PhD Position in Marine Palynology & Palaeoceanography (1.0 FTE)

Hours per week: 
36 to 40
Faculty of Geosciences
GEO / Dept AW
Application deadline: 

Job description

The Utrecht Department of Earth Sciences, group ‘Marine Palynology and Paleoceanography’, is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with a MSc background in Earth Sciences, Environmental sciences, Biology or other appropriate fields. You will work on the project “Past decadal to millennial-scale variability in nutrient and carbon cycling at the North Sea - Atlantic Ocean frontier”. In this 4-year position, you will reconstruct trends and drivers of natural and anthropogenic‐mediated variability in nutrients, primary productivity and carbon burial on timescales from years to millennia in the Norwegian Trench. 

The project is highly multidisciplinary and collaborative. The main goal is to determine the drivers of variability in nutrients, primary productivity and carbon fluxes in the Norwegian Trench/North Atlantic systems from recent times back into the past, beyond the observational record. You are expected to generate multiple records of organic-walled dinoflagellate cyst assemblages, pollen and spores from sediments, which will be cored from the Norwegian Trench. In addition, the project will involve the generation of inorganic (XRF) and organic geochemical biomarker records from the same sedimentary records, which will complement the reconstruction of ecosystem, environment and climate variability.  A personalised training programme will be set up, mutually agreed on recruitment, which will reflect the candidate’s training needs and career objectives. As part of this training, up to 10% of your time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Earth Sciences department. 

The position is part of a larger interdisciplinary programme, The North Sea-Atlantic Exchange (NoSE, funded by the Dutch National Science Foundation NWO to the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), Utrecht University, the University of Groningen and the Technical University of Delft. The programme involves 6 PhDs and 3 postdocs, who will all work closely together on past, present, and future carbon/nutrient cycling at the North Sea – Atlantic Ocean frontier. This particular PhD position will be at Utrecht University, in close collaboration with the NIOZ. Part of the research will hence be carried out at NIOZ. Applications for this position should follow the procedure below. 

The North Sea-Atlantic Exchange (NoSE) project
The North Sea is a highly productive and heavily exploited continental shelf sea that absorbs significant quantities of atmospheric CO2. But the fate of absorbed CO2 is highly uncertain, in particular the balance between outflow into the Atlantic Ocean and burial in sediments, so we cannot accurately project how this may change in the future. In the NoSE project, a multidisciplinary consortium of researchers will determine the past, present and future role of the North Sea within the wider biogeochemical system of the Atlantic Ocean. Focusing on the Norwegian Trench, which is both the main outflow route to the Atlantic Ocean and the main place where sediments accumulate within the North Sea, we will investigate the transport and conversion processes that regulate carbon and nutrient exchange between the land, shelf sea and open ocean through a combination of oceanographic research expeditions and computer modelling. By linking these results to the palaeo record from seafloor sediments, NoSE will reveal new insights into how the cycling of carbon and nutrients in the North Sea and their exchange with the Atlantic Ocean have varied over the past thousands of years and how they may continue to evolve in the future.


You must have completed a MSc degree in Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Biology or a related discipline.
Preferably, you will also have:

  • experience or strong interest in paleoclimate/paleoceanography;
  • experience in palynology/micropaleontology is highly appreciated;
  • experience in working in a laboratorium or willingness to learn;
  • experience in (in)organic geochemistry is a pro;
  • a love for fieldwork and teamwork, willingness to travel (also abroad);
  • commitment to overcome the challenges presented by sea-going research;
  • capability to independently plan and organize your work, with interest in taking a leading role in its direction;
  • social/verbal/communication skills.

Due to the international character of our research, good command of spoken and written English is essential. We highly encourage applicants from all members of our community and of diverse background, including the LGBTQI+ community, to join us.


You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. 

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid Earth and environmental Earth sciences, with activities in almost all areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeology and hydrogeology. The department hosts a highly international tenured staff of over 50 scientists and more than 110 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. Our research programme spans four intertwined themes: Climate & Life, Earth interior, Earth materials, and Environmental Earth Sciences. We house or have access to a wide variety of world-class laboratories.

The Marine Palynology & Paleoceanography group in the department focuses on paleoceanographic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions in the entire Phanerozoic, specifically by looking at organic microfossils, usually in close collaboration with additional disciplines in the department and abroad. There is a close link between this project and the paleoclimate research within the virtual Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (NESSC), which focuses on tipping points within the climate system.

About Utrecht
Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of nearly 360,000 and forms a hub in the middle of the country. Its ancient city centre and its modern central station can easily be reached from the Utrecht Science Park by public transport or by a 15 minute bicycle ride. Utrecht boasts beautiful canals with extraordinary wharf cellars housing cafés and terraces by the water, as well as a broad variety of shops and boutiques.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr Francesca Sangiorgi (Associate professor), via or
Dr Rick Hennekam, via


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the 'apply' button.

Closing date for applications: 17 October 2022. We aim to invite suitable candidates for an interview at the beginning of November.

The application deadline is 17 October 2022.