NESSC COFUND

Vacancies – available projects

Currently we have 30 vacancies, the available positions are organized in 5 research themes – please click on a research theme for more information about the positions.. The application deadline for all projects is 19 May 2019. Please use the application links of the individual projects to apply.

If you have any questions regarding a specific project please contact the project supervisors directly. When you have any practical questions please contact the NESSC office.

Research theme: Greenhouse gas sources and sinks (eight available projects)

Increasing greenhouse gas concentration are the cause of climate change and their sinks and sources are not well constrained and changing because of climate change

Title: Effects of extreme winter and summer warming in (sub-)Arctic ecosystems
Project description: Extreme winter and summer warming have a major effect on plant-microbe interactions and microbially driven soil C and N cycling in (sub-)Arctic ecosystems. ESR will use climate warming experiments and field/lab experiments simulating extreme warming events in winter and mid-summer. ESR will determine plant responses and their ‘afterlife’ effects by using 13C labelling of plants to investigate plant-soil C transfer both under a warmer average climate and in response to the occurrence of extreme winter and summer warming.
Supervisors: Aerts (VU-Ecology), Dolman (VU-Earth Sciences)
Host institute: VU (Ecology)
Background/expertise: Good background in Arctic terrestrial ecology and with expertise in biogeochemical analyses and preferably also in microbial ecology.
Apply via: this link

Title: High latitude carbon-fire feedbacks
Project description: Little is known about the carbon fluxes (CO2 and CH4) during and after tundra fires. ESR will visit burned tundra sites to estimate direct carbon losses due to fire and the longer-term impact of fire on the carbon balance of tundra ecosystems, including post-fire degradation and recovery of underlying permafrost. Field measurements will be combined with satellite imagery for up-scaling, and with predictions of future climate and lightning to better understand the vulnerability of high latitude carbon stocks to fire.
Supervisors: van der Werf (VU-Earth Sciences), Dolman (VU-Earth Sciences)
Host institute: VU (Earth Sciences)
Required expertise/background: Master’s degree in Earth Sciences, Ecology or Remote sensing
Apply via: this link

Title: Methane cycling microorganisms in Arctic ecosystems
Project description: Arctic permafrost soils store large amounts of organic matter that is sensitive to temperature increases and subsequent microbial degradation to CH4 and CO2. The linkage between the actual microbes and landscape scale fluxes however is elusive. This project will use a combination of microbial analysis by ESR  studying methanogenic and methanotrophic activity and community composition in selected pan-arctic samples under in situ temperature conditions (4°C) and the IPCC 2013 Arctic climate change scenario (10°C) with and without addition of methanogenic and methanotrophic substrates to stimulate methane cycling activity, and sample and data collecting and interpretive modelling at VU.
Supervisors: Dolman (VU-Earth Sciences), Jetten (RU)
Host institute: VU (Earth Sciences), frequent travel to NESSC institute RU is expected
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in Earth Science or microbiology
Apply via: this link

Title: Methane cycling in coastal sediments
Project description: Anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) prevents release of this potent greenhouse gas from aquatic sediments to the atmosphere. In sediments, AOM may be coupled to manganese oxide reduction. At present, the geochemical pathways and microorganisms involved and their relevance in natural environments are not well-understood. The ESR will study the role of manganese oxides in AOM through field work and laboratory experiments. We will specifically target sediments from manganese- and methane-rich lakes and estuaries.
Supervisors: Slomp (UU-GEO), Jetten (RU)
Host institute: UU-GEO
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in Geosciences, Oceanography, Environmental Sciences or a related field. Experience, or a strong interest in biogeochemistry is desirable.
Apply via: this link

Title: Methane cycling micro-organisms in coastal sediments
Project description: Coastal sediments are vulnerable ecosystems threatened by various kinds of pollution, and harbor a complex microbial community and biogeochemistry that is hardly explored. ESR will study methanotrophic activity and community composition in situ and in the laboratory with and without addition of methanogenic and methanotrophic substrates to stimulate methane cycling activity. Suitable samples will be used for enrichment of new microorganisms. The data will be used as input for new global gene-based models.
Supervisors: Jetten (RU)
Host institute: RU
Required background/expertise: microbiology
Apply via: this link

Title: Interactions in lab scale bioreactors mimicking coastal sediments
Project description: Microorganisms are main drivers of N and C biogeochemical cycles. These elemental cycles are interconnected by the activity of different guilds in sediments or arctic systems. ESR will investigate a nitrate‐reducing microbial community in a laboratory‐scale bioreactor model that closely mimicked estuary or brackish sediment conditions.
Supervisors: Jetten (RU)
Host institute: RU 
Required background/expertise: microbiology
Apply via: this link

