PhD in Marine Ecology

Updated: 4 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 21 Jan 2022

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.

Duties of the position

  • Characterization of microbial biofilms (community structure, composition, and diversity) on plastic debris in relation to plastic type, age, and surface structure
  • Analyze seasonal succession patterns of plastic-associated microorganisms in relation to environmental conditions
  • Assess the degree of plastic degradation in relation to microbial biofilm composition and environmental conditions
  • Provide degradation rates of plastic debris under different environmental conditions for use in life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Collaborate with the other PhD candidates within MAPLE
  • Dissemination of results in scholarly journals and at international conferences

Required selection criteria

  • MSc degree (or equivalent) in Aquatic Sciences or Microbiology (or related fields). Your education must correspond to a five-year Norwegian degree programme, where 120 credits are obtained at master's level
  • You must have a strong academic background from your previous studies and an average grade from the master's degree program, or equivalent education, which is equal to B or better compared with NTNU's grading scale. If you do not have letter grades from previous studies, you must have an equally good academic basis. If you have a weaker grade background, you may be assessed if you can document that you are particularly suitable for a PhD education.
  • You must meet the requirements for admission to the PhD program at the Department of Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences ( )
  • Proven analytical and computational capabilities (e.g. using R, Matlab)
  • Proven written and oral English communication skills
  • Practical experience in working with microbial communities
  • Enjoy interdisciplinary research and take keen interest in learning and working in teams
  • Experience in designing and performing experimental trials in-situ and/or in-vivo
  • Enjoy interdisciplinary research and take keen interest in learning and working in teams

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants  and Regulations concerning the degrees of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) and Philosodophiae Doctor (PhD) in artistic research national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant  

Preferred selection criteria

  • Experience in microscopic techniques (e.g. light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy) are of advantage
  • Experience in working with plastic debris (e.g. micro- and/or macroplastic)
  • Experience in biofilm characterization

Personal characteristics

  • The successful candidate should be creative, with a strong ability to work towards positive solutions
  • Self-motivated, enthusiastic, and dedicated
  • Motivated to solve environmental problems and advance sustainability
  • Ambitious and goal-oriented
  • Team player
  • Excellent communication skills

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 491 200 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 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).

Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme in biology, within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution daily.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline. You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. 

The application must include: 

  • CV, certificates and diplomas
  • transcripts and diplomas for bachelor's and master's degrees. If you have not completed the master's degree, you must submit a confirmation that the master's thesis has been submitted.
  • A copy of the master's thesis. If you recently have submitted your master's thesis, you can attach a draft of the thesis. Documentation of a completed master's degree must be presented before taking up the position.
  • A motivation letter (1-2 pages), describing the relevance of your disciplinary background, your interest in the project, and how you would approach the given topic.
  • Name and address of three referees
  • If you have publications or other relevant research work

If all, or parts, of your education has been taken abroad, we also ask you to attach documentation of the scope and quality of your entire education, both bachelor's and master's education, in addition to other higher education. Description of the documentation required can be found here . If you already have a statement from NOKUT, please attach this as well.

Joint works will be considered. If it is difficult to identify your contribution to joint works, you must attach a brief description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal and interpersonal qualities. Motivation, ambitions, and potential will also count in the assessment of the candidates. 

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 

The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

In accordance with The Public Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Nicole Aberle Malzahn , email . If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact Liv-Mari Granum (HR), e-mail:

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. Chinese applicants are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from China Credentials Verification (CHSI) .

Application deadline: 21.01.2022

NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of Biology 

We work with global challenges in natural diversity, climate, the environment, health and nutrition. Our expertise in biological processes at all levels – from molecules to ecosystems – contributes to a sustainable society. The Department educate graduates for a wide range of careers in public administration, business and academia. The Department of Biology  is one of eight departments in the Faculty of Natural Sciences .

Deadline 21st January 2022
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Temporary
Place of service

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