PhD position on Southern Ocean sea stars genetics available at VUB

PhD scholarship (4 years) in molecular ecology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Department of Biology, Marine Biology Lab, Belgium.

Full ad available here.

We are searching for a highly motivated PhD student that will work on evolution, population genetics and connectivity in Antarctic sea stars utilising a genomics approach (DNA barcoding, microsatellites and next generation sequencing) in the framework of the interdisciplinary project.

Profile of the PhD student:

Master in (marine) biology with excellent study results
Experience in genomics (lab work and bioinformatics)
Interest in the ecology and evolution of Antarctic sea stars
Excellent oral and written English skills (see here for minimal requirements)
Willingness to participate in long sampling campaigns under extreme condition in the Southern Ocean.
Obligation to finalise a doctoral thesis within 4 years

The marine biology lab offers excellent coaching in an inspiring research environment with up-to-date research facilities in the international and multilingual capital of Europe.
Interested candidates are requested to submit their application (motivation letter, two reference letters, summary of master thesis, MSc certificate with grades, proof of proficiency in English and curriculum vitae) with the subject line “RECTO PhD scholarship application” to the head of the Marine Biology Lab, Prof. Dr. Marc Kochzius ( before 17. October 2016. Expected starting date is 01. January 2017.

Meet the Team


The Lab’s Staff include a variety of members, including Academics, Technicians, PostDocs, PhDs a secretary and Master students.

Find more about us by following the links below, or by visiting the lab’s page on Researchgate:


Philippe Dubois (Head)

Bruno Danis

Chantal De Ridder (Retired)

Isabelle George

Michel Jangoux (Retired)


Clément Thijs

Matthieu Bauwens

Philippe Pernet

Saloua M’Zoudi

PhD Students

Camille Moreau

Charlène Guillaumot

Marine Pyl

Mathilde Godefroid

Sarah Di Giglio


Laurence Demblon

Research at BIOMAR


The “Marine Biology” (BIOMAR) team of ULB has a long experience in the research field of Antarctic invertebrates, in a range of topics including biochemistry, ecophysiology or impacts of Global Change on benthic ecosystems.

BIOMAR carries out its research on the bioecology of marine benthic invertebrates, with a special focus on echinoderms. Our expertise with this phylum dates back to 1969, when Prof. Michel Jangoux was first recruited under the direction of Prof. Jean Bouillon, a cnidarian specialist.

Since 1989, BIOMAR is closely associated to the marine biology laboratory of the Mons University (UMH), as both were under the supervision of Prof. Jangoux, forming the “Centre Interuniversitaire de Biologie Marine” (CIBIM).

BIOMAR focuses on various research themes, including:

Biodiversity Informatics


Form and Function

Global Change

Marine Biodiversity



New paper in Global Change Biology

Marie Collard is the lead author of a new publication on the resilience of Sea Urchins to near-future ocean acidification, which was just issued by Global Change Biology.  The paper is a contribution to the vERSO project, which the Marine Biology Lab is coordinating. Find out more one the paper here.

Abstract: Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration alters the chemistry of the oceans towards more acidic conditions. Polar oceans are particularly affected due to their low temperature, low carbonate content and mixing patterns, for instance upwellings. Calcifying organisms are expected to be highly impacted by the decrease in the oceans’ pH and carbonate ions concentration. In particular, sea urchins, members of the phylum Echinodermata, are hypothesized to be at risk due to their high-magnesium calcite skeleton. However, tolerance to ocean acidification in metazoans is first linked to acid–base regulation capacities of the extracellular fluids. No information on this is available to date for Antarctic echinoderms and inference from temperate and tropical studies needs support. In this study, we investigated the acid–base status of 9 species of sea urchins (3 cidaroids, 2 regular euechinoids and 4 irregular echinoids). It appears that Antarctic regular euechinoids seem equipped with similar acid–base regulation systems as tropical and temperate regular euechinoids but could rely on more passive ion transfer systems, minimizing energy requirements. Cidaroids have an acid–base status similar to that of tropical cidaroids. Therefore Antarctic cidaroids will most probably not be affected by decreasing seawater pH, the pH drop linked to ocean acidification being negligible in comparison of the naturally low pH of the coelomic fluid. Irregular echinoids might not suffer from reduced seawater pH if acidosis of the coelomic fluid pH does not occur but more data on their acid–base regulation are needed. Combining these results with the resilience of Antarctic sea urchin larvae strongly suggests that these organisms might not be the expected victims of ocean acidification. However, data on the impact of other global stressors such as temperature and of the combination of the different stressors needs to be acquired to assess the sensitivity of these organisms to global change.

Microbes, Diversity and Ecological Roles session at the SCAR OSC

You can register now for the Microbes, Diversity and Ecological Roles session at the SCAR Open Science Conference , which will be held in Auckland, New Zealand from 23 rd August to 3rd September 2014

Most, if not all, Antarctic ecosystems are home to microbes that can span the range from sparse to dense and low to high diversity assemblages. These organisms o<en harbor specialized capabilities to withstand the environmental extremes that the high latitudes of the Antarctic pose. This session welcomes contribu/ons to our understanding and appreciation of Antarctic microbial systems, exploring diversity and ecological roles, contributions to biogeochemical cycles, and interactions between organisms (symbiotic, predatory or parasitic) and ultimately how microbes come together to influence Antarctic systems.

The increased recognition of microbes in all domains of life inhabiting Antarctic ecosystems – and in some cases not only surviving, but thriving in these systems (e.g. aquatic, icy, soil, rock, subglacial, marine benthic or pelagic) is gaining traction largely due to increased scientific exploration of diverse environments paralleled with technologic improvements in molecular sciences (e.g. next generation sequencing and bioinformatics analyses), application of geobiological tools, and remote sensing of both environments and organisms. This session has been developed by AntEco and the International Union of Biological Sciences.

The session is convened by:

Prof. Alison Murray, DRI, USA

Prof. Nils Chr. Stenseth, University of Oslo, Norway

Dr. Ian Hawes, University of Canterbury, New Zealand


Abstract submission deadline: 14 February 2014

Download the flyer here: SCAR-OS_MicrobesSessionFlyer