PhD in marine ecology

Updated: 7 days ago
Deadline: 01 Jan 2022

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About the position

In 2015, the 2030 agenda with the 17 sustainability goals was adopted by all UN member states. The sustainability goals see the environment, economy and social development in context. The time horizon for necessary changes is short, and it is challenging to combine different considerations without conflicts of objectives and unintended consequences of measures.
NTNU is now announcing 43 individual PhD positions that will contribute to a greater understanding of system effects, societal changes and conflicts of interest related to the sustainability challenges. These positions are divided into 9 interdisciplinary projects with mainly 4-7 PhD
positions in each project ( ). In this position, the candidate is expected to cooperate with the other PhD students in the project Marine Plastic Pollution: Environmental Impact and life cycle scenarios  (MAPLE).

The appointment has a duration of three years with the possibility of one additional year of compulsory work (a decision of 3 or 4 years is made in connection with the recommendation and offer, after assessment of whether compulsory work is suitable for the relevant candidate). The appointment is financed by NTNU through its call for interdisciplinary research collaboration in sustainability.

MAPLE is an interdisciplinary research project between researchers from the Department of Energy and Process Engineering, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Department of Geography and the Department of Biology and contains four PhD positions.

One of the biggest issues for marine ecosystems is the battle against plastic pollution and its effects. Plastic is a very diverse material and can be found floating on the surface, suspended in water columns but also on the seafloor and has the potential to affect a variety of biological communities in marine ecosystems.

If we want to solve the plastic crisis in the oceans, we need to understand how and where plastic is distributing, what impact microbial communities have on the degree of degradation and sedimentation of plastic particles and what alternative options to minimize the use and mismanagement of plastic exist.



Project description
MAPLE focuses on marine plastic pollution and its environmental impacts in Trondheimsfjord and the outer central coast of Norway. We combine field studies, laboratory studies and computer modelling in an interdisciplinary approach to understand this complex problem.

This PhD project will focus on the characterization of microbial biofilms that establish on plastic debris by taking environmental conditions, plastic type/age, and surface characteristics into account. The PhD student will sample microbial biofilms associated to plastic debris in-situ and perform experimental trials on plastic colonization and degradation in-vitro. Environmental conditions that are likely to alter the development, composition and diversity of plastic-associated biofilms will be manipulated under laboratory conditions and monitored in the field with a focus on seasonality patterns at the case area sites in Trondheimsfjorden and the Froan archipelago. The aim of the PhD project is to characterize microbial biofilms in relation to plastic type/age and to assess their impact on the degree of plastic degradation.Interdisciplinary collaboration within the MAPLE project, the Marine Science group and other groups within the Department of Biology are envisaged.

The Marine Science group at the Department of Biology uses interdisciplinary approaches at the interface between marine biology, aquaculture and marine technology and contributes to research and higher education within NTNUs Strategic Focus Area "Marine and Maritime Research".  The activities comprise research fields such as aquaculture, ecology, biodiversity, physiology, systematics, ecotoxicology, and populations dynamics in marine ecosystems with a strong emphasis on national and international collaborative projects.

The position’s supervisor is Assoc. Professor Nicole Aberle-Malzahn, the co-supervisor is Assoc. Professor Chantel Nixon from the Department of Geography.


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