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PhD position in climate-vegetation modelling and Arctic migratory bird behaviour (220306)

Job description

The Arctic climate is changing faster than other parts of the world owing mainly to regional feedbacks, which may modulate the local-scale response relevant for birds. Within this project, we will identify, quantify and study the mechanisms behind changes in regional climate variability (including migration routes) relevant for (future) bird behaviour (migration routing, breeding sites, range changes, food availability). We will do so on the basis of the most recent and accurate state-of-the-art global climate models (e.g. Climate Model Intercomparison Project phase 6, CMIP6). Where needed, these global models will be downscaled to the required regions/sites. We will additionally address how climate change alters the dynamics of food availability for Arctic migratory geese and shorebirds.

Within this project, the PhD candidate will a) identify and quantify mechanisms behind future changes in Arctic climate variability and extremes for bird-relevant climate variables such as temperature, precipitation, and snow cover, at Arctic breeding grounds and along migration routes, from a multi-model collection of model simulations (CMIP6, period 1980-2100, historical and scenario runs); b) perform statistical and/or dynamical downscaling of climate model data for specific time periods (current, near-future, far-future) required to assess bird behaviour down to local/daily scales; c) perform dedicated climate simulations with the state-of-the-art global climate model EC-Earth to elucidate Arctic climate changes, including variability and extremes; d) examine historical and future migration corridors based on optimal weather conditions for bird migration; e) simulate the future dynamics of food availability for birds in Eurasian Arctic locations under contrasting climate change scenarios. To achieve these goals, we will employ a range of climate models and analyses techniques, as well as an existing Arctic tundra vegetation model.

This multidisciplinary project is part of a larger National Polar Programme project called "Vulnerability of Arctic Migratory Birds to Rapid Climate Change" and will as such bring together specialists in climate change, vegetation modelling and bird behaviour from various Dutch institutes and universities (RUG/ESRIG/OE, RUG/Arctic Centre, KNMI, WUR, UvA, NIOZ, NIOO, RU). The PhD candidate will collaborate within this team. The PhD candidate will be stationed primarily at RUG/ESRIG, but is expected to work on average 1 day per week at the Royal Netherland Meteorological Institute, KNMI (De Bilt), and at the WUR (Wageningen).

At RUG/ESRIG, you will further receive excellent training through innovative research projects, advanced courses and training opportunities, complemented by workshops on generic research, transferable skills and teaching. As a PhD candidate, you are committed to conduct independent and original scientific research, to report on this research in international publications and presentations, and to present the results of the research in a PhD dissertation, to be completed within 4 years. You are expected to contribute 10% of the overall workload to teaching.


We are looking for:

  • a highly motivated, practically skilful candidate
  • a candidate with a MSc degree in climate, physics or a related subject and a strong interest in meteorology and climatology
  • a candidate with a background in numerical (climate) modelling
  • a candidate with experience and proven skills in processing/analysing large datasets (this will be considered an asset)
  • a candidate with affinity for ecological issues
  • a candidate with strong verbal and written communication skills (in English), as well as the ability to work independently and in a (diverse) team.


Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage more than 32,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research universities in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global centre of knowledge.

The Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen (ESRIG) is part of the Faculty of Science and Engineering ( ESRIG has formulated its mission: "Contribute to sustainable energy utilisation and resource exploitation in the coming century for more people". Translated into practice this implies performing excellent energy and sustainability research, both fundamental, applied, and reflective. The institute's character is balanced, with research varying from experimental (laboratory and field experiments) to model studies and research into societal interaction with scientific knowledge. Interdisciplinary approach has always been a constitutive element of research and teaching activity at ESRIG, to be achieved through the mutual understanding and cooperation of different groups, from the Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society (IREES) to the Centre for Isotope Research; from the unit of Combustion Technology to Ocean Ecosystems (OE).

Conditions of employment

We offer in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,395 in the first year to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month in the final year (PhD salary scale), based on a full-time position
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income,
• an 8.3% year-end bonus.

The position is for four years, starting on 1 January 2021 (or soon thereafter). First you will be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate whether a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School Science and Engineering of the Faculty. The conditions of employment are available at the University of Groningen website under Human Resources:


Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, your application should include:

• a cover letter with background and motivation to apply for this position (max 1 page)
• a curriculum vitae, including details of bachelor and master degrees, list of work experience as well as other skills and a publication list, if applicable
• a detailed (max 1 page) description of previous research experience, such as bachelor/master research projects; indicate exactly your contribution
• contact details of 2 academic references who can provide information on your suitability for the position.

You may apply for this position until 25 October, 11.59pm 2020 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form. Interviews are scheduled to take place in the first half of November 2020.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


For information you can contact:

  • Prof.dr. R. Bintanja, r.bintanja

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.