PhD student Ecological modelling in ecotoxicology

Reference Number: 
Department of Animal Sciences and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
Closing date: 
15th May 2019

Job description

Population models to improve ecological risk assessment of metals

Environmental risk assessment and the setting of water quality criteria for metals such as nickel are based on species sensitivity distributions (SSD). Despite its merits, this method also has considerable limitations, among others its low ecological realism (no species interactions, laboratory conditions) and the inclusion of a wide range of biological effects (survival, growth, reproduction). It is however unclear how these effects translate to actual effects of populations in field conditions and in a community context. Regulatory authorities have named ecological modelling as one of the most-promising alternatives to improve environmental risk assessment.

Building on recently published work, the current project aims to further develop population models for water fleas and aquatic snails to predict population dynamics under metal exposure. The ecological realism of these models will be evaluated using observed population dynamics from a long-term, large-scale community-level experiment (a mesocosm) by integrating the population models with an existing ecosystem model.

Our research in this project, through close collaboration with different stakeholders, will ultimately find its application in improving ecological risk assessment and environmental policy.

The project is a collaboration between UGent (prof. K. De Schamphelaere, and Arche Consulting (Dr. P. Van Sprang, Dr. K. Viaene,

Profile of the candidate

We are looking for a motivated researcher with great interest or good knowledge in at least one of the following: (i) Ecology/Environmental science, (ii) Ecotoxicology, (iii) Ecological modeling.

The project is on population/ecosystem modeling, including developing, calibrating and validating models using existing (literature) data. Thus, considerable interest and demonstrable skills in coding (e.g., R, MATLAB, Python…) are a prerequisite (e.g. through courses followed or previous thesis, internship or project research).

Candidates should have an M.Sc. Diploma in a field related to the project (Environmental science, Ecotoxicology, Ecology, (Bio)engineering, …) and should also have a good command of English.

Candidates obtaining their diploma before 31 July 2019 can also apply. we are not looking for postdoctoral researchers who already have a PhD diploma.

How to apply

Please send an E-mail before 15 June 2018 to with a single attachment, containing a brief (maximum half a page) motivation letter, your curriculum, a copy of your diploma (if already available), and (if possible) an overview of courses followed and study results.

Specific inquiries (e.g. further project details, salaries, …) about this posting may also be addressed to this E-mail address.