2 PhDs at the Åbo Akademi University in Finland

Two PhD (early-stage researcher) fellowships in Marine Science available at Environmental and Marine Biology, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Environmental and Marine Biology at Åbo Akademi University offers two 3-year PhD fellowships. The fellows will work within the project “Marine Management and Ecosystem Dynamics under Climate Change (MARmaED)”, which is an Innovative Training Network funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (The European Union's Horizon 2020) under grant agreement No 675997 for the period 2015-2019. MARmaED is an international and interdisciplinary network that unifies specific and complementary competences in marine sciences from Norway, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and France to investigate how the cumulative stress from biodiversity loss, climate change and harvesting will affect Europe’s complex marine systems and the consequences for optimal resource management. The project’s main aim is to investigate how combined anthropogenic and climatic changes affect different harvested ecosystems (terrestrial, freshwater, and marine – particularly, but not only, in Arctic regions) and how management strategies can be improved to ensure sustainable exploitation and resilience. MARmaED will provide salaries for a total of 15 PhD projects within the network.


  • Position 1: Benthic food-web structure and function under environmental change

Objective: To identify changes in empirical food-web structure and function in benthic-pelagic communities across gradients of environmental stress/anthropogenic disturbance and recovery (including climatic impacts)

Description: Food-web structural properties (e.g. diversity and complexity) are altered when communities are affected by environmental change and, consequently, the food web offers an excellent framework to assess impacts of climate change, eutrophication or disturbance on ecological communities. The challenge lies in identifying the functional consequences of a changing diversity with reorganisation of interactions among taxa. Understanding the dynamics of response- and effect traits among interacting species in communities displaying altered functionality should provide critical information on the importance of functional diversity for trophic processes. Focusing on coastal benthic communities in the Baltic Sea, the project will utilise the novel approach of combining topological food-web data and multiple biological traits of interacting species to determine the interconnectedness of trophic structure and community functioning, and how this relationship may change along gradients of food-web degradation and recovery. We will examine available datasets to evaluate long-term change (>10 years) and specific point-disturbance impact and recovery.

Obligatory secondments: The PhD project includes collaboration with and secondments at the University of Hamburg on topics of food webs, traits and ecosystem function; and with ICES on the use of food-web functionality in European marine strategy work


  • Position 2: The importance of local habitats for maintaining structural and functional biodiversity in coastal ecosystems

Objective: To analyse and characterise structural and functional diversity in selected coastal habitats as a basis for understanding temporal and spatial variability, connectivity and vulnerability of the coastal ecosystem, including links throughout the food web.

Description: Profound knowledge of the coupling between organism assemblages and their living environments (habitats) is of fundamental importance for our understanding of the coastal ecosystems. The shallow coastal waters harbour high habitat diversity as well as rich faunal communities (i.e. sustain complex food webs). E.g. invertebrate fauna tend to be richer in species in sea grass meadows and brown algal belts than on/in bare soft sediments, whereas functionality of the organisms and their links to higher trophic levels in the food web are poorly known. Several fish species utilize benthic invertebrates as food during some stage of their life span, and the coastal habitats are important as spawning-, nursery- and feeding habitats for fish. A mosaic habitat landscape also offers a high potential connectivity for invertebrates and fish alike, further emphasising the need to not just map, predict and protect specific habitats (c.f. the European Habitats Directive and the European Marine Strategy), but to understand their functionality. Several coastal habitat types are under anthropogenic threat (eutrophication, construction, climate change), but little is known how the coastal ecosystem will transform and adapt under a gradually shifting environmental reality.

Obligatory secondments: The PhD project includes collaboration with and secondments at DTU-Aqua, Technical University of Denmark, on topics of habitat diversity, structure and function; and with ICES on the governance of coastal habitats



We invite applications from students interested in marine ecology with an emphasis on experiments and observations, and with a relevant background in biology, ecology or environmental sciences. An ideal candidate is highly motivated, shows enthusiasm for scientific work and can work both independently and as a member of a larger research team. Previous experience in fieldwork, ecological data analysis and knowledge of general ecology are desired qualities of the applicant. The candidate is also expected to have good communication skills and be fluent in English.

  1. Candidates should have a MSc degree in marine biology or ecology (or other relevant field of science). Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master's degree, but cannot begin before having received it.
  2. Eligible applicants must not have resided more than 12 months in Finland during the last 3 years. The 3 years will be counted from the date applicants are selected. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.
  3. Eligible applicants need to be in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their career and not awarded a PhD at the time of their (first) recruitment. Full-time equivalent research experience is measured from the date when a researcher obtained the degree, which would formally entitle him or her to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited.
  4. The selected applicant must be accepted to the Åbo Akademi University PhD program, requirements include e.g. grade of MSc thesis and studies. For additional details contact PIs.

We offer

We offer an interesting and challenging job in an international environment focusing on research and education. Åbo Akademi University (in the city of Turku on the SW coast of Finland) has approximately 7000 students and 1300 members of staff. The subjects in biosciences cover biology from molecular to ecosystem levels. Environmental and Marine Biology at ÅAU focuses on the Baltic Sea and the archipelago and coasts, with emphasis on aspects of biodiversity, adaptation to environmental change, relying on interdisciplinary research to create basis for advice to society in environmental matters. The section is located in the BioCity campus, and with a field station on the Åland Islands. Our teaching/working languages are Swedish and English.


Salary and appointment terms

The salary and appointment terms are consistent with the current rules for PhD degree students at ÅAU. The period of employment is 3 years, preferably beginning 1 January 2016. Salary including mobility allowance ranges between 3230 euro/month (single rate) to 3630 euro/month (family rate) and is subject to income tax.


Application procedure

Please submit your application no later than 31 October 2015. Applications must be sent as a single pdf file containing all materials to be given consideration.


The application must be in English or Swedish, and include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • CV (summarizing the applicant’s education, previous positions and academic work, including scientific publications)
  • Copies of educational certificates, transcript of records
  • Documentation of proficiency in English
  • Names and contact details of 2-3 references (name, relation to candidate and e-mail)
  • Other material that you would like to be included in the evaluation


In addition, please arrange for 2-3 letters of recommendation to be sent directly to the Principal Investigators by email.

In your application, please indicate which of the positions you are interested in, if both; please indicate the preferred position.

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

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


Further information

For further information please contact the Principal Investigators Professor Erik Bonsdorff (erik.bonsdorff@abo.fi) and Dr Marie Nordström (marie.nordstrom@abo.fi) or EURAXESS

By Joël Durant
Published Oct. 2, 2015 9:30 AM - Last modified Oct. 14, 2016 10:50 AM