Postdoc position “Identity and functioning of microbes degrading plastic in contrasting marine environments for the ERC Project Vortex”

Postdoc position “Identity and functioning of microbes degrading plastic in contrasting marine environments for the ERC Project Vortex”

The department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry (MMB; principal investigator dr. Helge Niemann) is looking for a highly motivated Postdoc with a strong background in analysing microbial diversity and functioning (e.g. DNA/RNA-seq, FISH), ideally in combination with stable isotope probing. Your research will be part of the ERC Project VORTEX.


VACANCY ID:                     2018-001

CLOSING DATE:                APRIL 5TH, 2018


Massive anthropogenic environmental change in our era has put the oceans under high pressure. The ongoing pollution with synthetic plastic debris is of particular concern to safeguarding the marine realm in the future. The ongoing contamination of oceans primarily is caused by so called ‘micro plastics’ (plastic items that are small in size).

Plastic debris impacts marine organisms and ecosystems in multifaceted ways, and plastics are generally considered as inert in the environment. Plastic particles in marine sediments were even suggested to become a new marker horizon for the Anthropocene epoch. Yet, recent research suggests that specialised microbes can utilise at least some plastic types as a carbon source.

To further assess the longevity and fate of plastic litter in the marine realm, we need to test the potential of microbial plastic degradation. At the same time, we must unravel degradation pathways and identify plastic-degrading microbes.

In the ERC project VORTEX (grant holder: dr. Helge Niemann), we will trace plastic-derived carbon into degradation products and microbial biomass across a broad range of environmental conditions. In order to achieve research goals, we will initiate incubation experiments in the environment and under controlled laboratory conditions. Different analytical tools will be applied to meet the project goals, including isotope probing/tracing assays in combination with genetic analyses and microscopy.


Are you a highly driven researcher with a PhD degree in microbial ecology / microbiology? Do you have a keen interest in frontier-based research in an interdisciplinary scientific environment? And do you have experience with molecular tools, ideally in combination with stable isotope probing (DNA/RNA-SIP, FISH-SIMS), to investigate microbial identity and functioning in environmental samples? In that case we would very much like you to apply for this position in our team.

As Postdoc in the VORTEX team you will apply state-of-the-art analytical techniques and research concepts cross scientific boundaries to unravel the fate of plastic in the ocean. You will co-supervise PhD projects and are keen to communicate your results with your peers (journal articles, conferences).

Due to the international character of the ERC Project VORTEX, in the lab and in the field, a very good command of spoken and written English is essential.


Employment of this position at the Royal NIOZ is by NWO-I and is part of an ERC grant awarded to dr. Helge Niemann. We offer a 5-year full time position with an excellent salary, a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus and flexible work arrangements. You may expect very attractive secondary employment conditions. We offer generous relocation expenses for employees coming from abroad and support with finding accommodation.


For additional information about this vacancy, please contact ">dr. Helge Niemann.

For additional information about the procedure, please contact " target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jolanda Evers (senior HR advisor).

Learn more about the department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry here.