Title: Characterization of geological, biological and atmospheric methane
Project description: Characterization of geological, biological and atmospheric CH4. CH4 emitted to the atmosphere from different sources is characterized by differences in isotopic composition. ESR will analyse CH4 from geological, microbial and pyrogenic sources to characterize them isotopically. Also ESR will analyse atmospheric air samples from the present atmosphere, and from the late industrial period  to reconstruct the variation in the clumped isotope signature over that period.
Supervisors: Röckmann (UU-SCIENCE), Slomp (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-SCIENCE
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in chemistry or physics, strong analytical skills, experience with and interest in working with state  of the art analytical equipment, strong mathematical background
Apply via: this link

 Title: Constraining past atmospheric methane concentrations using biomarker lipids of methanotrophs
Project description: CH4 is an important greenhouse gas but its role in past climate change is essentially unknown due to a lack of quantitative CH4 proxies. ESR will validate potential proxies for aerobic CH4 oxidizers by constraining their environmental occurrence and relationship with atmospheric CH4 concentrations. Furthermore, ESR will analyze sedimentary archives from time periods where atmospheric CH4 were thought to be elevated.
Supervisors: Schouten (NIOZ)
Host institute: NIOZ
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in geochemistry, earth sciences
Apply via: this link

Research theme: Land-ocean transfer (three available projects)

IPCC carbon budgets focus on atmosphere-land and atmosphere-ocean exchange and largely ignore land-ocean exchanges. This theme  comprises project to close that gap

Title: Characterizing the role of aquatic systems in Siberian terrestrial carbon fluxes
Project description: The role of aquatic systems in Siberian terrestrial carbon fluxes is largely unknown. ESR will determine importance of ponds, lakes, streams and rivers to total carbon fluxes of the Siberian tundra. This will include biogeochemical measurements to characterize vertical and lateral water movement and transport and transformation of terrestrial carbon by inland water systems.
Supervisors: Vonk (VU-Earth Sciences), Dolman (VU-Earth Sciences)
Host institute: VU (Earth Sciences)
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in Earth Science, Environmental Science or related field, experience or proven interest in biogeochemistry (laboratory) work
Apply via: this link

Title: Fate of terrestrial organic carbon in the Gulf of Mexico
Project description: Mississippi is one of the largest rivers of North-America and discharges on average daily 436k ton sediments to the Gulf of Mexico. ESR will characterise the terrestrial organic carbon associated with sediments along a land-sea transect in the Gulf of Mexico and evaluate its potential as long-term sink of photosynthetically fixed CO2, in relation to past and present nutrient input and its influence on ecosystem functioning.
Supervisors: Peterse (UU-GEO), Sluijs (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-GEO
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in Earth sciences or (Geo)biology, with experience or pronounced interest in organic geochemistry (lipid biomarkers) and palynology (dinoflagellate cysts and pollen).
Apply via: this link

Title: Quantifying carbon transfer in the coastal zone
Project description: Earth System Models resolve carbon transfer within and between the atmosphere, ocean and land reservoirs, but impose a flux of carbon from land to ocean via rivers ignoring coastal zone carbon processing. ESR will develop a new coastal zone model that links mechanistic river biogeochemistry models with an open ocean biogeochemical model.
Supervisors: Middelburg (UU-GEO), Sluijs (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-GEO
Required background/expertise: Earth or environmental sciences, oceanography or biochemistry.
Apply via: this link

Research theme: Ocean carbonate system dynamics (four available projects)


About 25% of the anthropogenic carbon ends up in the ocean, with the consequences that is uptake capacity is declining. This theme aims to further our capabilities to quantify this

Title: Reconstructing ocean alkalinity by inverse modelling
Project description: Understanding how the carbonate chemistry of the oceans has evolved constitutes a central theme of paleoceanographic research. ESR will use various type of sediment data to reconstruct ocean alkalinity, carbonate saturation state and pH using inverse modelling.
Supervisors: Middelburg (UU-GEO), Sluijs (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-GEO
Required background/expertise: Earth Sciences
Apply via: this link

Title: Ocean carbonate system parameters from foraminifernal trace element incorporation
Project description: To accurately estimate past pCO2, two parameters of the marine inorganic carbon system need to be reconstructed independently, which are closely coupled under natural conditions. ESR will unravel the impact of ocean carbonate system parameters on trace element incorporation in both benthic and planktonic foraminifera under controlled laboratory conditions. A transect characterized by a large natural gradient in inorganic carbonate speciation will be used as verification.
Supervisors: Reichart (NIOZ)
Host institute: NIOZ
Required background/expertise: Paleontology, geochemistry
Apply via: this link

