PhD EU-ITN SeaChanges: Impacts of whaling using aDNA (1.0 FTE)


Faculty of Science and Engineering


University of Groningen

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 31,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. University of Groningen ranks among the top research universities in Europe.

The Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES), the largest institute of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, 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.

Job description

Impacts of industrial whaling: scale, ecological and evolutionary legacies:

We are looking for a talented and enthusiastic archaeologist or evolutionary ecologist for a fully funded 3-year PhD position. The successful applicant will work on a multidisciplinary project which is part of SeaChanges, a Marie Skłodowska Curie international doctoral training network (ITN) integrating the fields of marine biology, archaeology and history through 15 fully-funded, salaried PhD studentships across seven institutions in six countries (the Universities of Cambridge, York, Vigo, Bologna, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Groningen).

The ITN offers state-of-the-art training to a new generation of outstanding young researchers. Marine environments are, and have long been, crucial to European economics, identity, and food security. The need for long-term perspectives to inform marine management is evident. SeaChanges will train a cohort of inter-disciplinary scientists who will merge zooarchaeology, historical ecology, palaeogenetics, imaging techniques, isotope biogeochemistry to understand threshold moments and enduring processes in past human-marine vertebrate interactions.

This particular PhD project is entitled “Impacts of industrial whaling: scale, ecological and evolutionary legacies” and focuses on the scale and consequences of industrial whaling during the 16th–20th centuries. There remain several key outstanding questions about this process, such as (i) what were the abundances of the pre-whaling populations; (ii) did whaling and subsequent recovery lead to changes in population structure and connectivity as well as habitat and prey preferences; and (iii) did the extreme population bottlenecks due to whaling result in long-term negative impacts, such as loss of adaptive genetic variation and an increase in mutational load, thereby endangering the long-term persistence of baleen whales? These questions will be addressed by the integration of modern and ancient genomic data, employing genome and isotope analyses historical and current materials from the Antarctic and Arctic. Analyses of historic materials will be conducted via secondment at University of British Columbia, supervised by Dr. Camilla Speller.

Applicants may be of any nationality, but must not have resided, or worked, in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to recruitment. Applicants should also be within the first four years (full-time equivalent) of the start of their research careers—measured from the date they obtained the degree formally entitling them to begin a doctorate. Applicants must have a master’s degree or equivalent education, and should not have a PhD.


Required qualifications:
• a master's degree in either archaeology or evolutionary biology or ecology
• excellent command of English and academic writing
• basic molecular laboratory skills (e.g., DNA extraction, PCR and NGS library preparation)
• population genetic/omic data analysis.

Desired qualifications:
• ancient DNA and clean lab experience
• population genetic theory and analysis
• NGS workflow (experimental and bioinformatics, such as scripting and programming).

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 36 months.

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:
- a salary at €2,325 (gross) per month during the first year increasing to € 2,835 (gross) per month during the third year based on full-time [1.0 FTE] employment
- in addition, you are entitled to a holiday and an end-of-the-year allowance at 8% and 8.3%, respectively, of the gross annual salary.

The appointment is initially for 12 months to be extended with two additional years contingent upon a satisfactory assessment of the candidate’s performance after nine months. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty of Science and Engineering. The conditions of employment are available at the University of Groningen website under Human Resources:

The start date of the appointment is 1 October 2019.

Submission procedure
Please submit your entire application (in English) as a single PDF-file until 16 June 11.59 p.m. / before 17 June 2019 Dutch local time (CEST) by means of the application form (click on 'Apply' below on the advertisement on the university website).

Please upload your entire application as "Letter of Motivation attachment". Only applications submitted using the “Apply” link below will be considered.

Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, your application should include:
1. a cover letter introducing yourself, describing your motivation to conduct the described scientific research, and your interests in relation to the SeaChanges ITN
2. a full CV demonstrating academic excellence, including publications and presentations (if applicable)
3. a certified copy or scan of your MA diploma (or equivalent) and transcripts
4. a research proposal (1000 - 1500 words) focusing on the central research question(s) outlined in the project description above, i.e., which specific questions should addressed, with which research method(s) and why
5. names and contact details of two academic references.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Prof. Per J. Palsbøll

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 219320

Digital application form