We have changed our domainWe have changed servers and operate Career|edu under a different domain. Our services will remain unchanged and we will continue to post the best career openings for the academic world at our new domain.
Go back to the Job List
2017BAPFWETEF274 - PhD grant: fluxes towards the oceanPosted by: University of Antwerp
Posted date: 2017-Sep-06
The University of Antwerpen has a vacancy for a PhD grant in the domain of estuarine ecology.
The Faculty of Sciences is seeking to fill a full-time vacancy (m/f) in the Department of Biology for a doctoral student in the area of estuarine management:
PhD grant: Plastic fluxes towards the ocean: contribution of the Schelde estuary
This research project is carried out within the Ecosystem Management Research Group (ECOBE) of the University of Antwerpen. The research of ECOBE concentrates on the ecology of aquatic ecosystems and wetlands and the processes in the land-water interaction along the whole river continuum and the river-coastal sea interaction. The studied systems vary from small streams with riparian margins over larger rivers and floodplains to estuaries. These studies, both descriptive and experimental in nature, are integrated to predict the impact of different management options on the functioning and the biodiversity of the system.
Plastic waste in coastal zones and open sea is an emerging environmental threat. To gain insight in this problem, already several monitoring initiatives exist. Initiatives that collect and describe or classify the plastic waste on beaches help to map the problem and show spatial and temporal trends. By-catch of plastic by commercial fishery or analysis of stomach content of birds are also commonly used techniques to investigate the plastic waste problem in the marine environment.
None of these techniques however is able to quantify plastic fluxes. Where is the plastic waste coming from? To what extend do rivers, also loaded with plastic waste, contribute to the plastic waste stock in the marine environment?
In this research you aim to quantify fluxes of plastic waste on the scale of an entire catchment, from the smaller tributaries to the (estuarine) mouth. Where are the biggest sources of plastic waste? What is the residence time of this waste? Are there sinks of waste within the riverine system? Quantification of the plastic flow through the entire river continuum is essential to elaborate an efficient remediation strategy.
As a case the Schelde catchment is chosen. It is a relatively small (21.860 km²) and very well documented catchment. Discharge data and bathymetry of the river and all major tributaries are available to calculate water balances or residence times. Existing networks of volunteers and several official monitoring programs (e.g. for water quality, fish, …) can assist, given the right guidance, with the monitoring of plastic waste.
The Schelde catchment is very densely populated (> 350 inhabitants/km²). Major cities, harbors and industrial clusters, such as Antwerpen, Vlissingen or Gent can be found along the Schelde river and its estuary, producing a broad variety of domestical and industrial plastic waste. In this project we want to quantify the fraction that ends up in the aquatic ecosystem and unravel the pathways this plastic waste can follow. What fraction is removed again (by clean-up actions), how much and also where is plastic waste accumulating within the system, and finally what is the plastic waste flux towards the Nord Sea?
To answer these questions, a monitoring network will be elaborated. At weirs, sluices, water purification plants, … plastic waste is collected. In this way, plastic fluxes of sub-basins can be calculated. In the major river or estuary, point measurements will be used to estimate fluxes. Severals techniques will be explored: e.g. plastic waste collection as a by-catch in fish monitoring by fykes, at intake points for cooling water, at in locks in the harbor, … Also, similar to the monitoring on beaches, a protocol for the collection of plastic waste along the shoreline at low water in the Schelde estuary will be elaborated. By coordination of and giving guidance to several volunteer networks that collect plastic waste, a sound data collection can be achieved. Analysis of all data, from source to mouth, will be the basis for a strategy to tackle the plastic waste problem in rivers.
Profile and requirements
How to apply:
The University of Antwerp is a family friendly organization, with a focus on equal opportunities and diversity. Our HR-policy for researchers was awarded by the European Commission with the quality label HR Excellence in research.
We support the Science4Refugees initiative and encourage asylum-seeking, refugee scientists and researchers to apply for a job at the University of Antwerp.