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    • Date Posted
      October 01,2021
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    Defending our coast: Facilitating coastal ecosystems to respond to sea level rise

    The department of Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS) at NIOZ and the Information and Computing Sciences group and Environmental Sciences group (ES) at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate holding a master’s degree in Biology, Environmental Sciences, or Earth Sciences with a strong interest in the modelling of coastal ecology and bio-geomorphology.


    VACANCY ID: 2021-53

    CLOSING DATE: October 31st, 2021


    The department of Estuarine and Delta Systems research (EDS, NIOZ-Yerseke) studies how the interplay between biota, hydrodynamics, sediment dynamics and biochemistry shapes the estuarine, deltaic and coastal environments in the context of natural and human-induced environmental changes. The mission of the information and computing sciences group at Utrecht University is to develop novel methods for incorporating information technologies in our daily lives. The mission of the Environmental Sciences Group at Utrecht University is to understand interactions between global changes and ecosystem processes using a dynamic systems and empirical approach linking human impacts to biotic and abiotic processes across scales.


    Coastal ecosystems accumulate sediment and organic matter, ensuring swift and persistent burial of carbon. Salt marshes may even outgrow the marine environment if accumulation of sediment and organic is fast enough, stimulating the buildup of estuarine peat. This process boosts carbon accumulation and leads to an increase of elevation at a rate of up to 30 cm per 30 years. This landscape-altering transition has led to the development of the extensive coastal fen and bog systems that have covered the coasts of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany for thousands of years, accumulating almost 2 Gton of carbon. An important determinant of the accumulation of sediment and organic matter in salt marsh ecosystems is the efficiency of its drainage creeks. In salt marshes, flood water needs to be efficiently distributed over the marsh in a way for sediment to disperse effectively. During the transition to the peatland phase, coastal wetlands shift into an alternate drainage regime, reducing the loss of rainwater and allowing the buildup of freshwater, which is crucial for the development of raised bogs.


    In this project, we aim to build a model of the self-organized dynamics of water drainage systems in coastal wetlands ecosystems to 1) gain understanding of and 2) develop an indicator system for rate- induced critical transitions between tidal flats, salt marshes, and coastal peatlands. We will consider critical transitions between peatlands, salt marshes and tidal flats in response to sea level rise, as well as “emergence” transitions, when coastal wetlands develop amplifying carbon accumulation. Our indicator system will be based on vegetation and drainage patterns in salt/peat marshes and on tidal flats, to help predict transitions before they occur in current-day coastal wetlands. Building on the most recent development in computing sciences, we will develop a novel high-resolution numerical model that is able for the first time to upscale small-scale bio-geomorphological processes (< 1 m) to the extent of entire coastal ecosystems (>10 km).


    We are seeking an enthusiastic candidate looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with a strong interest in ecological and/or biogeomorphological modelling, and a clear expertise in numerical programming, using for instance Python or C++. Knowledge and experience in parallel computing and modern functional programming languages would be an additional benefit. You must have an MSc degree (or equivalent) in ecology, bio-geomorphology, or a related field. A multidisciplinary interest, the ability to work in a group, and a strong motivation to obtain a PhD degree are essential.

    We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse background, including LGBTIQ+ communities, to join us


    Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ in Yerseke is by NWO (The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research). We offer a position for a period of 1 year (fulltime). At the end of this first year, the employment will be extended for a fixed-term of a maximum of 4 years, if the first year evaluation held with the employee is positive. The salary is compliant to the CAO-OI (Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Research Institutes), a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus of 8,3%, flexible work arrangements and arrangements and 42 days of holiday leave (fulltime position).

    You may expect attractive secondary employment conditions. We offer generous relocation expenses for employees coming from abroad and support with finding accommodation.


    Additional information on job details: Prof. dr. Johan van de Koppel (NIOZ), Prof. dr. Max Rietkerk (UU) and Prof. Dr. Gabriele Keller (UU). For additional information on the procedure, please contact Sigrid Moerbeek (sr. HR advisor)

    For more information about the EDS department at NIOZ click here. For more information about the Computing Sciences and Environmental group at the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University click
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