Title: Organic and inorganic proxies for past sea water carbonate chemistry
Project description: Sea water carbon speciation reflects atmospheric pCO2 and played a major role in its regulation in the geological past. Proxies for past sea water carbonate chemistry are vital to reconstruct past pCO2 and for understanding past carbon cycling. ESR will cross-validate organic and inorganic geochemical proxies using sediment cores spanning the last few glacial cycles, with relatively well-constrained age control and known past changes in atmospheric pCO2.
Supervisors: Reichart (NIOZ), Schouten (NIOZ)
Host institute: NIOZ
Required background/expertise: Geochemistry, geology
Apply via: this link

Title: Exploring tetraether lipids as proxies for past sea water carbonate chemistry
Project description: For the reconstruction of the past oceanic carbonate system ESR will explore two new organic proxies. The 13C content of crenarchaeol, the biomarker lipid of Thaumarchaeota, has a consistent offset with that of oceanic dissolved inorganic carbon, potentially allowing reconstructing the 13C of dissolved inorganic carbon in sediments where carbonates are poorly preserved. Novel methods to analyse the isotopic composition of crenarchaeol will be implemented, further developed and applied to cultures and core top and down core samples.
Supervisors: Schouten (NIOZ)
Host institute: NIOZ
Required background/expertise: MSc in geochemistry, stable isotopes, earth sciences, analytical chemistry
Apply via: this link

Research theme: Climate dynamics (ten available projects)


Understanding climate dynamics requires integration across temporal scales. This theme aims to link geological and historical record with mechanistic climate dynamic modelling
Title: Climate response in past warm climates
Project description: How does the climate respond to greenhouse gas forcing changes over time throughout key episodes in the Cenozoic? Using Earth System modelling for in particular the warm episodes of the Cenozoic ESR will further quantify state-dependence of climate sensitivity and more generally climate response.
Supervisors: von der Heydt (UU-SCIENCE), Dijkstra (UU-SCIENCE)
Host institute: UU-SCIENCE
Required background/expertise: Climate dynamics (required, MSc in e.g. physics, physical oceanography, meteorology or similar), Climate modelling (strongly desired), Applied Mathematics (desired), interest in palaeoclimate reconstruction.
Apply via: this link

Title: Physics of the Mid-Pleistocene transition in a coupled climate, ice sheet carbon cycle model
Project description: During the Mid-Pleistocene the dynamics of the climate system changed from ice age cycles with a duration of 40 kyr towards cycles of 100 kyr which have a much larger amplitude as well. This happened without a direct change in the external forcing. ESR will study feedbacks between the climate, ice dynamics and the carbon dioxide changes in order to unravel possibly mechanisms which might cause these changes.
Supervisors: van de Wal (UU-SCIENCE), Lourens (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-SCIENCE
Required background/expertise: (geo-) physics
Appky via: this link

Title: Climate and CO2 variability during the Oligocene
Project description: Reconstructions of deep sea conditions and the Antarctic ice sheet suggest that Oligocene climate variability may have been primarily following Milankovitch insolation forcing. ESR will test to what extent the Milankovitch cycles forced atmospheric CO2 and global temperature changes through climate-carbon cycle feedbacks by generating long-term low resolution and short-term high resolution data for selected time intervals for several sites, including low, mid and high latitude locations. Mechanistic understanding will be obtained by box model or EMIC simulations. Biotic response will be assessed using dinoflagellate cyst paleoecology. Sea surface temperatures will be assessed using TEX86 biomarker paleothermometry and, where possible, carbonate-based proxies. Reconstructions of atmospheric CO2 will be carried out using marine organic matter carbon isotope fractionation, using dinoflagellate cysts and potentially marine biomarkers.
Supervisors: Sluijs (UU-GEO), Peterse (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-GEO
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in the earth sciences and/or (geo)biology, and with a strong passion for paleoclimate and paleoceanography. Solid knowledge on the primary drivers governing climate and climate change on geological time scales, integrated stratigraphy, sedimentology and paleoceanography, including paleoenvironmental proxies. Prior knowledge and experience on biomarker geochemistry and dinoflagellate cyst paleontology is helpful but not required. You have some experience in a (geo)chemical laboratory.
Apply via: this link

