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. UU wishes to be a home for everyone. We value staff with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and identities, including cultural, religious or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment in which everyone can flourish and contribute.

PhD position in Marine Palynology (4 years)

The department of Earth Sciences is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with an MSc Palynology, Micropaleontology, Organic Geochemistry and/or Oceanography. You will work on the project "Ice-ocean interactions in West Antarctica during rapid transitions in past warm climates". In this four-year study, you will reconstruct in detail the oceanographic changes close to the West-Antarctic ice sheet during prominent deglaciations in the Pliocene and Pleistocene.

You are expected to generate multiple records of organic-walled dinoflagellate cyst assemblages crossing glacial-interglacial transitions from sediment cores that were collected by the British Antarctic Survey and through the International Ocean Discovery Programme. In addition, the project involves the generation of organic geochemical biomarker records from the same sedimentary records, which will complement the reconstruction of ecosystem, ocean and climate variability. Alongside this, there are opportunities to generate sedimentological and inorganic geochemical data on the sediment core as well, which are indicative of both ocean and ice dynamics.

A personalised training programme will be set up, mutually agreed on recruitment, which will reflect both your training needs and career objectives. As part of this training, up to 10% of your time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Earth Sciences department.

The position is part of a larger interdisciplinary project, that includes a postdoctoral researcher with whom you will closely collaborate. Both positions are funded by the Dutch National Science Foundation NWO in a special call of the Polar Programme in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey. The positions are based in the Marine Palynology & Paleoceanography group at the Department of Earth Sciences in Utrecht, NL. Regular visits to the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK, are foreseen, e.g. for scientific discussions and to perform analyses.


We are looking for a candidate with commitment to overcome the challenges faced in working with complicated material from close to Antarctica. This project really seeks a problem-solver, one that isn't let down by the first disappointment. You demonstrate the capability to contribute yourself to the planning and organisation of your work, with a keen interest in taking initiatives for the direction in which it develops.

You must have completed your MSc degree in Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Biology or a related discipline by the time the position starts. Preferably, you also have:

  • experience or strong interest in paleoclimate/paleoceanography;
  • experience in palynology/micropaleontology is highly appreciated;
  • experience in working in a laboratory or willingness to learn;
  • experience in (in)organic geochemistry is a pro;
  • a love for microscope work and teamwork, willingness to travel (also abroad);
  • adequate social/verbal/communication skills.

Due to the international character of our research, good command of spoken and written English is essential. We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse backgrounds to join us.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a full-time PhD position, initially for one year with extension to four years in total upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross monthly salary starts with € 2,770 in the first year and increases to € 3,539 in the fourth year of employment with a full-time appointment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. A pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities.

In addition to the collective employment conditions, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, sports and cultural schemes, and you get discounts on software and other IT products. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow. For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

About the organisations:

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 50 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 and high-performance computational facilities.

The Marine Palynology & Paleoceanography group focuses with four permanent staff members on paleoceanographic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions in the entire Phanerozoic, specifically by looking at organic microfossils, usually in close collaboration with additional disciplines in the department and abroad. There is a close link between this project and the paleoclimate research within the virtual Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (NESSC), which focuses on tipping points within the climate system, and its successor, the Earth System Feedback Research Centre, which will run at least until 2035. This brings together a large cohort of PhD students in a national highly interdisciplinary and strongly collaborative (paleo-)climate community.

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 historical city centre and its modern central station can easily be reached from our campus in 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 (not applications), please contact Dr Peter K. Bijl (p.k.bijl@uu.nl), or Dr Francesca Sangiorgi (f.sangiorgi@uu.nl).

How to apply:

To apply, please use this link to go to the advertisement on UU's own website and follow the guidelines mentioned there. We aim for a quick selection procedure after the deadline of August 20th, 2024, with interviews near the end of September. The preferred starting date is November 1st or as soon as possible thereafter.

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 and, unfortunately, we must warn that it is a tight market at the moment. 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: 10 July 2024     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.