PhD student position in Antarctic cryptogam ecology

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD student position in Antarctic cryptogam ecology
  • University Graduate

4 research positions (2 PhDs and 2 postdocs) will be available at the Department of Ecological Science, for the research project entitled “The Antarctic biota count (ABC): a functional trait-based approach to scale biodiversity from plot to region’’, funded by the Netherlands Polar Program (NWO).

FTE: 1

Job description

The aim of this work package is to develop a cryptogam trait data set of the dominant moss and lichen species along the Antarctic Peninsula. A central question within this package is: ‘How do different cryptogam species contribute to Antarctic terrestrial carbon and nutrient fluxes?’ A comparison of CO2 flux rates, nutrient content and rock weathering ability as well as morphological and physiological characteristics of dominant cryptogam species should enable us to assign species to cryptogam functional groups. In addition, the PhD student will contribute quantitative data for the cryptogam trait database to be used to underpin decisions on the protection of Antarctic habitats; this database can be used to test how functional trait trade-offs of leaf/shoot morphology and water holding capacity affect carbon gains and nutrient availability.

Your duties
  • Quantify CO2 flux rates of dominant Antarctic cryptogam groups under standardized conditions
  • Quantify potential rock weather activity of Antarctic cryptogams in the field
  • Build Antarctic cryptogam functional trait database
  • Write four peer-reviewed publications that will be the basis of the PhD thesis
  • The applicant will present the results at national and international conferences, and contribute to teaching courses


  • MSc in Ecological Sciences or comparable, with relevant research experience
  • Experience with plant/cryptogam morphological and physiological measurements (e.g., CO2 fluxes) or willingness to learn this
  • Willingness and physical ability to work in cold and remote Antarctic regions for 2-5 months/year
  • Proficiency with statistical approaches and use of R
  • Excellent social skills to work in an interdisciplinary international research team.
  • English language proficiency both in speech and in writing. Please provide evidence of the latter

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 €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (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 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a total 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
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

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.

About the department, institute, project
The Department of Ecological Science (DES) answers fundamental ecological and evolutionary questions regarding the relationship between organisms and their environment at the full array of hierarchical levels: from molecular ecology to ecosystem research. The department comprises a dynamic community of researchers and provides an excellent research environment with state-of-the-art facilities and high quality training.

The overall aim of this project is to deliver spatially explicit data on terrestrial biodiversity along the Antarctic Peninsula for evidence-based systematic conservation planning. Each research position has its own objectives but by combining the data from each work package, we aim to deliver a comprehensive status of the current vegetation and associated biodiversity patterns. This will form a data-driven approach to Antarctic conservation planning and provide a baseline to which future changes can be monitored. The project will be run in close collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey (UK), University of Birmingham (UK) and the University of Insubria (Italy).


Are you interested in this position? Applicants are requested to write a letter in which they describe their abilities and motivation, accompanied by a curriculum vitae and the names of one or two references. Applications (mention the vacancy number) should be sent before November 10th, 2020 to the attention of Prof.dr. Hans Cornelissen.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

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

Name: Prof.dr. J.H.C. (Hans) Cornelissen
Name: Dr. S.F. (Stef) Bokhorst
Phone number +31 (0)20 5987078 
Website for both:

Any other correspondence in response to this advertisement will not be dealt with.

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