Doctoral candidate (f/m/d)

Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung GmbH (ZMT), Bremen

The Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (www.leibniz-zmt.de) in Bremen is a member of the Leibniz Association, which is supported by the German Federal and State Governments. Through its research, ZMT contributes to developing science-based strategies for sustainable use of tropical coastal systems.

The Working Group ‘Deliberation, Valuation & Sustainability’ at ZMT has a vacancy for a

Doctoral candidate (f/m/d)

(Reference number: 130 - DVS)

to start in January 2020 with a focus on wastewater impacts on functional traits and diversity.

Description of the project: The SÖF BMBF-funded Junior Research Group project “Transdisciplinary Science for Sustainable Tourism” (TransTourism) explores interconnections between the global tourism economy and local social-ecological challenges in small-scale tourism destinations along tropical coasts, with a focus on tourism-generated wastewater pollution.

Tourism-generated wastewater is a near-invisible problem that can threaten livelihoods, human health, and ecosystems. Often the effects of wastewater are subtle and difficult to connect with the priorities of people. Ideally, effects could be compared across ecosystems, linked to ecosystem vulnerability and function, and thus to decision criteria relevant to stakeholders. Functional diversity, and functional traits affected by wastewater, are a potential avenue to connect the subtle effects of wastewater to ecosystem services and human well-being across different geographical areas.

Your PhD project will identify the trait-mediated direct and indirect effects of tourism-generated wastewater pollution on fish functional diversity. Fish assemblages are expected to respond to alterations in primary productivity and habitat quality linked to wastewater pollution. You will determine the extent to which species’ functional traits determine their vulnerability to wastewater pollution, and the impact of the latter on ecosystem functioning and services. Your work fits into the project TransTourism by bridging ecosystem impacts to stakeholder priorities, potentially suggesting important indicator and decision criteria.

Your project is both inter- and transdisciplinary. You will develop your research in collaboration with local stakeholders to ensure practical relevance, and elements of the research such as focal species will be refined based on workshops and focus group discussions. In order to build relationships with project partners in partner countries, extended field stays are required. As such, a candidate must be able to travel frequently and live in the tropics for up to five months at a time, for example in Tanzania and Indonesia. The 4.5 year funding period for the PhD project (compared to the usual 3) aims to ensure time for transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary project integration.


  • Develop and implement an individualized PhD research agenda in close interaction with Dr. Marie Fujitani, the DVS working group at ZMT, and co-advisors Dr. Sonia Bejarano (head of Reef Systems working group at ZMT) and a scientist at the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity
  • Identify links between wastewater and functional traits, functional diversity and ecosystem functions affected by pollution – with a focus on fish and primary productivity in reef habitats
  • Quantify the role of functional traits in driving species vulnerability to tourism-generated wastewater pollution, integrating trait and abundance databases
  • Conduct a review of published literature and databases available in online repositories
  • Combine field research and existing data to analyze the effects of a gradient of wastewater pollution on selected species and the functional structure of species assemblages
  • Explore, potentially with modeling, relationships between trait diversity, ecosystem function, and provision of ecosystem services given different social priorities for wastewater generation
  • Participate in stakeholder workshops, and potentially conduct focus group discussions
  • Publish research results in international peer-reviewed/scientific journals
  • Cooperate closely with the other team members of TransTourism and contribute to the successful implementation of the project


  • An excellent Master’s degree in the field of ecology, biology, marine biology, or geography
  • Solid background in ecological theory, numerical ecology, and functional ecology
  • Strong skills in quantitative methods are required, preferably experience applying trait-based approaches and multivariate statistics
  • Experience in R, working with large datasets, and statistical and theoretical modeling
  • Experience with fourth corner and RQL analysis, or other techniques to fit predictive models for species abundance as a function of environmental variables, species traits, and their interaction is desired
  • Desire to do interdisciplinary work in a team of natural and social scientists, linking ecological patterns to ecosystem services and stakeholder priorities and perceptions
  • Desire to work on both theoretical and applied questions, and engage with non-academic stakeholders
  • Effective interpersonal communication skills and the ability to work well in a team
  • Ability to work independently, with a result-oriented self-reliant work mode, with initiative and willingness to take on unexpected tasks
  • Advanced written and oral communication skills in English, demonstrated scientific writing skills
  • Flexibility to travel internationally, and spend extended time at tropical field sites
  • Scientific dive experience is a plus
  • Experience working abroad in difficult field conditions is preferred
  • Experience with outreach, workshops and/or transdisciplinary research is a plus
  • Local language skills (Bahasa Indonesia, Kiswahili) are a plus

For additional information please contact: Dr. Marie Fujitani (marie.fujitani(at)leibniz-zmt.de).

Details of the position:

  • The candidate will be on a 54-month contract
  • Salary will be paid according to the German TV-L EG 13
  • The post will be filled as a PhD Student position (66,6%)
  • ZMT is an equal opportunity employer
  • Applicants with a migration background are welcome
  • Disabled persons with comparable qualification receive preferential status

We offer:

  • An exciting working environment in an interdisciplinary and internationally oriented institute and research project
  • Possibilities to build and extend an international professional network and participate in a research field of high public and scientific interest
  • A family-friendly working environment

Submission of application:

Please send your application including: 1) a cover letter , 2) a copy of the master's (Diplom) and bachelor’s certificates including grades and number of credit points, 3) a complete CV with a list of publications and skills, and the names, titles, relationships (e.g. thesis advisor), email addresses, and telephone numbers of two referees, 4) a sample chapter or published paper, and 5) a brief proposal of no more than two pages (references not in page limit) outlining ideas for a PhD research agenda based on your experience and interest, within the frame of the description above,  by November 15, 2019 as a single pdf file with the reference number “130 – DVS” to Mrs. Lena Oehlmann, email: bewerbung(at)leibniz-zmt.de.

Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Fahrenheitstraße 6, D-28359 Bremen