Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues. Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

PhD position on the completeness of the fossil record (4 years)

The Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Geosciences at Utrecht University, is looking for a prospective PhD student in the project MindTheGap: Quantifying the completeness of the stratigraphic record and its role in reconstructing the tempo and mode of evolution. This project bridges the divide between modern understanding of sedimentology and quantitative stratigraphy and evolutionary reconstructions based on the fossil record.

Although we have numerous evidence that the structure of geological strata overprints our reconstructions heavily by determining which time intervals and environments become selectively preserved, evolutionary biology has not, until now, exploited our knowledge of this structure. The project team will combine models of stochastic sedimentation, astronomical forcing, and sedimentary and diagenetic self-organisation to create 3D models of carbonate platforms. The role of the PhD student will be to simulate evolutionary processes and quantify the impact of stratigraphic architectures on the preservation of trait evolution and on phylogenetic inference based on fossils.
This project aims to answer questions asked already by Darwin: What part of diversity do we miss owing to the missing rock record? Are the preserved intervals exceptional or representative? Is there a systematic part of biodiversity and environmental records which will always fall into gaps?

The position is funded by the ERC Starting Grant project awarded to Emilia Jarochowska, including research, travel and publication expenses to support the study. The project team includes international collaborators David De Vleeschouwer (Münster University), Rachel Warnock (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg) and Peter Burgess (University of Liverpool) and also a postdoctoral researcher and a software engineer at the Department of Earth Sciences.

You will be based at Utrecht University, while the project foresees travel for training, research collaboration, and meeting with project partners. A personalised training programme will be set up, reflecting your training needs and career objectives. About 20% of your time will be dedicated to this training component, which includes training on the job in assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Earth Sciences department at Utrecht University. We also expect the willingness to dedicate part of the work time to public engagement related to the project, such as public talks or writing for non-specialist audience. Training and support in public engagement is available at Utrecht University.

Required qualifications:

  1. You must hold a Master's degree in Palaeobiology, Palaeontology, Biology, Earth Sciences or an equivalent degree.
  2. You have documented experience in independent use of R Software.
  3. You must have excellent written and spoken English skills and be highly motivated to work in an international team .
  4. You can demonstrate familiarity with quantitative methods in stratigraphy or taphonomy.
Desired qualifications:
  1. You have experience with independent use of Matlab or Octave.
  2. You demonstrate familiarity with phylogenetic methods.
  3. You demonstrate familiarity with carbonate sedimentology and stratigraphic palaeobiology.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a temporary position initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Filling the position 0.8 fte is optional.

Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition, you will have access to all equipment in our state-of-the-art laboratory infrastructure, coaching for teaching and supervision of researchers, and training and support regarding the acquisition of external funds. Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions external link, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University. Facilities for childcare and sports are available on campus.

About the organisation:

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With a population of 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Sustainable Development, and Human Geography & Spatial Planning.

The Department of Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid Earth and environmental Earth sciences, with activities in almost all areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeology and hydrogeology. The department hosts a highly international tenured staff of over 45 scientists and more than 110 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. Our research programme spans four intertwined themes: Climate & Life, Earth interior, Earth materials, and Environmental Earth Sciences. We house or have access to a wide variety of world-class laboratories.

About Utrecht

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of nearly 360,000 and forms a hub in the middle of the country. Its historic city centre and its modern central station can easily be reached from the Utrecht Science Park by public transport or by a 15-minute bicycle ride. Utrecht boasts beautiful canals with extraordinary wharf cellars housing cafés and terraces by the water, as well as a broad variety of shops and boutiques.

Additional information

For informal questions, please contact Dr Emilia Jarochowska via e.b.jarochowska@uu.nl.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. The application deadline is November 15th, 2022. Evaluations and online interviews are planned in the first half (5-16) of December. The intended starting date is February 1, 2023 or asap thereafter

However, note that international candidates that need a visa/work permit for the Netherlands require at least four months processing time after selection and acceptance. This will be arranged with help of the International Service Desk (ISD) of our university. Finding appropriate housing in or near Utrecht is your own responsibility, but the ISD may be able to advise you therewith. In case of general questions about working and living in The Netherlands, please consult the Dutch Mobility Portal.

Online screening may be part of the selection. Commercial response to this ad is not appreciated.

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posted: 20 October 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.