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.

PhD position in "The effect of land-runoff on Antarctic coastal habitats" (m/f/d)


Terrestrial and marine environments at the rapidly warming West Antarctic Peninsula region are inherently linked via the transport of organic and inorganic matter, but the quantities, directions and pathways are rarely understood. Increased concentration and higher flows of suspended particulate matter (SPM) triggered by glacier retreat, are known as causal factors shaping and potentially altering benthic communities. Also, animals promote exchange of inorganic, organic matter (organic carbon - OC) and nutrients material between terrestrial and marine realm. The use of airborne drone data is an emerging research field. Drones are filling significant gaps between existing in situ, airborne and satellite remote sensing capabilities to better understand the importance of glacier melt in terms of terrestrial and marine habitat change and how ongoing and predicted climate change will affect warming Antarctic shelf ecosystems.


The department of Biosciences, section Benthic Ecology, has a vacancy for a PhD student to work on the effects of land-runoff processes on benthic communities at Subantarctic and Antarctic coasts.

You're expected to

  • carry out drone-based georeferenced mapping of marine glacial outflow areas (plumes) in front of several glaciers at King George Island, surveying erosional processes such as periglacial creeks at unglaciated coasts, which are directly linked to changes in the marine ecosystem (provision and delivery of sediment and solutes from the shore) by SPM, OC, discharge volume measurements,
  • quantify terrestrial and marine nutrient flows and the spatial extent of source and sink areas using high-resolution seabird tracking techniques to map their implications for sediment and landscape stability by opportunistic vegetation succession in deglaciated areas,
  • analyse the relationships between air- (multispectral) and water-borne (salinity, temperature, turbidity, SPM, TOC, geochemistry, phytoplankton) data for calibration purposes,
  • quantify the connectivity between benthic and pelagic realms and predict ecosystem functions using multivariate and multidimensional modelling.

Research will involve a 4-month-expedition to the Beagle Channel and King George Island, West Antarctic Peninsula and will be supervised by a Thesis Advisory Committee with senior scientists from four AWI sections.


  • Master's degree (or equivalent) in marine biology, geoinformatics or related fields
  • Excellent knowledge of R and/or Python
  • Proficiency in or willingness to learn drone piloting, image analysis and multivariate statistics/spatial ecology/GIS tools to analyze benthic community data
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills and a proven ability to work in a team
  • Disposition to work in the laboratory, in the office and in the field

Additional skills and knowledge

  • Prior experience with benthic ecology, pelagic sampling, and analyses methods remote sensing data are an important asset. Knowledge of Spanish would strengthen the application.

Further Information

Please contact Dr. Kerstin Jerosch (, +49-471-4831 1518) for further information.

This is position limited to 3 years and will start December 1st, 2023. The salary will be paid in accordance with the Collective Agreement for the Public Service of the Federation (Tarifvertrag des öffentlichen Dienstes, TVöD Bund), up to salary level 13 (66%). The place of employment will be Bremerhaven.

All doctoral candidates will be members of AWI's postgraduate program POLMAR or another graduate school and thus benefit from a comprehensive training program and extensive support measures.

The AWI is characterised by

  • our scientific success - excellent research
  • collaboration and cooperation - intra-institute, national and international, interdisciplinary
  • opportunities to develop - on the job and towards other positions
  • an international environment - everyday contacts with people from all over the world
  • flexible working hours
  • Health promotion and company fitness with EGYM wellpass
  • support services and a culture of reconciling work and family
  • Occupational pension provision (VBL)
  • Jobticket

Equal opportunities are an integral part of our personnel policy. The AWI aims to increase the number of employees who are women, and therefore strongly encourages qualified women to apply.

Applicants with disabilities will be given preference when equal qualifications are present.

The AWI fosters the compatibility of work and family in various ways and has received a number of awards as a result of this engagement.

We look forward to your application!

Please submit your application by November 5th 2023, exclusively online.

Reference number: 23/186/G/Bio-b

posted: 06 October 2023     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.