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PhD position: “Unravelling population structure and migration ecology to help manage migratory shorebirds in the Wadden Sea”

Texel, Noord-Holland, NetherlandsCoastal Systems (COS)

Job description

The department of Coastal Systems (COS) at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ-Texel) is looking for a highly motivated PhD student with a background in ecology to investigate population dynamics, population structure, habitat use and migration ecology in Bar-tailed Godwits. This PhD position is part of the project “Waakvogels” which aims to better understand the effects of management measures in the Wadden Sea by studying the demographics and movements of six migratory bird species, each being characteristic for a specific habitat.


The Department of COS studies integral coastal ecosystems and their populations of fish, birds, and other marine animals in the North and Wadden Seas as well as on a global scale. The department focusses on key physical, chemical and biological processes that determine the productivity and the ecological functioning of coastal areas. The coastal system is studied as a unity by considering the interrelations between the key compartments of the ecosystem (water, sediment, microalgae, macrozoobenthos, parasites, fish and birds). The welcoming atmosphere at NIOZ will provide ample opportunity for collaborations.


The Wadden Sea UNESCO world heritage site is an immensely important hub for migratory birds that use this area to spend the winter or for fuelling during migration. Several bird populations show declines, likely connected to human-induced global change. The project Waakvogels, administered by BirdEyes-Centre for Global Ecological Change at the University of Groningen (, aims to better understand these changes by studying the demographics and movements of six migratory bird species. The latest technological possibilities in the field of bird tracking (i.e. satellite transmitters, WATLAS trackers), Remote Sensing Earth observations and field measurements are used to document habitat use in connection to the deterioration of ecosystems, intensive agriculture, industry and climate change. Knowledge is also gained about the effect of recovery measures on the bird population.


The PhD candidate will focus on Bar-tailed Godwits, relatively large migratory shorebirds in which females are bigger than males, of which two subspecies utilize the Wadden Sea for fuelling and wintering. A key aim of the project is to better describe and understand contrasting population trends within and between the two subspecies. This requires a thorough understanding of their geographic and sex-related population structure, migration ecology, habitat use and diet composition. Specifically, this should lead to a better understanding on when and where population limitation occurs and how conservation measures can be applied to help their cause. Bar-tailed Godwits have been studied by NIOZ since 2001 by marking individuals in order to study their demography. Since 2016 individual Bar-tailed godwits have been tracked.

Job requirements


Applicants must have a MSc in Ecology or a similar subject area. A background in animal behavior and/or (migration) ecology, experience with handling large data sets, the analysis of animal movement data and survival analysis are a pre. Because the successful candidate will have large amounts of tracking data available, strong statistical, analytical and computational skills are advantageous. Practical experience with field work is critical. The successful candidate is also expected to have good collaborative skills.

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.

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Allert Bijleveld. For additional information about the procedure, please send an e-mail to  

Closing date for this vacancy is March 4th. We aim to invite suitable candidates for an interview on March 15th.