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PhD position: "Applying novel particle and zooplankton imaging technologies to support the development of sustainable Blue Energy "

  • Yerseke, Zeeland, Netherlands
Estuarine & Delta Systems (EDS)

Job description

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate (4 years) within the Blue Energy project to apply novel imaging technologies for the monitoring of zooplankton to minimize environmental impacts on the Wadden Sea.


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 department of Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS, NIOZ-Yerseke) aims at understanding how the interplay between organisms, hydrodynamics, sediment dynamics and chemistry shapes the estuarine and delta environment in the context of natural and human-induced environmental changes. An important focus of our research is how these abiotic-biotic interactions create value for society, following for example the “Building with Nature” paradigm or investigating sustainable sources of marine biomass for food. We do Frontier Applied science, meaning that we link fundamental understanding to societal usage. In doing so, we aim to actively support managers with insight needed for ecosystem conservation, ecosystem restoration, and enhancing ecosystem services (e.g., creating nature-based flood defence, alternative sources of food, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, etc.) all in the face of global change and accelerating sea level rise.

Blue Energy refers to the generation of energy from the ocean. One specific type of blue energy is electricity that is generated through the mixing of freshwater and saltwater, which may contribute to the transition to a CO2-free economy. RedStack is a company that develops membranes to generate this form of Blue Energy. At its field facility, freshwater from the IJsselmeer (Lake IJssel) and is mixed with saltwater from the Waddenzee (Wadden Sea) to generate electricity. To make this electrical energy truly sustainable, it is important that the impact on the Wadden Sea aquatic fauna such as zooplankton and (fish) larvae is minimized. In this project, funded by the Waddenfonds, we will cooperate with RedStack to develop novel monitoring techniques to document the effectiveness of various measures that have been taken to ensure an environmentally friendly intake of Wadden Sea water.

Zooplankton and (fish) larvae play key roles in the marine ecosystem and it is therefore important to avoid that these organisms enter and get damaged in the RedStack facility. Zooplankton and (fish) larvae monitoring by regular methods is however a time-consuming task and consequently limited knowledge is available on their dynamics in the Wadden Sea. In this project, we will therefore implement novel instruments (e.g. the Plankton Imager, PI-10) to allow for (continuous) imaging and automated classification of living organisms and particles to enhance knowledge on their natural dynamics and to develop automated monitoring within the land-based facility.

This research project on the one hand sits at the interface of marine ecology and computer science and on the one hand, it is both fundamental and frontier-applied in nature. We foresee you will cooperate with the National Marine Facilities at NIOZ to implement the instruments, participate in on-site research at the RedStack facility, prepare and join research cruises at the Wadden Sea and interpret results in the context of process efficiency and food web dynamics. You will also ensure proper storage of large volume of images and develop machine learning techniques, such as classifiers using artificial neural networks, to automatically classify the millions of images that are captured by the imaging instruments. This project should result in several scientific research papers (and a PhD-thesis).

Job requirements

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate that is challenged by this interdisciplinary project. Hence, we look for a candidate with a MSc. degree in marine ecology and expertise in computer science or a MSc. degree in computer science and expertise in marine ecology. The candidate enjoys working with scientific equipment, going on fieldwork, working in the laboratory, but also enjoys data analysis, programming and developing machine learning techniques. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the work, it is important that the candidate is open and communicative to facilitate interactions with other members of the group. Given the expected frequent visits to the RedStack facility at the Afsluitdijk, the candidate needs to have driver’s license. Excellent English oral and writing skills are essential. The candidate will be based at NIOZ in Yerseke and will benefit from a close cooperation with Wageningen Marine Research. Both research groups are currently participating investing heavily in various zooplankton projects, amongst others using innovative methods, so there is ample opportunity for collaboration and interaction.

We want 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 total duration of 4 years.  You start with an appointment for the duration of 1 year, that, after a positive evaluation in the 9th month (Go-No go), will be extended to the full period of 4 years.
  • Salary compliant with scales for PhD candidate (OIOs) CAO-WVOI (Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Research Institutes). 
  • An appointment at NIOZ as a PhD candidate means working and learning simultaneously conform the NIOZ PhD policy.  
  • 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. Yerseke is located on commuting distance from major cities such as Antwerpen, Breda, Bergen op Zoom and Middelburg.


For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Dick van Oevelen. For additional information about the procedure, please send an e-mail to

Closing date for this vacancy is 19 April 2024.