PhD Scholarships in Gelatinous Zooplankton Ecology and Evolution

Thursday 30 Apr 20

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Apply no later than 15 June 2020
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The National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Danish Shellfish Centre at the Technical University of Denmark offers a 3-year PhD position within the Villum Young Investigator Project “Gelatinous zooplankton: Overlooked player in marine food webs, favoured under global change?”.

Drifting organisms in the ocean, plankton, lay the foundation for marine ecosystem productivity and their resilience to human induced perturbations. However, our current view about marine ecosystem functioning is biased as some plankton members, namely gelatinous zooplankton organisms, have systematically lacked attention. This problem is partly due to the fact that their fragile nature is often destroyed during catch, most groups cannot quantitatively be preserved and they are challenging to culture and experimentally work with. Lately, gelatinous zooplankton in general and jellyfish and comb jellies in particular, have reached high public attention, as they are often regarded to be winners of global change, taking over heavily disturbed ecosystems, while being deemed to be a dead end in the food chain. However, the scientific knowledgebase supporting these paradigms is weak.

To address this knowledge gap and investigate current and expected future population developments and impacts of gelatinous zooplankton in our oceans, the Velux Foundations have supported Dr. Cornelia Jaspers to build up a working group in gelatinous zooplankton ecology and evolution at the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen (Kgs. Lyngby) as part of the National Institute of Aquatic Resources (DTU Aqua) and the Danish Shellfish Centre (DSC). The Ph.D candidate will be part of an enthusiastic team which aims to elucidate i) the role of gelatinous zooplankton in tropical to arctic ecosystems and the interaction between jellyfish and fish, ii) if indeed native and invasive jellyfish are on a rise and whether this is related to global change-induced pressures and, iii) the potential of gelatinous plankton to adapt to changing environmental conditions from a molecular and microbiome perspective. The results will fill critical gaps in our understanding of species interactions, their response to future pressures and productivity of marine food webs leading to a new synthesis about global change effects on marine environment.

Responsibilities and tasks
We are looking for a highly self-motivated PhD candidate, who wants to join the team and who is interested in working with gelatinous zooplankton from a statistical modelling and experimental perspective. The PhD candidate is expected to address three research topics: I) How does gelatinous zooplankton change over time in relation to biotic and abiotic factors (statistical modelling of long term data series), ii) investigate the impact of pressures on key gelatinous zooplankton groups by conducting laboratory controlled experiments and (iii) investigate interactions between jellyfish and fish. Experiments can be tightly linked between research topics and can be conducted in connection with other planned experiments within the research group. Experiments will be performed in the laboratory and as ship borne in situ experiments and can include the use of high speed camera recordings, digital particle image velocimetry analyses, mesocosm or microcosm experiments. Expertise and experimental set-ups exist in-house to apply those methods. Focus areas for time-series analyses are so far un-synthesized data series from the central Baltic Sea, Limfjorden and the sub-arctic. The PhD candidate is expected to join research cruises.

The PhD candidate will benefit from and be embedded into a large international network within the gelatinous zooplankton research community and be associated to the vibrant, cross-disciplinary, and international research environment at the Centre for Ocean Life, a Villum Kann Rasmussen Centre of Excellence ( The centre is a collaborative effort to develop a fundamental understanding and predictive capability of marine ecosystems through the use of trait-based approaches, which currently has a group size of about 20 young scientists associated the Centre (PhD and Postdocs). They are working on various aspects of marine life using diverse approaches (observational, experimental, theoretical) while collaborating through weekly science meetings, annual science retreats, numerous working groups, and collaborative projects.

The final PhD project will be developed in collaboration with the PhD student.


Candidates should have a two-year master's degree or equivalent (120 ECTS points) in natural sciences or similar.

We are looking for a biological or physical oceanographer/ biologist/ statistician with a keen interest in marine ecology, or ecologist with experience in the handling and statistical analysis of large data sets and/or experimental expertise working with marine organisms. As the project will deal with gelatinous zooplankton, it is expected that the candidate will help to maintain laboratory cultures, join experimental work and participate in field work and research cruises (daytrips or two week research cruises, depending on qualification). Taxonomic and molecular analyses skills are advantageous but not necessary.


Approval and Enrolment

The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide.

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

The successful candidate is expected to start in summer/autumn 2020. Candidates that complete their M.Sc. before then can apply.

The PhD candidate(s) will be employed at DTU Aqua (The National Institute for Aquatic Resources/Danish Shellfish Centre, Technical University of Denmark), become part of the working group gelatinous zooplankton ecology and evolution and be an associated member to the centre for Ocean Life.

Work location will be DTU Aqua in Kgs. Lyngby.

Further information
For further information about the positions and the project please contact Senior Researcher Cornelia Jaspers (

You can read more about the Centre for Ocean Life at: Centre for Ocean Life, and the National Institute of Aquatic Resources or the Danish Shellfish Centre at: DTU Aqua


Application procedure
Please submit your online application no later than 15 June 2020 (23:59 local time).

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A motivation for why you want to proceed with a PhD and work with gelatinous zooplankton (max. 2 pages).
  • The application may include a description of your own project ideas in accord with the above outlined research topics (i-iii) and how your expertise and previous work experience relates to this (max. 2 pages).
  • Curriculum vitae and list of publications
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Other material that you would like to be included in the evaluation.
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here)

Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their M.Sc. degree, but they cannot begin their scholarship before having received their M.Sc. degree.

Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

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