PhD position in Mass-extinction Research at Utrecht University-Netherlands


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The Department of Earth Sciences currently seeks a highly-motivated, high-potential applicant for a PhD position to work within the research project “Deadly LIPs: Volcanogenic phytotoxic pollution during the end-Triassic extinction” funded by NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research).

The end-Triassic mass-extinction (201 Ma), one of the big five mass-extinctions, is now commonly linked to the release into the atmosphere of large quantities of greenhouse gases as well as toxic pollutants from massive volcanism in the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province. Whereas the ultimate causes of the extinction are agreed upon, the proximate effects – how did organisms go extinct? – of this massive volcanism are extremely difficult to establish. In this project we will use the occurrence of elevated amounts of the element mercury (Hg) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), combined with records of mutagenic pollen and spores that occur in boundary beds in cores from Denmark, Poland, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands to study to effects of genotoxic pollutants in the extinction event. Plants act as sensitive recorders of atmospheric and soil pollution, and dispersal of mutagenic pollen and spores allows to understand the effects of flood basalt volcanism on different spatial (regional vs global) and temporal (different pulses) scales.

The PhD candidate will document the extent of mutagenesis prior to, during, and following the end-Triassic extinction event using available core material from Germany, Poland and Denmark, as well as fresh core material from the UK through an ICDP-funded drilling project. The PhD candidate will be actively involved in the drilling operation and post-drilling sample acquisition. In addition to extensive microscope work, samples will also be investigated with organic and inorganic geochemical techniques. Fieldwork in New Zealand aims to determine the global reach of CAMP volcanism. In addition, sampling of mercury polluted sites is foreseen to examine mutagenesis in living ferns as a means to groundtruth deep time records.

The project leader and daily supervisor will be Dr. Bas van de Schootbrugge, and close collaboration in this project will be with Prof. Appy Sluijs, Dr. Francien Peterse, and Dr. Klaas Nierop. During the project, the PhD candidate will also collaborate with TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Research. The project will involve active collaborations with specialists from numerous international institutions, including stratigraphers, inorganic geochemists, terrestrial palynologists, and plant biologists.

Up to 10% of the candidate’s time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Earth Sciences Department. A personalised training programme will be set up, mutually agreed on recruitment, which will reflect the candidate’s training needs and career objectives.

Qualifications
We seek a highly motivated graduate student holding an MSc degree (at the start of the contract) with an appropriate background in Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and/or Biology, with a passion for microscope and laboratory work, and an interest in challenging fieldwork. Prior experience with palynological analyses is desirable but not required, while a solid understanding of deep time processes is.

Important accessory qualifications are positive social/verbal/communication skills, determination, willingness to travel abroad, eagerness to develop multidisciplinary skills, and ability to share and explain your results to other research disciplines. Applicants should have excellent written and spoken English skills.

Offer
The successful candidate will be offered a full-time position at first for one year. Depending on a good performance this may be extended to a total period of four years, with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. Employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. The gross monthly salary starts with €2,325 in the first year and increases to €2,972 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities).

We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). Facilities for sports and child care are available on our main campus which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of Utrecht. More information is available at: working at Utrecht University.

About the organization
A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Geosciences at Utrecht University offers a wide spectrum of education and research applied to the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and anthroposphere. The Faculty is committed to interdisciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration, and plays a key role in the Dutch national research structure. It embodies four departments: Earth Sciences; Physical Geography; Sustainable Development and Human Geography & Spatial Planning.

The Department of Earth Sciences is the largest academic Earth Sciences institute in the Netherlands, and among the larger ones in Europe. We conduct teaching and research across the full range of the Solid Earth and Environmental Earth Sciences, with activities covering most areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeosciences and hydrogeology. The department is an international organisation hosting over 45 tenured scientists and more than 100 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. The Marine Palynology & Paleoceanography group focuses on paleoceanographic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions in the entire Phanerozoic, specifically by looking at organic microfossils, usually in close collaboration with additional disciplines in the department and abroad. The group consists of 4 permanent staff, 2 postdocs, about 8 PhD students and usually 10-15 MSc students. Close collaboration with the organic geochemistry group is on-going, with 1.4 permanent staff, 2 PhD students and 5 MSc students.

Additional information
For additional information please contact project leader Dr. Bas van de Schootbrugge via B.vanderSchootbrugge@uu.nl.

Apply
To apply, please use the button below. The application deadline is March 30, 2019. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter. The intended starting date is August 1, 2019, or as soon as possible thereafter.

The application deadline is
30/03/2019
Apply

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