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PhD student, Ecosystem management – Scheldt estuary - 2019BAPFWETEF074Posted by: University of Antwerp
Posted date: 2019-Feb-20
The Faculty of Sciences is seeking to fill a full-time vacancy (m/f) in the Department of Biology for a
PhD student Ecosystem management – Understanding and evaluating the Schelde ecosystem based on continuous water quality data
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.
For more than 20 years, special attention is paid to the study of the Schelde estuary and the scientific support of necessary management actions to meet both human use as the ecological functioning of the system. An estuary is a very complex system with strong interactions between hydrodynamics, morphodynamics, biochemistry and ecology. To better understand this system, a monitoring program with monthly or biweekly sampling of the water quality is carried out since 1995. More recently, a few continuous monitoring stations are deployed, that register every ten minutes parameters such as conductivity, temperature, turbidity, oxygen, chlorophyll a and light attenuation. Together with the data on discharge and tides, a massive amount of continuous data exists now. This dataset offers new opportunities to get better insight in the pelagic ecology and its relation with hydrodynamics (tides or discharge) or morphodynamics (e.g. relation with turbidity). But this requires the development of new analysis techniques or ecosystem models.
ECOBE has experience in ecological modelling. Also for the analysis of continuous data, e.g. to derive estimates of primary productions based on oxygen times series, new techniques have been developed at ECOBE.
Currently new management questions arose. What is causing the increase in turbidity in the estuary? How will this increase impact water quality? What minimum freshwater discharge is necessary for a functional ecosystem? How will global change, with higher temperatures, lower average freshwater summer discharge but occasionally higher peak discharges impact the ecosystem?
These questions will be the subject of the PhD that will include the data analysis and evaluation. The candidate will be involved in analysis of ongoing and additional monitoring projects, measurements and experiments, both in the field and in the lab. The focus therein is of course a translation into model applications.
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