The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) is a member of the Helmholtz Association (HGF) and funded by federal and state government. AWI focuses on polar and marine research in a variety of disciplines such as biology, oceanography, geology, geochemistry and geophysics thus allowing multidisciplinary approaches to scientific goals.

The project "Oysters and mussels under anthropogenic pressure: Does microplastic limit the tolerance to climate change of ecologically and economically important bivalves? (OMAP)", aimed at investigating the impact of microplastic (MP) under predicted scenarios of future climate change, invites applications for two positions as

PhD student

Position 1: Ecology and experimental approaches with shellfish/mussels (35/D/Bio)

Position 2: Physiology and transcriptomics of shellfish/mussels (36/D/Bio)

Background and tasks: Since the 1950's the increasing production of plastics resulted in a progressive accumulation of plastic litter in the oceans with manifold consequences for marine life. Ingestion of microplastics (MP) is a cause of concern, notably for filter feeders as it leads to fatal injuries such as blockages of the digestive system but also inflammatory processes or reduction in reproduction rates. Studies investigating physiological impact of MP on bivalves so far ignored its potential risk under climate change, as MP may constrain animals' thermal tolerance and increase susceptibility to warming. This gives weight to concerns that biological interactions, which are poorly understood, may play a critical role in setting physiological limits towards global warming, while warming may boost uptake rates of MP in filter feeders at the same time. Therefore, we will investigate the interaction of changing temperature and microplastic pollution on the physiology and ecology and its molecular basis in bivalves from the North Sea. This project is proposed to i) quantify the in situ levels and the uptake rates of MP in Ostrea edulis, Crassostrea gigas and Mytilus edulis under present and future climate, ii) evaluate physiological impact of MP and temperature from transcriptomic to the organismic levels, and iii) estimate ecological and economic consequences by identifying the species-specific vulnerability to MP and climate change.



  • Master or diploma in a relevant area of biology
  • Interest in ecological and ecophysiological questions
  • Experiences in physiological, biochemical or molecular investigations of animals
  • Readiness to perform experiments on live animals
  • Good English skills

Desirable skills and experience in

  • Maintenance and experiments with aquatic animals
  • Microscopy and histology
  • Molecular techniques like RNA isolation, mRNA expression analyses (Real-time, RNA-Seq), sequence analyses and bioinformatics
  • Biochemical and analytical techniques (e.g. chromatography, vibrational spectroscopy (FTIR, NMR), enzyme assays)
  • Physiology (e.g. respiration, cardiocirculation)

For more information or questions regarding the project, please contact Dr. Christian Bock (, Dr. Gunnar Gerdts ( or Dr. Bernadette Pogoda (

The positions are limited to 3 years. The salary will be paid in accordance with the German Tarifvertrag des ÷ffentlichen Dienstes (TV÷D Bund), salary level 13 (66%). The place of employment will be on Helgoland and Bremerhaven.

We offer you a multi-disciplinary, international, and fascinating professional environment with flexible working hours, state-of-the-art research equipment, and a first-rate infrastructure.

Disabled applicants will be given preference when equal qualifications are present. The AWI fosters the compatibility of work and family through various means. Because of our engagement in the area of work-life compatibility we have been awarded the certificate "Career and Family".

As Ph.D. student at AWI you will be member of the Helmholtz Graduate School for Polar and Marine Research 'POLMAR' (

Please forward your applications with the standard documentation (cover letter with motivation and statement regarding preferred focus, CV and two references / letters of recommendation) by February 28th, 2018 referencing code 35/D/Bio for Position 1 and code 36/D/Bio for Position 2 by e-mail (all documents merged into one PDF file) to:

posted: 14 February 2018     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.