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The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS, Belgium) is recruiting a PhD student (m/f/x). This PhD student will be involved in the recently started project ‘Research on the protection of the marine environment in relation to the installation of offshore wind farms’ (2019-2023), funded by the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment. The research will be conducted in close collaboration with the Marine Biology Research Group of Ghent University.

Context

To increase the amount of energy delivered by renewable energy sources, Belgium has designated two new concession zones for marine renewable energy installations in the Belgian part of the North Sea as part of its revised Marine Spatial Plan (2020-2026). Parts of these new concession zones are situated near to, or within the Natura 2000 area “Vlaamse Banken”. The development of offshore wind farms poses a risk for the natural values inside this Natura 2000 area. Man-made structures may, however, also facilitate habitat restoration and creation and as such contribute to the natural values of the area. This project aims at investigating possible negative and positive effects of wind farms on the marine environment of the Vlaamse Banken. Its ultimate goal is to provide advice on how to best mitigate negative effects and strengthen positive effects.

Tasks

The focus of the PhD student will be on the positive and negative effects of the installation of offshore wind farms on natural gravel bed fauna and on fauna colonizing the introduced artificial hard substrates (i.e. erosion protection layers and wind turbines). The envisaged research will be a mix of both lab and field experiments, and statistical modelling to investigate (1) the sensitivity of gravel bed fauna to pressures owing to the presence of offshore wind farms; (2) the effect of habitat complexity on the colonization patterns and development of communities inhabiting the artificial hard substrates; and (3) the link between structural and functional diversity of fouling communities on the one hand and the combination of man-made hard substrate and the natural environment on the other hand.The PhD student will be affiliated to RBINS but will work both at RBINS and at the Marine Biology Research Group of Ghent University.

Diploma

Master in Sciences or Bio-engineering Sciences (both: within the field of biology, biochemistry, oceanography) or equivalent.
  • Strong interest in multidisciplinary research in relation to marine ecology ;
  • Open, collaborative attitude ;
  • Prepared to take initiative, but also to work in close collaboration with other team members ;
  • Prepared to participate in sampling campaigns at sea for several days ;
  • Prepared to participate in (inter)national conferences and symposia.

Technical competence

  • Knowledge of statistical processing of data ;
  • A good knowledge of R is an asset.

Generic competence

  • Excellent organisational, communication (both oral and written) and social skills ;
  • Capable of planning and organizing your own work and meeting deadlines imposed by the project ;
  • Good insights in analysing and interpreting data.

Assets

  • Excellent knowledge of English (written and spoken).

We offer

  • A full-time 2-year position as a PhD-student at RBINS, with a good chance of a further 2-year contract extension ;
  • A dynamic, challenging, varied and stimulating research environment ;
  • Free public commuting and/or bike fee.

How to apply

If interested, please send your motivation letter, CV and a copy of the Master Degree diploma, with reference “OWF-HD” before 25 February 2019 to Yolande Maes (ymaes@naturalsciences.be).For more information:Interviews with pre-selected candidates will take place on 20 March 2019.
  • Only applications that meet the profile and that are received in time will be taken into consideration.
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