The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) is a member of the Helmholtz Association (HGF) and funded by federal and state government. AWI focuses on polar and marine research in a variety of disciplines such as biology, oceanography, geology, geochemistry and geophysics thus allowing multidisciplinary approaches to scientific goals.

Code: 150/D/Bio
Faculty: Science
Job type: Full time
Location: Helgoland

The section Shelf Sea System Ecology at the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland, Germany, invites applications for the position of a PhD student
in Global Change Impact on Plankton Ecophysiology.

This position is part of the newly BMBF-funded project PlanktoSERV in the junior working group led by Dr. Cédric Meunier. The aim of this project is to realistically assess the impact of global change on plankton individuals, populations, and communities and to provide a robust understanding of future ecosystem services alterations. This project will support three PhD students, one postdoc, and one impact analyst.

In order to optimize nutrient uptake and light acquisition, different phytoplankton species have opted for different strategies resulting in large interspecific functional trait variability. Functional traits are the morphological, physiological, phenological, and behavioral characteristics of an organism that influence its performance or fitness. Intraspecific variability also exists, and it has for example been shown that different strains of one species can differ in a range of cellular characteristics including cell size and biochemical composition. Despite its potential significance for trophic interactions and nutrient cycling, trait variability between individual phytoplankton cells has not yet been characterized. Moreover, this information is particularly relevant in the context of global change as it places organisms under enormous pressure by radically changing the environment in which they live, hence directly altering individual traits. This project aims at filling these gaps by determining to which extent variability in phytoplankton traits is affected by global change and by testing how micro- and mesozooplankton respond to phytoplankton trait variability. The results from this project will enable us to evaluate individual producer and consumer adaptations that may dampen the impacts of global change.

Despite the threat posed by global change, we lack predictive knowledge since most studies to date have focused on single stressors. This project will realistically assess the impact of simultaneous changes in temperature, pH, nutrients, and salinity on planktonic organisms and will provide a robust evaluation of how these organisms are and will be affected by abiotic changes. To do so, you will conduct laboratory experiments with phytoplankton and zooplankton in order to

    investigate to which extent variability in phytoplankton cell size, biochemical composition, and motility is affected by changes in abiotic parameters,
    test how micro- and mesozooplankton respond to individual prey quality variability (e.g. through selective and compensatory feeding).

    While the available technology has so far limited our capacity to study trait variability, recent advances in the development of measurement methods allow new insights in fine scale processes. Hence, motility will be studied using high-speed high-quality video imaging and the biochemical composition of individual phytoplankton cells will be measured using Laser Desorption Ionization Mass Spectrometry (LDI-MS) and Fourier Transform InfraRed (FTIR) microscopy. You will also gain supervising experience by working together with bachelor and master students and will be given the opportunity to present scientific results at international conferences.

We are looking for a highly motivated and driven individual with excellent practical skills.

    a Master degree (or equivalent) in Aquatic Sciences
    a strong background in Aquatic Ecology/Marine Biology
    working experience in plankton ecophysiology including plankton culturing
    proven analytical skills (e.g. flow cytometry, mass spectrometry)
    strong team player skills
    strong cooperation and communication skills in English language written and oral

For more information, please contact Dr. Cédric Meunier (E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Phone +49(0)4725 819 3361).

The position is limited to 3 years. The salary will be paid in accordance with the German Tarifvertrag des öffentlichen Dienstes (TVöD Bund), salary level 13 (66%). The place of employment will be on Helgoland.

We offer you a multi-disciplinary, international, and fascinating professional environment with flexible working hours, state-of-the-art research equipment, and a first-rate infrastructure.

Disabled applicants will be given preference when equal qualifications are present. The AWI fosters the compatibility of work and family through various means. Because of our engagement in the area of work-life compatibility we have been awarded the certificate “Career and Family”.

As Ph.D. student at AWI you will be member of the Helmholtz Graduate School for Polar and Marine Research ‘POLMAR’ ( or another graduate school.

Please forward your applications with the standard documentation (letter of motivation, CV, references, publication list if applicable) by November 2nd, 2017referencing code 150/D/Bio to: Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Personalabteilung (human resources), Postfach 12 01 61, 27515 Bremerhaven/Germany or by e-mail (all documents merged into one PDF file) to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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