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PhD position in Plankton Ecophysiology, Alfred Wegener Institute

In addition to macronutrients (N, P, Si) and trace metals (Fe, Zn), Vitamin B12 is required by >90% of all surveyed harmful algal bloom (HAB) forming phytoplankton species, including Pseudo-nitzschia sp.. Furthermore bloom dynamics of some HABs can be correlated with the availability of B12. Since eukaryotes cannot produce B12, these algae need to take up exogenous B12, produced only by some prokaryotes, mainly heterotrophic bacteria. A handful of studies have looked at the relationship of algae and bacteria and found that in some cases the addition of the latter could elevate B12 limitation in auxotrophic phytoplankton species. Little is known about the impacts of B12 on growth and DA production of the ecologically diatom Pseudo-nitzschia sp.. Some studies have shown that domoic acid production in Pseudo-nitzschia depends on the bacterial community in its phycosphere, and there is evidence that some bacteria may consume domoic acid. The relationship between bacteria, domoic acid production and B12, however, is unknown.

The aim of this project is to 1) map the distribution of Pseudonitzschia sp, toxins and vitamin B12 in Arctic and Antarctic waters, 2) assess the importance of B12 on growth and toxicity of Pseudonitzschia sp and 3) investigate B12 as a currency of interaction between Pseudonitzschia sp and its microbiome.

• Shipboard expedition in the Arctic and Antarctic, assessing distribution patterns of Pseudonitzschia sp., associated toxins and B-vitamins
• Culture work with different strains of Pseudonitzschia sp. and vitamin B12
• Co-culturing of heterotrophic bacteria with Pseudonitzschia sp.
• Establishing methods for measuring cellular B12 content

Please contact Dr. Florian Koch (0471-4831-1136; for further information. This position is limited to 3 years. The salary will be paid in accordance with the Collective Agreement for the Public Service of the Federation (Tarifvertrag des öffentlichen Dienstes, TVöD Bund), up to salary level 13 (66%). The place of employment will be Bremerhaven. All doctoral candidates will be members of AWI’s postgraduate program POLMAR or another graduate school and thus benefit from a comprehensive training program and extensive support measures.

The AWI is characterised by:
• our scientific success – excellent research
• collaboration and cooperation – intra-institute, national and international, interdisciplinary
• opportunities to develop – on the job and towards other positions
• an international environment – everyday contacts with people from all over the world
• flexible working hours and the possibility of mobile working up to 50% of regular working hours
• Health promotion and company fitness with qualitrain
• support services and a culture of reconciling work and family
• Occupational pension provision (VBL)
• Jobticket

Equal opportunities are an integral part of our personnel policy. The AWI aims to increase the number of employees who are women, and therefore strongly encourages qualified women to apply.

Applicants with disabilities will be given preference when equal qualifications are present. The AWI fosters the compatibility of work and family in various ways and has received a number of awards as a result of this engagement.

We look forward to your application!

Please submit your application by April 15th 2023, exclusively online. Reference number: 23/67/G/Bio-b

  • Job Type: PhD
  • Application deadline: 04/15/2023
  • Organization: Alfred Wegener Institute
  • Qualifications: Requirements • Master or comparable degree in biology, marine science/biology or environmental sciences • Experience cultivating marine plankton, applied methods in plant physiology and/or in sea going expeditions • Participation in ship-based research expeditions to the Arctic and/or Antarctic • Good English language skills (spoken and written). • Additional skills and knowledge • Analytical experience working with nutrients /trace metals/phycotoxins • Knowledge of basic molekular techniques (transcriptomics/metabolomics) • Experience working with radioisotopes
  • How to apply: Apply at
  • Location: Bremerhaven, Germany

Contact Information

Florian Koch

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