PhD EU-ITN SeaChanges: Walrus exploitation in Greenland aDNA & archives 1.0 FTE


Faculty of Arts


University of Groningen

Through dynamic teaching and innovative, award-winning research, the University of Groningen (UoG) (est. 1614) has gained an international reputation as one of the best research universities in Europe. PhD students at the RuG benefit not only from world-class facilities and supervision, but also from institutional alliances with prestigious partner universities and research networks around the world.

One of a small number of research institutes within the RuG’s Faculty of Arts, the Groningen Institute of Archaeology (GIA) is a leading international research institute with a strong inter-disciplinary research tradition in bioarchaeology, facilitated through world-class reference collections, technical staff, and the affiliated Center for Isotope Research (CIO).

Founded in 1970, the RuG Arctic Centre is the premier Dutch organization for innovative research on the ecology and culture of the circumpolar Arctic.

Job description

Exploitation of Atlantic walruses in Greenlandic waters by European whalers, c. AD 1600 to 1900 (based at UoG):

This project will combine aDNA analysis (whole-genome) with historical records to explore the impact of recent-historic human exploitation of Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) in the waters around Greenland. From the early 17th to early 20th centuries, European whalers intensively exploited baleen whales in the Davis Strait, between Greenland and Baffin Island, Arctic Canada, as well as along the eastern Greenlandic coast. Whenever possible, hunters also acquired walruses—abundant in area waters, and highly valued for their blubber and ivory. Though some scholarly attention has been paid to social, economic and ecological implications of whale stock depletion, less is known of the extent and impacts on walrus populations.

Drawing on (a) well-preserved remains at Paleo- and Neo-Inuit (non-European Indigenous) archaeological sites, as well as (b) historical catchment records from whaling logbooks, the PhD will model walrus populations before the arrival of European hunters, and assess the impact of this hunting on walrus genomes in two very different stocks. Walruses in the Davis Strait stock are seasonally migratory, moving in and out of Canadian waters during the annual cycle, while the eastern Greenlandic stock is largely isolated and its animals tend not to migrate seasonally. Given what is known of the ecological conservatism of walruses and their sensitivity to human disturbance and habitat displacement, a working hypothesis is that even the ‘secondary’—or opportunistic—hunting of walruses by European whalers had a significant impact on local stocks. Based in Groningen (supervised by Prof. Peter D. Jordan and Dr. Sean Desjardins) with a secondment at Copenhagen (supervised by Dr. Morten Tange Olsen), the PhD student will compare historical catchment records with contemporary stock estimates, and will analyse archaeological walrus aDNA samples held in repositories in Canada and Denmark to elucidate genetic diversity across the region before industrial hunting.

Project framework: This project 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; we believe SeaChanges

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 archaeology or biology
• demonstrated experience with manual (non-robotic) DNA extraction, library builds, amplification and sample preparation for sequencing
• some knowledge of both nuclear and mitochondrial genomic bioinformatics.

Desired qualifications:
• previous work experience in an aDNA lab, and knowledge of current lab protocols is desirable
• experience with archival and collections research in a library or museum setting
• experience in historical research
• reading knowledge of Dutch and/or Scandinavian languages would be useful.

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 by 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".

Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, your application should include:

1. a cover letter introducing yourself, describing your motivation to conduct scientific research, and locating your research within 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, focusing on the central research question to be addressed and the proposed method of approaching and answering this question (1000 - 1500 words). See the guidelines in the following website:
5. names and contact details of two academic references.

For questions regarding the submission procedure, please contact Drs. M.R.B. Wubbolts by email:

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. C.J.W. Zwart (for questions regarding the Graduate School for the Humanities)

Prof. Peter D. Jordan, Director, Arctic Centre (for questions about the research project)

Dr. Sean P.A. Desjardins Postdoc, Arctic Centre (questions about the research project)

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 219323

Digital application form