PhD position: Predictive modelling of Benthic habitats to improve regional sea forecasting – Deadline 15 October 2022

Job description

The department of Estuarine & Delta Systems (EDS – location Yerseke) of the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research is looking for a highly motivated PhD student with a background in marine biology/ecology and with a keen interest in numerical modelling, to improve the modelling of benthic biological communities in European seas.


The PhD research is part of the large European project NECCTON (New Copernicus Capability for Trophic Ocean Networks), aiming at the improvement of the European community models representing the Global Ocean and the European Regional seas.

While the forecasting capabilities of marine models are quite impressive with respect to representing hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry, a lot of work is still needed before these models can be used to inform marine biodiversity and food resource management. Indeed, models run in the European operational oceanographic centers do not include operational modules of the benthic environment, although this habitat is vital to sustain not only benthic flora and fauna biodiversity, but also pelagic biogeochemistry and higher trophic levels.

The PhD project will contribute to fill this gap, by combining innovative ecosystem modelling, with data, to deliver products that integrate fauna and flora components of the benthic ecosystems. The PhD will be embedded in the CMEMS network of European modelers, that develop an integrated modelling system on the European level.

Emphasis will be on the modelling of the Black sea system, so interaction will be very intense with the University of Liege (Prof. Ir. Marilaure Gregoire). Ultimately the PhD work will improve the ability of the European models to represent the benthic habitats, in a way that is relevant for ocean policy and economic growth.

The approach is to develop dynamic descriptions of benthic biological communities, that combine mechanistic (physiologically-based, e.g. DEB) and statistical modelling techniques (e.g., niche-based models), to (1) simulate and map the benthic ecosystems, and (2) estimate their feedback on the pelagic system. The work will focus on habitat building species, species of particular interest for conservation, and for fishery and aquaculture (e.g., mussels, macroalgae, seagrasses). In the final phase of the project, the newly developed benthic modules will be linked to regional biogeochemical models.


The PhD will be mainly supervised by Prof. Dr. Karline Soetaert from NIOZ-EDS and Utrecht University (the Netherlands), and in close cooperation with Prof. ir. Marilaure Gregoire from Liege University (Belgium). Prof. Soetaert is an expert in biological and ecological modelling, and software development; Prof. Gregoire is expert in hydrodynamical modeling, and data assimilation, more specifically in the Black Sea. The PhD thesis will be defended at Utrecht University.


The PhD candidate will become member of the department of Estuarine and Delta Systems research (EDS, NIOZ-Yerseke). This department 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. Central is a multidisciplinary holistic approach that combines state-of-the-art measurements, and manipulative experiments with mathematical and numerical modelling to create in-depth process understanding.
The combination of modelling and physiological expertise make this department an ideal environment for successfully completion of this PhD.

Job requirements


Here are some features that make you the ideal candidate for this PhD research position:

  • You have a master in biology, biogeochemistry, or oceanography, or similar. This degree should have been acquired before the end of 2022;
  • You have experience in modelling, or you have large affinity with numerical models and are keen to extend your knowledge on this;
  • You value cooperation within the European context;
  • You are good at managing priorities and meeting deadlines;
  • You are a team player, are well organized, are ambitious, and have excellent written and oral communication skills.

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


Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ is by NWO-I (The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research). The PhD position we are offering, will be based at the NIOZ-Yerseke. After a 12-month probationary period and successful evaluation, the position is extended for 36 months for a maximum employment of 4 years. The salary is compliant to the CAO-OI. Furthermore NIOZ offers a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus of 8,3% of the gross annual salary, flexible work 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.

Royal NIOZ EDS is located in the village of Yerseke in the province of Zeeland and lies in the middle of the ‘Delta area’ on the southern border of the Eastern Scheldt. Yerseke offers a diverse but moderate level of facilities, including a thriving tourist industry, shops, sports facilities and primary schools. Within commuting distance you will find cities like Antwerp, Breda, Goes, Middelburg and Vlissingen.


Please apply online at

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Prof. dr. Karline Soetaert

For additional information about the procedure, please contact Mylene Lormans (sr. HR advisor). Please visit NIOZ and the department of EDS.

Closing date for applications: October 15th, 2022. Interviews are foreseen beginning of November 2022  (first round of interviews will be online via Microsoft Teams)

You can find out more about this opportunity by clicking here.

via NIOZ
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