PhD student position in ecohydrology (bivalve sclerochronology)

The Institute of Geosciences (Paleontology group) at the University of Mainz, Germany, invites applications for a PhD student position (temporary appointment) in ecohydrology. This position (PhD 1) is part of the research project MUSES - Freshwater pearl mussels as stream water stable isotope recorders, jointly conducted between the 'Catchment and eco-hydrology' (CAT) research group at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Belvaux, Luxembourg, and the INCREMENTS team at the University of Mainz, Germany.

Within the MUSES project, two complementary PhD positions are advertised:

PhD 1 (advertised here) - 'Freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) as faithful δ18Owater recorders' at the University of Mainz, supervision by Prof. Bernd R. Schöne

PhD 2 - 'Bedrock geology controls on catchment sensitivity and resilience to climate change' at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology / University of Luxembourg, supervision by Prof. Laurent Pfister. More information is available at

Isotope records of stream water are pivotal for improving our understanding and modeling of hydrological, ecological, biogeochemical and atmospheric processes. However, available instrumental ?18Owater time-series of are too short and truncated to use their full potential. MUSES aims to fill this gap and reconstruct stable oxygen isotope signatures of stream water prior to the instrumental era from shells long-lived freshwater bivalves.

As the reconstruction of δ18Owater values from δ18Oshell data requires knowledge of the temperature during shell formation, the successful candidate will firstly explore various proxies that can potentially be used to infer water temperature during growth, i.e., shell growth rate, shell microstructure and the trace element chemistry of shells. For this purpose, he/she will work with specimens raised in laboratory tanks at controlled temperature conditions. The specimens will also be used to assess the timing and rate of seasonal growth as well as the relationship between oxygen isotope ratios in shell and water. Then, PhD 1 will apply the new information and reconstruct multi-decadal river water δ18O time-series from M. margaritifera shells of up to three different localities. These data will be used by PhD 2 at CAT/LIST to explore potential historical changes in stream flow regime and search for mechanistic links between changes in stream flow regime and changes in atmospheric processes. These data will ultimately be used to test the hypothesis that bedrock geology controls the long-term sensitivity of a catchment's hydrological response to climate change.

The successful candidate is expected to present results at international and national conferences and publish findings in peer-reviewed international journals. Furthermore, he/she will maintain regular scientific exchange with project partners in Luxembourg and closely collaborate with all members of the research team. He/she will also regularly communicate project progress during team meetings.

Candidate profile:

  • Master or diploma degree (above average grade) in Earth Sciences, Biology or Ecology (or related field)
  • Outstanding motivation and enthusiasm
  • Basic knowledge of paleoclimatology, paleoecology, invertebrates and geochemistry. Previous experience with light stable isotopegeochemistry, micromilling and/or the analysis of growth patterns of biological hard tissues is advantageous.
  • Experience with data analysis and statistical methods
  • Computer literacy, in particular, skillful use of MS office package, graphics software etc.
  • Ability and willingness to conduct chemical laboratory work
  • Positive attitude toward field work
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English; German and/or Swedish is an asset
  • Ability to work independently and self-guided, but likewise within an interdisciplinary research team

The fixed-term appointment will be for a maximum of three years and ideally starts on 1 Sep. 2021. Salary according to E13 TV-L (50-60% position) includes fringe benefits (health insurance etc.). The University of Mainz is an equal opportunity employer. Disabled persons with comparable qualifications receive preferential status.

Interested individuals are invited to submit an application package including a motivation letter explaining why they apply and how they meet the hiring criteria outlined above, CV, copies of certificates (high school, BSc and MSc/diploma), degree transcripts (plus English or German translation) including an explanation of the scoring system, and names and addresses of at least two referees as a single pdf to Prof. Dr. Bernd R. Schöne,, Institute of Geosciences, University of Mainz, Joh.-J.-Becher-Weg 21, 55128 Mainz, Germany. Application Deadline: 1 May 2021. Note, application review will begin immediately. The position will remain open and applications will be reviewed until the position is filled. Further information about the research foci of the Applied and Analytical Paleontology research team can be obtained at

posted: 09 March 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.