PhD position in Ecosystem Modelling of the Schelde Estuary

University of Antwerp
Antwerp, Belgium
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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The Faculty of Sciences, University of Antwerp,  is seeking to fill a full-time vacancy (m/f) in the Department of Biology for a doctoral student in the domain of estuarine ecosystem functioning and management:

PhD grant Ecosystem management – Ecosystem modelling of the Schelde estuary: further development and application to management questions


The project will be carried out within the Ecosystem Management Research Group (ECOBE), Department of Biology, of the University of Antwerp. The research of ECOBE focusses on fundamental and applied ecological research of aquatic ecosystems and wetlands, the processes in the land-water interfaces along the whole river continuum and the river-coastal sea interaction. These studies, both descriptive and experimental in nature, are integrated to assess the impact of different management options on the functioning and the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

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 well as the ecological functioning of the system. An estuary is a very complex system with strong interactions between hydrodynamics, morphodynamics, biogeochemistry and ecology. To better understand these links, ecosystem models have been built to capture the complex interactions and simulate system dynamics.

The ecosystem model, with central focus on primary production and water quality, will be used to answer new management and research questions to obtain insight in the effect of certain measures or future situations on estuarine functioning. Examples of questions are: ‘What is the impact of sea level rise and global warming on water quality?; what is an optimum morphological shape or configuration of the estuary to establish a resilient ecosystem?; what is a minimum freshwater flow needed for a healthy estuary? What is the role of the benthic compartment for water quality?

The present model will need adaptation and/or extension with new processes and/or interactions for application to specific management and research questions. This will be the core of the project and will be the subject of the PhD.

First extensions of the current model will aim at implementation of benthic primary production and coupling of the pelagic with benthic (sub)systems, like intertidal flats and marshes. The candidate will also be involved in other ongoing projects in the research group, relevant for this project.

In short we look for a motivated researcher who wants to contribute to sound management of the Schelde estuary, likes to interact with management authorities and clients (e.g. VNSC, Port of Antwerp) and above all is skilled in numerical modelling.

Job description

  • You prepare a PhD dissertation in the field of ecosystem management with a focus on further developing and applying of ecosystem models for the Scheldt estuary.
  • You publish scientific articles related to the research project of the assignment.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, Applied Sciences and Biomedical Sciences with a strong affinity for this topic are also eligible.
  • You have good knowledge of programming (R and/or Fortran).
  • 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).
  • A (basic) knowledge GIS (ArcGIS , QGIQ , ENVI ... ) is a plus, but not required.
  • 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 doctoral scholarship for a period of one year, renewable after a positive evaluation for a maximum duration of 4 years, giving funding is available;
  • the scholarship can start immediately. The effective start date will be determined in consultation with the selected candidate;
  • additional training and educating possibilities;
  • regular participation in international conferences;
  • a dynamic and stimulating work environment.

How to apply?

  • Applications may only be submitted online, and should include a copy of your CV and motivation  until the closing date of 20th of June 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 online application form can be obtained from  .
  • For questions about the profile and the description of duties, please contact Prof. P. Meire (  - tel. +32 3 265 2264) or Kerst Buis ( ).