and other realms of society. Our research fields include ecology, conservation biology, evolutionary biology, behavioural biology, chronobiology, genetics and genomics, neurobiology, physiology and theoretical modelling, using a wide array of research tools. Research levels range from molecular and organismal to populations and ecosystems, performed under laboratory, semi-natural and field conditions.

Job description
We are looking for a talented and enthusiast field-ecologist with a strong statistical background for a fully funded 4-year PhD position, in a collaborative project between the Netherlands Institute of Ecology Wageningen (Dr Liesbeth Bakker, project coordinator) Radboud University Nijmegen (Prof. Leon Lamers) and the University of Groningen (Prof. Han Olff), funded by the Gieskes-Strijbis fund. The PhD candidate for this sub-project will be working at the Conservation Ecology Group in Groningen, which has an excellent track record in studying main principles of the organization of ecosystems and its conservation implications.

PhD candidates will receive excellent training through cutting-edge research projects, advanced courses and training opportunities, complemented by workshops on generic research, transferable skills and teaching. As a PhD candidate, you are committed to conduct independent and original scientific research, to report on this research in international publications and presentations, and to present the results of the research in a PhD dissertation, to be completed within 4 years.

The project has and opening for two PhD positions, where candidates may apply for both positions by sending in separate applications.

PhD1 at the Radboud University: Alterations in ecosystem productivity through wetland creation: the role of bottom-up factors (
PhD2 at the University of Groningen: Development of productivity and trophic interactions in a newly created wetland (this job opening).

Project summary:
Lake Markermeer in The Netherlands can currently be characterized as a largely turbid, low-productive freshwater lake showing low biodiversity. Most probably, the combination of decreased external nutrient loading and highly mobile benthic sludge has led to a poorly developed benthic and pelagic ecosystem and limited internal nutrient cycling, which further limits the productivity of higher trophic levels. To improve its ecological status, the Marker Wadden, a set of new islands and associated marshlands are now being created in the lake to stimulate the productivity of the benthic food chains, limit the impact of suspended sludge and stimulate aquatic and wetland development. The improvement of habitat heterogeneity is expected to stimulate local productivity and attract wetland birds.

In this sub-project we address how the primary production by phytoplankton enters the food web, e.g. through zooplankton, freshwater mussels or detrivores and how the balance between these three may affect the abundance, diversity and ecosystem impact of higher trophic levels (fish, piscivorous and herbivorous birds). Furthermore we investigate whether and how the coupling between aquatic and terrestrial food webs can increase productivity. At the landscape scale we investigate how waterbirds and fish move between neighboring lakes and wetlands and thus import or export nutrients, changing ecosystem productivity. Furthermore, we investigate how increased habitat complexity affects biodiversity and the role of top-down control in the ecosystem. Results are translated to the design and management of future islands in the Marker Wadden project and other newly created wetlands.

The project consists of a combination of field measurements, field- and mesocosm experiments and development of a model.

Specific requirements: MSc with specialisation in ecology, experience with observational and experimental work in the field, skills in data management and statistics, interest in ecosystem modelling.
In addition to specific qualifications outlined above, successful candidates will have completed a master’s degree (or equivalent) in ecology or a strongly related field. They have good command of English (oral and written), are enthusiastic and real team-workers, have a passion for science, are highly motivated to work within the field of conservation ecology, possess excellent communication skills and the ability to write scientific papers and deliver presentations.

Conditions of employment
Contract length: 48 months.
The University of Groningen offers a salary of € 2,191 gross per month in the first year to a maximum of € 2,801 gross per month in the final year (salary scale Dutch Universities), based on a fulltime position (1.0 fte) excluding a 8% holiday allowance and a 8.3% end of the year bonus. The position offered is for four years 1.0 fte, or 5 years with 0.8 fte working time. Each successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty. The conditions of employment are available at the University of Groningen website under Human Resources: Supervisors • Prof. Han Olff (University of Groningen) • Dr Liesbeth Bakker (Netherlands Institute of Ecology) • Prof. Leon Lamers (Radboud University) The preferred starting date is 1 January 2017. Interviews are scheduled to take place on 23 November in Wageningen. Application You may apply for this position until 13 November 23.59h / before 14 November 2016 Dutch local time, by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website). Applications for the position should include (as a single PDF file): • cover letter with background and motivation to apply for this position • curriculum vitae, including details of bachelor and master degrees and publication list, if applicable • detailed (1-2 pages) description of previous research experience, such as the bachelor/master research projects • contact details of 2 people who can provide information on your suitability for the position. Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.
Maximum salary: 2801.

Additional information
For additional information, please contact:
Prof. Han Olff, +31 50 3632214/6133

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 216302

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