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Postdoc position: "To determine the consequences of large-scale sand extractions on the North Sea"

Netherlands, Noord-Holland, TexelCoastal Systems (COS)

Job description

The department of Coastal Systems (COS - location Texel) is looking for a highly motivated postdoctoral researcher with a background in marine ecology and numerical modelling. You will work on the consequences of large-scale sand extractions from the North Sea on primary production and secondary producers, via their impact on fine suspended sediments and biogeochemistry.

For this interdisciplinary project we are also looking for a PhD candidate with whom you will jointly work. The PhD candidate will be based at the department of Estuarine & Delta Systems (EDS - location Yerseke).


Sand extraction from the North Sea is expected to increase drastically for future infrastructure projects and coastal protection by sand nourishments. Large-scale marine sand extraction has important ecosystem effects, amongst others by changing the physical (e.g. turbulence and turbidity) and biogeochemical (e.g. nutrient availability) conditions that will propagate through the whole marine food web. Within the recently awarded project 'ORELSE' (Operational Recommendations for Ecosystem-based Large-scale Sand Extraction), a Dutch consortium will give recommendations for an ecosystem-based large-scale sand-extraction approach in the Dutch North Sea.

The main approach of the NIOZ-led work package of the ‘ORELSE’ project, consisting of a PhD and a postdoc study, will be to translate laboratory-based experiments into novel mathematical descriptions for upscaling and predictions using physical-ecological coupled models. Phytoplankton (microscopic floating algae) is the basis of the marine food web and their abundance and production is controlled by physical conditions (e.g. light, turbidity and turbulence), nutrient availability and grazing. The main phytoplankton grazer is zooplankton, which constitutes an important trophic link between algae and fish. While good model descriptions for phytoplankton exist, current models of zooplankton growth and grazing behaviour typically assume no dependency on turbulence and turbidity, which probably does exist.

The PhD-student will perform experiments in the laboratory on how zooplankton-phytoplankton (feeding) interactions depend on turbulence, silt concentration, and algal physiological conditions and will use the data to parameterise physiologically-based (DEB) model(s) of zooplankton dynamics. The new model descriptions will be applied in several idealized physical settings to predict how sand extraction, simulated by various nutrient conditions, hydrodynamic regimes, and turbidity, will affect phytoplankton and zooplankton dynamics.

The post-doc will use the model descriptions developed by the PhD-student, and cooperate with other partners in the project to set up and run scenarios for idealised and realistic sand-extraction pits (3-D) to investigate how sand extraction will affect the pelagic food web, both during the excavation phase (increased turbidity), and after establishment of the pits, via modified transport, turbulence and turbidity. The data will be used in a Digital Twin and Serious Game (developed by project partners) for adaptive temporal-spatial planning of ecosystem-based sand extractions to improve cross-sectoral collaboration and coordination between policymakers, the dredging industry, nature organisations, scientists and the fisheries sector in The Netherlands.


The post-doc project is focused on physical oceanography and physical-ecological modeling. More specifically, the post-doc will make use of non-hydrostatic physical models to allow for a better description of turbulence fields and suspended matter dynamics in realistic sand extraction pits. The post-doc will be based at COS (Texel), but we foresee regular visits to EDS Yerseke to facilitate the knowledge exchange with the PhD-student and supervisors.

Job requirements


The ideal candidate for this Post-doctoral research position should have a PhD in oceanography or a related science, would have experience with developing and applying numerical flow models, and affinity with marine biology/ecology. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the work, it is important that the Postdoc-candidate is open and communicative to facilitate interactions with other members of the group and the project consortium. Excellent English oral and writing skills are essential.

We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse background, including LGBT+ and BAME communities, to join us.


We are offering a 3 year full-time Postdoc position. Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ is by NWOI (The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research). The salary is compliant to the CAO-OI (Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Research Institutes) scale 10 or 11 depending on relevant experience. Furthermore NIOZ offers a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus of 8,3% of the gross annual salary, flexible work arrangements and 42 days of holiday leave (fulltime position).

You may expect attractive secondary employment conditions. We offer generous relocation expenses for employees coming from abroad and support with finding accommodation.

Royal NIOZ COS is located on the beautiful island of Texel in the World Heritage Wadden Sea. Texel offers sun, wind and beach, and a diverse but moderate level of facilities, including a thriving tourist industry, shops, sports facilities, primary schools and a high school. It is connected to the main land by an hourly to half-hourly ferry service, with 20 minutes crossings to Den Helder, from where trains run towards Alkmaar and Amsterdam. The Royal NIOZ is situated next to the ferry terminal.


Please apply online at

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Johan van der Molen or Prof. dr. Karline Soetaert.
For additional information about the procedure, please contact Sigrid Moerbeek (sr. HRM advisor).

Please visit the Department of Coastal Systems here.

Closing date for applications: 26th September 2022. Interviews are foreseen for the first half of October and will include a visit to NIOZ-COS.


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