Title: Constraining Sea Surface Temperatures during past warm climates
Project description: The Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum to Early Eocene Climate Optimum and Miocene Climate Optimum intervals are key to study the physical response of the climate system in analogue to the Representative Concentration Pathways of the IPCC. ESR will generate high-resolution Sea Surface Temperature (SST) records of these intervals. The reconstructed SST will be used for data-modelling comparison and to further constrain the state dependent climate sensitivity.
Supervisors: Lourens (UU-GEO), Sluijs (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-GEO
Required background/expertise: A Master’s degree in Earth Sciences, Marine Sciences, Biology or Environmental Sciences
Apply via: this link

 Title: Carbon processing in the twilight and the sedimentary record
Project description: Paleoceanographers use the sedimentary record to infer carbon inputs from land and carbon fixation in the ocean. ESR will compare suspended, settling and deposited organic matter from the Mediterranean and from transects in the North Atlantic to improve transfer functions for organic carbon.
Supervisors: Sluijs (UU-GEO), Middelburg (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-GEO
Required background/expertise: A Master’s degree in Earth Sciences
Apply via: this link

Title: Exploring proxies for symbiotic N2 fixation
Project description: The marine nitrogen cycle, like the marine carbon cycle, is intrinsically linked to global climate dynamics. Despite this, and despite extensive study of the modern-day N-cycle, a thorough understanding of the paleo-N cycle remains elusive. For the reconstruction of the past oceanic N-cycle, the ESR will utilize organic biomarkers, particularly those associated with nitrogen fixating symbionts. Furthermore, techniques for compound specific δ15N will be developed and employed to evaluate the isotopic signature of symbiotic N fixation.
Supervisors: Schouten (NIOZ)
Host institute: NIOZ
Required background/expertise: Geochemistry, stable isotopes, earth sciences, analytical chemistry
Apply via: this link

Title: Constraining the Cenozoic evolution of sea water hydrogen and oxygen isotopes
Project description: Stable isotopic composition of foraminifera has been paramount in defining climate events over the Cenozoic, but their 18O content does not only reflect changes in temperature but also in 18O content of sea water. ESR will use an alternative method of constraining the evolution of 18Osea water by analysing δD of organic biomarkers derived from photoautotrophs. This proxy may allow an independent view of the isotopic changes of sea water over the Cenozoic.
Supervisors: Schouten (NIOZ)
Host institute: NIOZ
Required background/expertise: Geochemistry, stable isotopes, earth sciences
Apply via: this link

Title: Reconstructing past East Asian Monsoon climate variability 
Project description: Ongoing global warming is expected to influence monsoon systems, as they are driven by land-sea temperature contrasts. The influence of warming on monsoon precipitation can be determined by studying past climatic changes. However, currently available paleorecords only reflect monsoon precipitation intensity. ESR will use lipid biomarkers to generate records of past temperature variability for the East Asian Monsoon area.
Supervisors: Peterse (UU-GEO)
Host institute: UU-GEO
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in earth sciences with experience or pronounced interest in organic geochemistry (lipid biomarkers).
Apply via: this link

 Title: Reconstructing sea surface temperatures in deep time
Project description: Reconstruction of sea surface temperature in deep time is inherently difficult because of extrapolation of present day proxy calibrations. ESR will compare inorganic and organic proxies over multi-million year time scales and examine the impact of paleo-ecology as the organisms producing relevant biomarkers might have shifted their productive season as well as depth in the water column. The genetic evolution of the pathways of the proteins involved in these proxies will be examined. ESR will improve reconstruction of paleo surface and deep-water temperatures in deep time.
Supervisors: Schouten (NIOZ), Reichart (NIOZ)
Host institute: NIOZ
Required background/expertise: Geochemistry, earth sciences, genetics
Apply via: this link

Title: Role of atmospheric dynamics in shaping climate
Project description: Atmospheric dynamics play a major role in shaping our climate (e.g. equator to pole temperature gradients, polar amplification, jet stream dynamics and blocking). Many of the crucial components governing the distribution of heat and moisture (such as tropical/extra-tropical cyclones, monsoons) are not or poorly resolved in currently used, CMIP5-like models. This project will therefore focus on resolving these processes and studying their role in key episodes with high and low CO2 concentrations in the past, present and future. High resolution earth system modelling using the Community Earth System Model (CESM) will be central to the project, to make a big step forward in our fundamental understanding of the climate system.
Supervisors: von der Heydt (UU-SCIENCE), Dijkstra (UU-SCIENCE)
Host institute: UU (SCIENCE)
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in (geo)physics, meteorology, oceanograohy or comparable. Experienced in and/or affinity with programming and numerical model development.
Apply via: this link

