PhD position 'The Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Last Interglacial'

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD position 'The Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Last Interglacial'
  • University Graduate
Are you fascinated by the climate system, by ice sheets and how both evolved through the geological past, and are you willing to immerse yourself in this topic for four years? Please apply for this PhD position at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
FTE:         0.8 - 1

Job description

The warm climate of the Last Interglacial (LIG; ~130-118 ky before present) is often considered as an analogue for future warming. Although global mean warming was limited to about 0.5-1°C, it is often suggested that a causal relation exists with a substantial volume loss of the Antarctic ice sheet (AIS), as inferred from a 6-9 global sea-level rise. However, there are indications from the geological record that this picture is an oversimplification, possibly implying that the analogy between the LIG AIS evolution and future fate of the AIS is not what it seems. The main objective of this project is to provide a better understanding of the evolution of the AIS during the LIG, hence the project title of this NWO funded project:
The Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Last Interglacial: what does it really tell us about the ice sheet’s future?”.
The overall aim of the project is to use an Earth system model to find the LIG AIS evolution that is in best correspondence with both geological evidence and our physical understanding of the Earth system. To do so the candidate will: 1) introduce a more sophisticated coupling between the ice-shelfs of the AIS and the surrounding oceans within the framework of the Earth system model iLOVECLIM. 2) create a large ensemble of Earth system simulations covering the LIG and the preceding deglaciation in order to cover the full uncertainty space of key processes (think of the large-scale ocean circulation, shifting wind patterns, sea-ice evolution and sea-level changes) and investigate the role of stochastic processes for the LIG’s evolution. 3) finally, the candidate will make use of the capability of the iLOVECLIM Earth system model to directly simulate many geological records, such as oxygen and carbon isotopes, ocean circulation proxies like Pa/Th, icebergs and sea-level changes. This will allow a full comparison with the various geological archives that provide crucial information on the evolution of the worlds largest ice sheet, the Antarctic Ice Sheet, during the most recent period that saw global sea-levels raised meters above the present-day level.

Your duties
  • Design, perform and analyze Earth system model experiments
  • Model development
  • Publish results in peer-reviewed literature


  • A candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree)
  • in Climate Science, Physical Geography, Earth Sciences, Environmental Science, Physics or related fields.
  • We expect a strong background in climate system sciences.
  • Experience in modelling and excellent writing and communication skills.
  • Knowledge of programming could be a plus.

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses, good paid parental leave scheme

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.



Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 30 June 2020.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Pepijn Bakker
Position: Daily supervisor
Telephone: +31 20 59 83258

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