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PhD Student “Energetics of Cetacean Movement”

The Royal NIOZ is looking for an excellent, highly motivated PhD student with a keen interest in foraging and movement ecology. The PhD student will be …

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Landsdiep, Den Hoorn, Noord-Holland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
40 uur


The Royal NIOZ is looking for an excellent, highly motivated PhD student with a keen interest in foraging and movement ecology. The PhD student will be working in a multidisciplinary research project driven by the NIOZ department of Coastal Systems, the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED, University of Amsterdam) and the Institute of Environmental Biology (IEB, Utrecht University).

The background

We know surprisingly little about the behaviour and ecology of dolphins and whales. This is due to the often challenging and remote habitats favoured by cetaceans: many aspects of their behaviour happen underwater, often at hundreds of meters depth. Addressing this knowledge gap has become even more urgent over the past decade: human influence in the marine realm is growing rapidly (i.e. ocean noise, pollution) and quantitative knowledge is required to enable effective mitigation of negative effects on sensitive populations.

Recent, exciting technological advances using multi-sensor acoustic and camera tags have made it possible to document underwater behaviour, movement, sound and even body density of marine mammals. Combined, these technologies enable quantification of cetacean movement energetics and influence of contextual parameters such as body size, and prey type on foraging, movement and social setting.

To better understand cetacean foraging strategies and how these are influenced by internal and external contexts, we aim to answer: how do individual, group and species’ characteristics relate to cost/benefit trade-offs during foraging, and how are individual foraging decisions affected by fluctuating habitat characteristics?

The project

This project will apply state-of-the art technologies to investigate foraging strategy and movement behaviour of two species of toothed whales in the wild. Effects of fluctuation in habitat characteristics will be examined using experimental exposure to man-made sounds and by recording of prey availability.

Integrated quantitative analysis will allow us to unravel individual foraging decisions and foraging strategies.

In this multi-disciplinary project, we link expertise in animal movement (COS), marine ecology (IBED) and behavioural and social ecology (IEB). The study will be integrated in an existing long-term field study and NWO Veni Project, with field work taking place at the Azores (Portugal) and Ireland.


For this project we seek an outstanding candidate with a special interest in cetacean foraging and movement ecology, who combines strong analytical skills with excellent capability to conduct fieldwork in the marine environment.

The candidate should have a master’s degree in the field of marine ecology/biology or animal behaviour and demonstrated strong ability in quantitative analysis of multivariate data sets, including movement and multi-sensor tag data. The candidate can handle the challenge of integrating data sets from a variety of sensors, using and developing novel methods to quantify individual body condition and movement behaviour and writing computer code (Matlab/R).

The project requires a candidate with demonstrated proficiency in and experience with marine mammal research in the field, including skills such as tracking/data collection, tagging, experiments, prey layer tracking, photo ID and boat driving. Furthermore, the candidate should have strong social skills, team-spirit, ability to supervise student teams, a strong work-ethic, ability to work independently and an intrinsic interest to explore new avenues of research.

Good English oral and written skills are essential, knowledge of Dutch/Portuguese is a pre.


We offer you a fulltime position for 4 years, a yearly 8% vacation allowance, 8.3% year-end bonus and flexible employment conditions. Our labour policies are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of Research Centres (WVOI). Cost of relocation and help with housing is provided by the Royal NIOZ. The PhD student will be employed by NIOZ. The work will be executed at NIOZ, University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University.

Additional information

For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Fleur Visser, dr. Henk van der Veer, or Prof. Jef Huisman.

For additional information about the procedure, please contact Sigrid Moerbeek (senior HR advisor, NIOZ).

Please note: job interviews will take place on May 17th 2018

If you are interested in this position please visit our website www.workingatnioz.com and apply for this job. You will also find more information about NIOZ.