Research theme: Tipping points and early warning (five available projects)

Small and gradual changes in forcing can cause abrupt changes. This theme aims to identify, predict and understand tipping points

Title: Coupling of Tipping Elements in Networks of the Earth System
Project description: Large integrated climate models with a full coupling of ocean and atmospheric circulation mechanisms and ecosystem dynamics are notoriously difficult to formulate and parametrize. ESR will develop simplified network models, in order to get a deep understanding of potential dynamics resulting from the coupling of tipping elements, such as cascades, oscillations, and chaotic behavior. ESR will build and analyze both simple and complex models, and link the observed dynamics to modern and paleo climate data.
Supervisors: Scheffer (WUR), Dijkstra (UU-SCIENCE)
Host institute: WUR
Requirements: Demonstrated skills in building and analyzing models of dynamical systems and analyzing complex data sets. Basic knowledge of the functioning of the Earth system is an asset.
Apply via: this link

Title: Tropical Blue Carbon Cascades.
Project description: Connected blue carbon ecosystems
Ecosystems in the tropical coastal zone are highly connected as they exchange organic matter, and incorporate a flux of carbon running from land to oceans via rivers. In the Caribbean a reverse flux from ocean to land via a sudden increase in macroalgae blooms been ignored so far in earth system models. ESR will develop a new model to link and analyse the influx and exchange in organic matter sources of different blue carbon ecosystems using contemporary and historic sediment data, and remote sensing time series of OM.
Supervisors: Scheffer (WUR), Middelburg (UU-GEO)
Host institute: WUR
Requirements: Strong interest in (marine) ecology, with the ability to combine and integrate empirical (e.g. surveys and remote sensing data) and theoretical (e.g. concept development and computer models) work. You must have a Master’s degree degree in ecology, geoscience, earth science, or a related field.
Apply via: this link

Title: Detecting Tipping Points in the Earth System from Climate Reconstructions
Project description: New high-resolution reconstructions of the past dynamics of climate elements will be analyzed with novel mathematical techniques analyze if, where and when critical transitions related to intrinsic instabilities have happened in the Earth’s climate system.
Supervisors: Scheffer (WUR), Sluijs (UU-GEO)
Host institute: WUR, frequent travel to NESSC institute UU-GEO is expected 
Requirements: Understanding of dynamical systems theory and demonstrated skills in analyzing complex data sets. Knowledge of the functioning of the Earth system and an interest in working in multidisciplinary teams are important assets.
Apply via: this link

Title: Firn saturation as a tipping point for ice sheet melt
Project description: Firn saturation leads to ice shelf hydrofracturing, while in Greenland, firn saturation leads to unmitigated runoff of meltwater. Both processes are regarded as tipping points in the melting rate of the great ice sheets. The successful candidate will explore transient development of ice sheet/shelf firn layer buffer capacity for meltwater retention for various warming scenarios and use various models to cover both types of uncertainty in future climates and firn models.
Supervisors: van den Broeke (UU-SCIENCE)
Host institute: UU-SCIENCE
Required background/expertise: Master’s degree in (geo)physics, meteorology, hydrology or comparable. Experienced in and/or affinity with programming and numerical model development.
Apply via: this link

Title: Carbon Cycle Feedbacks and Climate Tipping Behaviour
Project description: There are many indications that carbon cycle feedbacks have played a dominant role in past climate transitions. The ESR will investigate whether carbon cycle feedbacks can introduce new tipping behaviour in the climate system and how these feedbacks interact with already known tipping behaviour. Focus will be on deep time climate changes, the Pleistocene Ice Ages and future climate change.
Supervisors: Dijkstra (UU-SCIENCE), von der Heydt (UU-SCIENCE)
Host institute: UU-SCIENCE
Required background/expertise: Climate Dynamics (required), Climate Modeling (desired), Applied Mathematics (desired)
Apply via: this link

None of the available projects have any potential ethical aspects associated with them. The obligatory secondments (internships) for each project, that can take place either in- or outside the Netherlands, could involve visits outside the EU, so called third countries. The project leaders will ensure that those research activities do not raise any ethical concerns and that the ethical standard and guidelines of Horizon2020 will be applied, regardless of the country in which the research is carried out. Possible research activities in third countries are low-risk. NESSC research does not involve any activities that are forbidden in any of the EU countries, nor does it make use of local resources, such as plant or animal materials, genetic materials, materials of historical value or traditional knowledge. Research in third countries will not put any of the researchers involved at risk. Supervisors will ensure that proper insurances are in place for travel by any project member.