PhD Position in Ecological Science

University of Amsterdam Department of Ecological Science

Do you have a passion for science and wish to understand the environmental risk of chemicals? Then Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam would like to get to know you.

FTE: 1

Job description

The PhD position is in the VUA’s Department of Ecological Science, and within the framework of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN) project “Best chemical risk assessment professionals for maximum Ecosystem Services benefit (PRORISK)”.

The PhD student will focus on investigating the effects of chemical stressors on ecosystem services (i.e. soil fertility) provided by soil micro-arthropods and on linking gene expression and individual level responses by combining Adverse Outcome Pathway and trait-based approaches.

Effects of selected chemicals will be studied at different levels of biological organization, from gene expression to population and potential for recovery using the springtail species Folsomia candida (Collembola). A trait-based approach will be combined with functional endpoints to establish the role of Collembola in soil fertility (i.e. N cycling). An Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) approach, extended with biochemical and physiological endpoints and dedicated microcosm data on Collembola communities and combined with trait-based approaches will be explored as a tool for predicting effects on ecosystem services.

The PhD student will be employed and enrolled in the doctoral programme at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. International collaboration is foreseen with Aarhus University in Denmark (2-month secondment – investigating effects of non-chemical stressors on the role of Collembola in ecosystem services) and ECT Oekotoxikologie in Flörsheim, Germany (2-month secondment – linking population level to ecosystem level effects by performing TME experiments).

PRORISK ( is a European Training Network funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 859891. The consortium comprises of 18 universities, research institutions, enterprises and partner organisations in 9 European countries and Canada, creating a novel platform for training a network of Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) in the field of advanced Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA). Research and training are provided through PhD programs. The PRORISK training programme and secondments in international, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral teams in academia, industry and regulatory bodies will enable ESRs to address exposure, ecotoxicology, ecosystem services, as well as assessment and modelling of risks and their socio-economic impacts. The ESRs within PRORISK will gain professional skills allowing them to develop and implement innovative ERA concepts and tools to link the effects of chemicals at different levels of biological organization to ecosystem services and determine the socio-economic values of related environmental impacts. Each ESR will complete a comprehensive personalized career development programme, with targeted training measures and participate in a range of network events. The ESR will benefit from interdisciplinary cooperation and interaction within the network, providing them with the best preparation for a successful career in either academia or industry.


MSCA eligibility criteria
1) At the date of recruitment the applicants for the MSCA fellowship must have no PhD and less than 4 years of full-time equivalent research experience from the award of the degree that entitles them to undertake a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the applicant is to be recruited).
2)  The applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account.
These eligibility requirements are non-negotiable and ineligible applicants will not be considered.
Eligible applicants can be of any nationality.

Requirements and qualifications
We are looking for a candidate with a MSc degree in environmental toxicology / ecotoxicology and/or ecology. Knowledge of and experience with eco(toxico)genomics approaches is recommended.
Candidates should furthermore have the ability to work independently and in collaboration with others, and have strong oral and written communication skills in English.

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,709 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the third year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of another 2 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity is one of our university’s core values. We are an inclusive community, and we believe that diversity and international activities enhance the quality of education and research. We are always looking for people who can enhance diversity on our campus thanks to their background and experience.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 12 April 2020. The job interviews are planned for May 2020, when possible please take them into account when applying for the position.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Prof.dr. Kees van Gestel
Position: Professor of Ecotoxicology
Telephone: +31 (0)20 - 59 87079


Name: Prof.dr. Matty P. Berg
Position: Professor of Soil Ecology
Telephone: +31 (0)20 - 59 87077

No agencies