PhD candidate in theoretical ecology

Faculty of Science – Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Publication date
1 April 2018
Level of education
Master's degree
Salary indication
€2,222 to €2,840 gross per month
Closing date
15 May 2018
38 hours per week
Vacancy number

The Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) is one of eight research institutes within the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam. Our scientific work aims at a better understanding of the dynamics of ecosystems at all relevant levels, from genes to ecosystems, using a truly multi-disciplinary approach, and based on both experimental and theoretical research. Scientific focus is on aquatic (both freshwater and marine) and terrestrial ecosystems, evolutionary and population biology, ecosystem and landscape dynamics, and theoretical and computational ecology. We want to unravel how ecosystems function in all their complexity, and how they change due to natural processes and human activities.

Project description

The PhD position is part of a research program 'Paradigm for New Dynamic Ocean Resource Assessments and exploitation' (PANDORA), which is funded by the European Union under its Horizon 2020 program. The aim of the PhD project is to explore the potential consequences of density dependent individual growth for current management of marine fish stocks and develop strategies for adaptation of management to take these effects into account. The objective is to deliver concrete recommendations for when and how management of recovered and recovering fish stocks should take into account density dependent individual growth. Furthermore, the consequences of density-dependent growth under increasingly size-selective fishery will be investigated, which is the objective of the landing obligation. The objective of this last study is to explore if and when the landing obligation potentially reduces the productivity of the fishery, for which there are indications from modelling work.

These questions will be addressed focusing on two target fish stocks for which recent stock recovery has coincided with reduced individual growth, North-east Atlantic Mackerel (Scomber Scombrus; Teunis & Burns, 2015) and North Sea plaice (Pleuronectes platessa; T. van Kooten, unpublished). These fish are economically important stocks, but for very different fisheries. Plaice in the North Sea is a prime target species of various bottom trawling fleets, while mackerel is an important target for large pelagic trawlers. Furthermore, these fish are ecologically very different. Mackerel is a widely distributed schooling pelagic zooplankton- and fish-eater, while plaice is a non-schooling, demersal benthivorous flatfish with a strong attachment to shallow sandy seafloors.

The dynamics of these stocks will be analyzed using physiologically structured population models (PSPMs) of these species. The core of such PSPMs is a model of individual feeding, growth and mortality given the state (e.g. size, age) of the individual and the environment (e.g. food availability, temperature). In such models, the population dynamics emerge by keeping track of the change in the distribution of states of individuals over time. Because the models are individual-based, density-dependent growth reduction occurs naturally, as low food abundance primarily affects food intake of individuals, and density-dependent mortality occurs only as a secondary effect, when food shortage leads to starvation of individuals. Model predictions will be confronted with experimental and empirical data from the literature or available through collaborations with other research groups.

This project is a collaboration between the IBED and Wageningen Marine Research (WMR). We expect the successful candidate to share working time between IBED (Amsterdam) and WMR (IJmuiden).


You should have:

  • a Master’s degree in theoretical ecology, theoretical biology, or population biology with strong quantitative skills and experience in population dynamic modeling;
  • interest in developing new theory in population biology;
  • good computer skills;
  • willingness to work in a multidisciplinary environment;
  • experience with bifurcation analysis and adaptive dynamics will be considered an advantage.

Further information

Interested? For more information on this position please contact:


We offer a position for 38 hours a week in an exciting, dynamic and international research environment, starting 1 July 2018. The full-time appointment will be on a temporary basis for a maximum period of four years (18 months plus a further 30 months after a positive evaluation) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). An educational plan will be drafted that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. You are also expected to assist in teaching of undergraduates. The full-time gross monthly salary varies between € 2,222 (first year) and € 2,840 (fourth year) gross per month (salary scale P). The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable. The annual salary will be increased by 8 % holiday allowance and 8.3 % end-of-year bonus.

Job application

The University of Amsterdam is striving for a better balance in its staff whereby, by equal suitability, the appointment of a female candidate will have our preference. Women are, therefore, strongly encouraged to apply.

Your application should include the following documents:

  • a motivation letter, also including a description of research interests;
  • a CV, also including a description of educational experience;
  • a list of publications (if appropriate);
  • the names and contact addresses of two academic references from which information about you can be obtained.

Please combine these materials into a single PDF file.

You should send your application ultimately at 15 May 2018 to

Please add vacancy number 18-161 in the subject field. #LI-DNP

No agencies please

Published by  University of Amsterdam