PhD student, Ecosystem management – Scheldt estuary University of Antwerp, Department of Biology Belgium

PhD student, Ecosystem management – Scheldt estuary


The Faculty of Sciences is seeking to fill a full-time vacancy (m/f) in the Department of Biology for a

PhD student Ecosystem management – Understanding and evaluating the Schelde ecosystem based on continuous water quality data



This research project is carried out within the Ecosystem Management Research Group (ECOBE) of the University of Antwerpen. The research of ECOBE concentrates on the ecology of aquatic ecosystems and wetlands and the processes in the land-water interaction along the whole river continuum and the river-coastal sea interaction. The studied systems vary from small streams with riparian margins over larger rivers and floodplains to estuaries. These studies, both descriptive and experimental in nature, are integrated to predict the impact of different management options on the functioning and the biodiversity of the system.


For more than 20 years, special attention is paid to the study of the Schelde estuary and the scientific support of necessary management actions to meet both human use as the ecological functioning of the system. An estuary is a very complex system with strong interactions between hydrodynamics, morphodynamics, biochemistry and ecology. To better understand this system, a monitoring program with monthly or biweekly sampling of the water quality is carried out since 1995. More recently, a few continuous monitoring stations are deployed, that register every ten minutes parameters such as conductivity, temperature, turbidity, oxygen, chlorophyll a and light attenuation. Together with the data on discharge and tides, a massive amount of continuous data exists now. This dataset offers new opportunities to get better insight in the pelagic ecology and its relation with hydrodynamics (tides or discharge) or morphodynamics (e.g. relation with turbidity). But this requires the development of new analysis techniques or ecosystem models.


ECOBE has experience in ecological modelling. Also for the analysis of continuous data, e.g. to derive estimates of primary productions based on oxygen times series, new techniques have been developed at ECOBE.


Currently new management questions arose. What is causing the increase in turbidity in the estuary? How will this increase impact water quality? What minimum freshwater discharge is necessary for a functional ecosystem? How will global change, with higher temperatures, lower average freshwater summer discharge but occasionally higher peak discharges impact the ecosystem?


These questions will be the subject of the PhD that will include the data analysis and evaluation. The candidate will be involved in analysis of ongoing and additional monitoring projects, measurements and experiments, both in the field and in the lab. The focus therein is of course a translation into model applications.


Job Description

  • You prepare a PhD dissertation in the field of ecosystem management with a focus on continuous data on the Scheldt estuary.

  • You calibrate, validate and evaluate continuous time series of water quality data.

  • You prepare an FWO-SB grant application.

  • You will cooperate with scientists of ECOBE within the frame of other doctoral and externally funded projects to form an integrated research strategy. In addition, you will work together with other "Schelde researchers ", of both Flanders and the Netherlands, and maintain close contacts with the managers of the Schelde estuary.

  • You will be involved in the research project OMES (Research Environmental Impact of the Sigma Plan) and other ongoing research in the Schelde estuary.


Profile and requirements

  • You preferably have a Master in Bio-Engineering or Master in Biology. Masters in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Physics, Mathematics or Applied Sciences with a strong affinity for this topic are also eligible.

  • You have good knowledge of statistics; knowledges of modelling is a plus.

  • You have (basic) knowledge of hydrological and biogeochemical processes. Knowledge of estuaries is a plus

  • You are willing to participate in fieldwork campaigns (both planning and work in the field).

  • You are communicative and enterprising. It is a multidisciplinary research that requires gathering of information and knowledge from various disciplines and policy areas.


We offer

  • a contract for a period of one year, renewable after a positive evaluation for a maximum duration of 4 years, if funding is available;

  • the contract can start immediately. The effective start date will be determined in consultation with the selected candidate;

  • additional training and education possibilities;

  • a monthly grant ranging from € 2.373,36 - € 2.516,73;

  • regular participation in international conferences.


How to apply

  • Applications may only be submitted online, and should include a copy of your CV and a motivation letter until the closing date 20 March 2019.

  • A pre-selection will be made from amongst the submitted applications. The remainder of the selection procedure is specific to the position and will be determined by the selection panel.

  • More information about the application form can be obtained through

  • For more information on the scientific content, you can contact Prof. P. Meire – University of Antwerpen ( or +32 3265 22 64) of Tom Maris (


The University of Antwerp is a family friendly organization, with a focus on equal opportunities and diversity. Our HR-policy for researchers was awarded by the European Commission with the quality label HR Excellence in research.


We support the Science4Refugees initiative and encourage asylum-seeking, refugee scientists and researchers to apply for a job at the University of Antwerp.

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