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.

PostDoc in Antarctic Benthic Ecology (m/f/d)


The deep continental shelves around Antarctica are populated by a unique benthos dominated by epibenthic filter-feeders, particularly corals and sponges. Glass sponges (class Hexactinellida) are the largest and most conspicuous members of Antarctic benthic communities. These living fossils are among the oldest extant animal taxa with a fossil record dating back to the late Neoproterozoic. Their large size and high densities make them important structuring elements of Antarctic shelf communities providing a complex three-dimensional habitat for a diverse associated fauna. The glass spicules constituting their skeletons are believed to play an important role in silicon cycling. However, virtually nothing is known on the functional ecology of hexactinellid sponges and their importance for material cycling on Antarctic shelves.


The postdoctoral research project aims to close this gap and explore the role of hexactinellid sponges in the uptake and cycling of carbon and silicon on the high Antarctic shelf. The project involves field campaigns in the Weddell Sea and Ross Sea to sample sponges and carry out experiments using towed camera and moored lander systems allowing sponge observation and sampling in situ, respectively (Weddell Sea), as well as SCUBA deployed gear (Ross Sea), using Polarstern, Scott Base and Neumayer Station III as operation bases. This project builds on work carried out on Antarctic benthic communities that date back to the 1980s, boasting a large repository of photographic and video material, contributes to core goals of the Benthic Ecology section and to AWI's research programme Changing Earth - Sustaining our Future and Antarctic Strategy. Specific objectives are to:

  • Assess the diet of glass sponges
  • Take tissue samples for ultrastructural and molecular work
  • Determine the uptake and metabolism of particulate and dissolved C and Si
  • Assess hexactinellid energy allocation to growth and reproduction
  • Combine findings on hexactinellid function with available abundance and biomass data from the Weddell and Ross Sea
  • Perform scientific in situ and in vitro experiments and analyses, and publish articles in international journals.


  • PhD in marine biology, biological oceanography, or a related field
  • Strong background in scientific experiments and analyses
  • Understanding of life in moving fluids
  • Experience in expedition work
  • Experience in the publication of scientific results in international journals
  • Excellent command of written and spoken English

Further Information

For any questions you may have, you are very welcome to get in touch with Prof Dr Claudio Richter (; +49 471 4831-1304).

This is a full-time position, limited to 3 years. It is also suitable for part-time employment. 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. The place of employment will be Bremerhaven.

Postdocs have to register with AWI's postdoc office PROCEED, thereby gaining access to a set of tailor-made career development tools.

The AWI is characterized 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 contact with people from all over the world
  • flexible working hours
  • health promotion and company fitness
  • support services and a culture of reconciling work and family
  • occupational pension provision (VBL)

AWI values diversity and actively promotes gender parity, as well as an open, inclusive environment that provides equal opportunities. We are convinced that diverse teams and a variety of perspectives enrich our work and our daily collaboration. In a continuous process of learning and reflection, we aim to ensure that all our employees can unfold themselves and feel a sense of belonging. We welcome applications from qualified people regardless of binary and non-binary genders, nationality, ethnic and social background, religion, age, physical abilities, neurodivergence, sexual orientation, and other identities.

Applicants with disabilities will be given preference when equal qualifications are present. AWI fosters work-family compatibility in various ways and has received several awards as a result of this engagement. Our family office will be happy to support you - even before you start at AWI.

We look forward to your application!
Please submit your application by August 7th 2024, exclusively online.
Reference number: 24/125/G/Bio-b

posted: 11 July 2024     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.