PhD position ‘Sargassum’ University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Science – Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics Netherlands

PhD position ‘Sargassum’

Faculty of Science – Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics


Publication date 19 February 2019

Closing date 31 March 2019

Level of education Master's degree

Hours 38 hours per week

Salary indication €2,325 to €2,972 gross per month

Vacancy number 19-106


We invite applications for a PhD position with Prof. Linda Amaral-Zettler (NIOZ/UvA) in collaboration with Prof. Gerard Muijzer (UvA) at the Department of Freshwater and Marine Ecology within the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). IBED is one of the eight research institutes within the Faculty of Science. Its goal is to better understand the dynamics of ecosystems at all relevant levels, from genes to climate change, using a truly multidisciplinary approach.


Project description

Sargassum is a diverse marine brown macroalgal genus with over 350 recognized species but only two recognized holopelagic (floating) species. The holopelagic Sargassum spp. have been referred to as the 'golden floating rainforest of the Atlantic Ocean' and form an essential habitat for both attached and mobile fauna that contribute to the unique biodiversity of this open-ocean ecosystem. Since 2011, however, holopelagic Sargassum normally associated with the oligotrophic waters of the Sargasso Sea, has begun forming unprecedented accumulations with subsequent strandings on the western coast of Africa, islands in the Caribbean - including Bonaire and Curaçao, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and northern Brazil. These strandings threaten local biodiversity and trigger economic losses associated with beach deterioration and impact on fisheries, tourism and national marine sanctuaries. Many unanswered questions about the alga remain including: What species or forms of pelagic Sargassum are involved in accumulations in the Western Atlantic? Are the strandings the results of consolidation of Sargassum due to shifts in oceanographic conditions, or blooms due to increased growth triggered by changes in the physico-chemical environment (i.e. climate change, influx of dust)?



This 4-year PhD project will build on existing data to generate complete nuclear genomes for the known forms of holopelagic Sargassum, as well as mitochondrial and plastid genomes of geographically distributed individuals. It will further examine the Sargassum transcriptome via RNASeq experiments to explore the detailed molecular mechanisms of the Sargassum response to selected environmental conditions. The project will require a suite of field (including onboard the Dutch Research Vessel the RV Pelagia), laboratory, and computational biology skills that will be honed and developed as part of this exciting PhD project entitled: 'A Sargassum Genomic Observatory: Comparative and Population Genomics of Floating Sargassum species and their Holobiomes.'



The ideal PhD candidate will possess:

  • an MSc degree in Microbiology, Molecular Biology or Microbial Ecology;
  • availability to join a 5-week research cruise in July of 2019;
  • bioinformatics, computational and programming skills;
  • excellent organizational skills;
  • experience working with large datasets;
  • fluency in oral and written English;
  • an interest in working in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment.


Further information

 For additional information about the project and position, please contact: 

  • Prof.  Linda Amaral-Zettler



The position will begin in the late Spring of 2019. The full-time appointment will be on a temporary basis for a maximum period of four years (18 months plus a further 30 months after a positive evaluation) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). An educational plan will be drafted that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. The PhD student is also expected to assist in teaching of undergraduates. The full-time gross monthly salary will range from €2,325 in the first year to €2,972 in the final year, according to the Dutch salary scales for PhD students. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable. The annual salary will be increased by 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% end-of-year bonus. Favourable tax agreements may apply to non-Dutch applicants.


Job application

The UvA is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees. We value a spirit of enquiry and endurance, provide the space to keep asking questions and cherish a diverse atmosphere of curiosity and creativity.


Applications should include:

  • a motivation letter;
  • a CV;
  • the names and contact addresses of two academic references.

You may apply no later than 31 March 2019 using the link below. Interviews are anticipated in the third or fourth week of April. #LI-DNP

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