Job description


Marine ecosystems cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface, harbor a rich biodiversity and provide important ecosystem services (climate regulation, water quality, carbon sequestration, food provisioning) to society. However, marine ecosystems are subjected to a combination of global stressors (i.e. related to climate change) and local stressors (e.g. fisheries, aggregate extraction, introduction of offshore wind farms), especially in coastal areas. Currently, research on the effects of the combination of global and local stressors on marine ecosystem functioning is in its infancy. As such, our capacity to predict how these changes will affect the capacity of marine ecosystems to provide services is lagging behind.

Job Offer

We have an exciting opportunity for a highly motivated PhD student to investigate how multiple pressures affect marine ecosystem functioning and ecosystem service provisioning. The PhD research is embedded in the METRIC project (Marine EcosysTem Responses in a multIple pressures Context) (METRIC). More specifically, this project investigates the relationship between marine functional diversity and ecosystem stability through a combination of experimental research and modelling approaches using existing ecosystem-wide databases on marine biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and environmental settings.

The PhD research will target biogeochemical cycling (proxy for ecosystem functioning) and both qualitative and quantitative food-web analyses (provides clues to ecosystem stability), integrating data from the pelagic and benthic realm. In this project, the student will have the opportunity to contribute to the emerging research field on the link between biodiversity and marine ecosystem services. As such, the student will be situated at the interface of fundamental scientific research and societally relevant outcomes.

The METRIC project presents a collaboration between the Marine Biology Research Group at Ghent University and the Marine Ecology and Management Team at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Brussels). Therefore, the student will be affiliated with both groups, and as such benefit from the joint expertise on the effects of human activities on ecosystem structure and function. This collaboration also allows to realise the direct link between the obtained basic scientific results and the translation of the societally relevant outcomes to policy level.

The student will work on the following topics, with the goal of obtaining a PhD in Sciences: Marine Sciences or Biology from Ghent University (UGent):

  • Qualitative and quantitative food web analysis, a framework to investigate ecosystem stability and resilience, using available datasets and new data collected during field work
  • Experimental research on the effect of multiple stressors on the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relation, in the context of hard and soft-substrate benthic communities
  • Linking ecosystem structure and function to the provisioning of ecosystem services for the specific case of sand extraction impacts.
  • Development of ecological models with predictive capacity through integration of food web analysis and Biodiversity – Ecosystem Functioning research

We offer:

  • A fully funded, full-time PhD scholarship at a competitive salary. There will be a one-year probation period and, after a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for another three years (4 years in total).
  • You will be working in the friendly and dynamic Marine Biology Research Group at Ghent University, advised by Prof. Ulrike Braeckman and Prof. Jan Vanaverbeke, and collaborating with marine ecologists and policy advisers from the Marine Ecology and Management (MARECO) group of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Brussels).
  • You will have access to state-of-the-art research infrastructure offered in a European Marine Biological Resource Centre (EMBRC) context, allowing for high-level scientific training at a top-ranked university and the research institutes it collaborates with.
  • Ghent University has a generous benefits package open to all its staff members, including a wide range of training and education opportunities, 36 days of holiday leave, a bicycle allowance and eco vouchers. Ghent is a vibrant, safe and welcoming university city allowing great quality of life.
  • You will have the opportunity to attend international conferences, publish your results in high-profile journals and visit relevant research institutes.
  • Your contract will start on 01/09/2023 at the earliest.

Job profile

  • You hold a Master in Sciences within the field of Biology, Biochemistry, Oceanography or equivalent) or Bio-engineering Sciences (within the field of Bioprocess Technology, Environmental Science and Technology, Land and Water Management or equivalent), acquired before August 31st 2023.
  • You will perform fundamental research within the domain of marine food web ecology and biogeochemistry through a combination of field and experimental work and ecological modelling.
  • You are skilled in programming in R (or equivalent) and have a good understanding of marine ecology.
  • You have a problem-solving, analytical mind, dedicated to overcoming practical and technical challenges.
  • You have an open and collaborative attitude toward team members.
  • You are willing to participate in (inter)national conferences, conduct field work at sea for several days and maintain experiments in the lab.
  • You are a motivated, hard-working person, committed to obtaining a PhD.
  • You are willing to assist in teaching of practical courses on marine (experimental) ecology and applied statistics at master level, and support bachelor and master students during their thesis projects.
  • You have good oral and written communication skills, and are fluent in English.

How to apply


Send your application to Prof. Ulrike Braeckman ( with as subject ‘METRIC PhD’.

Your application must include the following documents:

  • your CV and an overview of your study results (merged into one pdf file)
  • your motivation letter for this PhD scholarship in pdf format. Please specify why you apply specifically for this topic.
  • a transcript of the required degree (if already in your possession). If you have a foreign diploma in a language other than our national languages (Dutch, French or German) or English, please add a translation in one of the mentioned languages.
  • contact details of two references

As Ghent University maintains an equal opportunities and diversity policy, everyone is encouraged to apply for this position.

We will perform a pre-selection and invite selected candidates for an interview (on site or online). The selection committee will review the applications immediately after the application deadline. After a favourable evaluation of your application, you will be invited for an in-person or online interview, taking place in the second half of June 2023.


For more information about this vacancy, please contact Prof. Ulrike Braeckman (, +32(0)9/264 85 24).

For further information about this opportunity, click here.

via Ghent University
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