PhD scholarship in Environmental effects of maritime activities - DTU Aqua

Updated: 3 months ago

A 3-year PhD fellowship in environmental effects of maritime activities is offered by the National Institute for Aquatic Resources (DTU Aqua) at the Technical University of Denmark.

The Phd project focuses on the effects of multiple shipping-induced stressors on the marine planktonic food webs in the Baltic and North Seas as well as in the Arctic, with a focus on chemical discharges. Chemical discharges from shipping are much less regulated than e.g., emissions on land, despite the many cruise liners, cargo and passenger ships, ferries and leisure boats that populate Danish and Greenlandic coastal waters and harbors. The discharges from these vessels through, e.g., scrubber water, bilge water or grey sewage water as well as potential accidental spills of e.g., new types of fuels, release a complex mixture of metals, oil and PAHs, nutrients and emerging contaminants to the marine environment, with largely unknown effects. The lacking knowledge on the cumulative effects of these contaminants on marine environment is hampering the advances in risk assessments and environmental management of maritime activities.

The aim of this PhD is to create a mechanistic understanding of the cumulative stressor effects, organismal tolerances and the role of environmental factors, which are needed to assess the environmental risks of shipping under global change. The project may focus on the potential effects of spills and operational discharges of new types of fuels (such as ammonium and methanol), emerging contaminants (such as lubricants) or different types of sewage water discharges, although also other types of chemical stressors can be considered. Since the ecosystem effects of contaminants are likely to vary considerably depending on the environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, productivity, salinity or pH) and the tolerances of species, considering the traits of the species and properties of the receiving ecosystem are an important aspect of the project.

The PhD project is a collaboration between DTU and Chalmers University of Technology (Department of Mechanics and Maritime Sciences), and the candidate is expected to collaborate closely with a PhD candidate from Chalmers and conduct an external research stay there. The observational work is the main task of the DTU PhD student, with the aim of feeding into the cumulative risk assessment and management / policy interface that is the main task of the Chalmers PhD student. In addition, the project is closely connected to a large national project investigating the environmental effects of CO2 neutral fuels.   

The results of the project will contribute to sustainable management of maritime activities, to the goals of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, to UN Sustainable Development Goals related to Life Below Water (SDG14) and to international assessments by e.g., ICES (International Council for Exploration of Sea) and IPBES (Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).

Responsibilities and qualifications
You are expected to perform laboratory and mesocosm experiments investigating the tolerances or species and communities under different environmental scenarios, as well as to contribute to the development of (e.g., trait-based) models synthesizing the findings. You will mainly be responsible for the experimental work in the laboratory as well as be the main driver of the mesocosm experiments, whereas the main part of the modelling work will be conducted in collaboration with others, e.g., with the students in the Ocean Life, the Centre of Excellency in DTU Aqua that focuses on trait-based approaches. 

You should have an ecological or eco-toxicological background from biology or environmental engineering, with strong interest in the effects of anthropogenic stressors in general, and shipping in particular, on marine ecosystems.  

Several or all of the following skills are required:

  • Background knowledge and experience in some or all of the following: Marine ecology; planktonic food webs; maritime environment and/or technology; eco-toxicology; Arctic, North Atlantic, Baltic or North Sea 
  • Experience in experimental plankton ecology or eco-toxicology using marine organisms, and basic understanding of (any type of) modelling
  • Flexibility concerning research stays abroad (a foreign stay of 6 months is mandatory)  
  • Good communication skills in English and Danish, both written and orally
  • Ability to conduct research independently and problem-solving skills
  • Good collaborative skills and strong interest in participating in an inter-disciplinary and international research environment

You must have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see DTU's rules for the PhD education . 

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms 
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. 

The period of employment is 3 years. The position is a full-time position with a suggested starting date of 1.2.2024 (according to mutual agreement).

You can read more about career paths at DTU here .

Further information 
Further information may be obtained from Prof. Marja Koski ( ).

You can read more about DTU Aqua and Section of Ocean and Arctic at  .

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark . Furthermore, you have the option of joining our monthly free seminar “PhD relocation to Denmark and startup “Zoom” seminar ” for all questions regarding the practical matters of moving to Denmark and working as a PhD at DTU.

Application procedure 
Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 15 November 2023 (23:59 Danish time).

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae 
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma (in English) including official description of grading scale
  • A draft project description: 2 or 3 pages with a concise proposal on the research idea that the candidate would like to explore, including relevance and motivation, the theoretical framework and the results expected

You may apply prior to ob­tai­ning your master's degree but cannot begin before having received it. 

Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

The Section for Oceans and Arctic covers a wide research spectrum from oceanography, population ecology, observation technology and the Arctic. The research into oceanography integrates biological, physical and chemical parameters’ interactions in the ocean, ranging from individual plankton to regional seas. We focus on understanding the key processes that govern the structure and function of pelagic food webs, as well as climate and ecosystem interactions. The research in population ecology establishes how processes affecting individuals shape populations and ecosystems.

About DTU Aqua
DTU Aqua – National Institute of Aquatic Resources – works for well-functioning oceans, rivers, and lakes where biodiversity can thrive. Our research, advisory service, and education contribute to the development of a sustainable blue bioeconomy, robust aquatic ecosystems, and reduced effects of climate change. We have a large national and international network and cooperate with research partners, public authorities, industry, and NGOs. We have state-of-the-art research facilities and Denmark’s largest research vessel. The Institute has 350 employees, of whom one-third are scientific staff. More than 30 nationalities are represented at the Institute, and we support an equal gender distribution. We are located in Lyngby, Hirtshals, Nykøbing Mors, and Silkeborg and have regular activities in Greenland. Learn more on 

Technology for people
DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear mission to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That mission lives on today. DTU has 13,500 students and 6,000 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. DTU has campuses in all parts of Denmark and in Greenland, and we collaborate with the best universities around the world.

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