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 section for Integrative Ecophysiology invites applications for a

PhD position
within the overarching topic
"Impacts of climate change on marine animals along latitudinal clines and in polar areas"

starting in 2018/early 2019.


Concern about future anthropogenic climate change demands to know what might happen to polar and other marine ecosystems. While a global temperature target well below 2°C if not 1.5°C above preindustrial values has been formulated to avoid dangerous impacts of anthropogenic climate change, pronounced spatial-temporal changes are already observed and further expected across marine ecosystems. Responses of species to climate change may differ depending on their natural climate background and associated evolutionary history, with a key role for climate variability. Earlier study has in fact indicated that the functional differentiation of species populations in climate gradients along latitudinal clines may unravel the mechanisms of long-term evolutionary adaptation of extant fauna to climate history as well as the functional tradeoffs involved in such adaptation such as the need for thermal specialization (Pörtner, 2006; Clarke and Pörtner, 2010; Pörtner and Gutt, 2016). Furthermore, mechanisms of response to the drivers involved in a changing climate (e.g. warming, acidification and oxygen deficiency) and their interactions are poorly understood across levels of biological organization (e.g., Lucassen et al. 2006, Strobel et al., 2012, Pörtner et al., 2014; Windisch et al., 2014; Boyd et al., 2018).

The wider project will thus integrate findings from different levels of biological organization, gene, molecule to whole organism and e.g., address the tradeoffs such as those between functional capacities and associated energy demand. Data will be analyzed focusing on the interaction between hierarchical levels, with the goal to integrate findings into the development of mechanism-based understanding, also considering from a wider perspective how it may help understanding the combined actions of climate drivers in the ocean as well as the impacts of changing species interactions and links to ecological patterns.


  • Compare the functional and associated transcriptomic responses of species populations across relevant latitudinal clines to identify functions undergoing change.
  • Characterize physiological functions and their role in shaping and constraining whole animal performance, from whole organism to underlying protein functions.
  • Compare populations with respect to data from short and long-term incubations for an evaluation of acclimatization capacity of crucial mechanisms underpinning adaptation.
  • Consider commonalities and differences in physiological responses to climate change across populations.
  • Through comparison of populations identify mechanisms crucial in tolerance to environmental fluctuations and in adaptation to various climate regimes.
  • Integrate these findings into mechanism-based models of climate related vulnerability and of adaptation to various climate zones.
  • Apply these mechanism-based models to polar species and identify crucial modifications reflecting polar adaptation.

Within this wider set of tasks, the section invites more focused applications combined with a brief statement of interest and proposed research that integrates the skills of you.


You should have a Master in natural sciences, demonstrated by a high-quality Master thesis. Skills in more than one relevant field of experimental biology, experience in handling large data sets as well as in systems thinking are an asset. Understanding of physiological principles of climate impacts and associated ecological patterns will be beneficial to develop this multidisciplinary project in an international team. We welcome motivated, well organized, creative and enthusiastic team-players willing to contribute to AWI's scientific success.

For further information please contact Prof. Dr. Hans-Otto Pörtner (

The position is limited to 3 years. The salary will be paid in accordance with the German Tarifvertrag des öffentlichen Dienstes (TVöD Bund), salary level 13 (66%). The place of employment will be Bremerhaven.

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

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.

AWI aims to increase the number of women in the scientific staff and therefore encourages women to apply. 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".

Please forward your applications with the standard documentation (cover letter with motivation, CV and two references / letters of recommendation) by October 14th 2018 referencing code 143/G/Bio to:

posted: 19 September 2018     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.