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Postdoc-position: "Unravelling the environmental sources and biosynthesis of microbial lipid biomarkers"

  • 't Horntje, Texel, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Marine Microbiology & Biogeochemistry (MMB)

Job description

The Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry is looking for a highly motivated postdoctoral researcher with expertise in molecular microbiology and a strong interest in organic geochemistry and microbial ecology. This position is part of a larger project designed to understand the bacteria responsible for bacteriohopanepolyol lipids involved in temperature and pH proxies. The project is part of the Vidi Talent Programme scheme funded by NWO and awarded to Dr Darci Rush. The position is offered for a period of 36 months.


NWO-NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research is the Dutch national oceanographic institute and principally performs academically excellent multidisciplinary, fundamental, and frontier applied marine research addressing important scientific and societal questions pertinent to the functioning of the ocean and seas. NIOZ includes the National Marine research Facilities (NMF) department that operates a fleet of research vessels and the national pool of large seagoing equipment, and supports excellence in multidisciplinary marine research, education, and policy development.


The research of the Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry (MMB) has a long history of studying all domains of microbial life (bacterial, archaeal, and eukaryotic), their interactions, and their role in biogeochemical cycling in a variety of marine environments, varying from coastal environments to the deep ocean and sediments. The department is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories, bioinformatics resources and analytical equipment, and has an excellent level of technical support.


Climate models are tested using reconstructed past climate changes. However, accurate quantification of past climate is difficult, particularly for past temperatures on land. Some of the more promising proxies to reconstruct past climate are based on biomarker lipids. This project focuses on a specific class of lipids found in soil, nucleoside-bacteriohopanepolyols (Nu-BHPs). Nu-BHPs are structurally related, with sequential modifications (e.g. methylation, deamination) to their nucleoside head group. Nu-BHPs have a large structural diversity and are synthesized by unknown bacteria. Recent results have shown that Nu-BHPs can be used to calculate the critical environmental variables of mean annual air temperature (MAT) and soil pH. Our initial study found that the BHP indices defined for MAT and pH correlate better with their variables than more widely used organic proxies (i.e. branched GDGTs). It is imperative that these Nu-BHP proxies are developed further. As such, this project aims to better understand the biological sources and synthesis of Nu-BHPs in order to apply Nu-BHPs proxies to reconstruct past climate on a global scale. This project uses a combined molecular biology, microbiology, and organic geochemical approach.


This postdoctoral position is based at NIOZ (Texel) and is due to start on November 1st, 2024. The aim of this postdoc is to constrain the sources and the biosynthetic controls on Nu-BHP production. Using microcosms and lab experiments, you will investigate the conditions under which Nu-BHPs are synthesized by soil and marine bacteria. Furthermore, you will perform experiments on the few known bacterial isolates that contain Nu-BHPs in their membranes to determine the environmental factors influence Nu-BHP synthesis as well as to identify candidate genes responsible for Nu-BHP structural modifications. You will also use metagenomic data from environments with high abundance of Nu-BHPs to constrain the potential environmental sources of specific Nu-BHPs.

The MMB department is equipped with state-of-the-art microbiology and molecular ecology laboratories, cutting-edge analytical equipment, and bioinformatics resources and has an excellent level of technical support. You will work within a project team including several scientists working at NIOZ and Utrecht University and whose expertise range from microbiology to geochemistry, ecology, and cutting-edge analytical instrumentation. The selected candidate will also work with a PhD student whose project focuses developing Nu-BHP proxies.

Job requirements


You must have completed a PhD degree in microbiology, microbial ecology or organic geochemistry with knowledge in molecular microbiology or environmental genomics. This position is more suitable for someone with some postdoc experience (no more than 3 years). Furthermore, you meet at least several of the following criteria:

  • A passion for microorganisms targeted towards understanding their lipid membrane and ecological roles.
  • Experience in the isolation of (novel) microorganisms using e.g., targeted or high-throughput cultivation approaches.
  • Experience in designing and conducting sediment microcosm experiments and a familiarity with the molecular ecology toolbox.
  • Bioinformatic skills and experience in comparative genomics and metagenomics.
  • An interest in marine and/or soil ecosystems.
  • A love for multi-disciplinary work, problem-solving, and teamwork.

NIOZ wants to be a transparent institute with a healthy working climate and an inclusive culture, where people from diverse backgrounds and gender bring their talents and further develop these talents. We aim for inclusive decision-making processes and expect our leadership to show visible commitment, awareness of bias, and cultural intelligence.


  • Employment of this full-time position at Royal NIOZ is by NWO-I for a duration of 36 months.
  • Salary compliant with CAO-WVOI  (Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Research Institutes) scale 10 or 11 depending on relevant experience. 
  • The freedom to fulfill your role and space and opportunities for your personal (talent) development with the help of the NIOZ Academy.
  • 338 annualized holiday hours for a full-time 40-hour work week.
  • Pension scheme via ABP, 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.33%. 
  • 2nd class public transportation travel is reimbursed 100%.
  • Employment benefits plan to exchange a portion of your salary for days off or vice versa, or can be used to purchase a bicycle with tax benefits.
  • We offer relocation expenses for employees coming from abroad and support with finding accommodation. 

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Darci Rush. For additional information about the procedure, please send an e-mail to working@nioz.nl

Closing date for this vacancy is July 31st