Scholarship in Europe

PhD scholarship in fish migration and ecosystem processes

A 3-year PhD fellowship in fish migration theory and applications is offered by the National Institute for Aquatic Resources (DTU Aqua) at the Technical University of Denmark.

If you are interested in ecosystem processes and fish behavior, you should apply for this PhD position in the section for Oceans and Arctic. The project is focused on the large-scale spatial distributions of highly migratory fish that are generally believed to be related to abundance of the fish themselves (via density-dependent processes) and to ecosystem conditions (e. g., sea temperature, prey spatial distribution and abundance). We are looking for a quantitative, process-based framework that links migration behaviour and habitat use to key forcing variables such as exploitation and ecosystem conditions, since this is presently lacking and thus limits effective management of fisheries and biodiversity in both coastal/shelf seas and Areas Beyond National Jurisdictions (ABNJs). Migration by these species leads them into jurisdictions having different management regulations and enforcement possibilities. The successful candidate will perform research on the formulation and application of advanced process models of fish migrations to investigate how large-scale migration behaviour and habitat use in large pelagic fish species is influenced by ecosystem conditions, exploitation and climate change.

The PhD project is part of a new, large EU project (BiOcean5D: Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Prediction Across Spatial, Temporal and Human Scales), and will contribute to developing and identifying new indicators of human impact on marine biodiversity, and to mapping and predicting biodiversity and ecosystem services. The overall aim of the project will be to improve our understanding of the interconnectedness among regions occupied by highly migratory large pelagic fish species in the Atlantic Ocean and how habitat use by these species affects biodiversity and ecosystem services (e. g., seafood production, eco-tourism opportunities) in coastal/shelf seas and ABNJs. Focus will be on quantifying how migration behaviour and habitat use at large scales is learned and influenced by social learning processes, including collective memory and group behaviour and by external factors, including relative abundances of predators and prey, exploitaiton and climate variability and change. Candidate species will include bluefin tuna, and other species of tuna and billfish.

New mechanistic models of megafauna migration behaviour are therefore needed to increase understanding of how interconnectedness among species and regions impacts biodiversity and ecosystem services in coastal/shelf areas and ABNJs, and how these interconnections are affected by different scenarios of human pressures (e. g., exploitation of the migratory species, or their prey; climate change). The project will develop and improve some existing conceptual models and frameworks for quantifying such links.
Your results will contribute to new ecosystem-based approaches to management of large highly migratory fish species, to UN Sustainability Development Goals related to Life Below Water (UN SDG 14), and to achievement of goals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Responsibilities and qualifications
You will be responsible for developing state-of-the-art modelling frameworks that incorporate new process knowledge and understanding of factors affecting large-scale migration behaviour and habitat use in large pelagic fish species. The new framework will include elements of social learning, collective memory, optimal foraging, and bioenergetics. Having developed a new ecologically- and evolutionary-sound framework, you will be interested and expected to conduct sensitivity and scenario analyses to investigate hypotheses related to the roles of climate variability/change and exploitation on the migration behaviour of these predatory species, and how such migration behaviour could affect the abundances of their prey and local foodwebs via trophic cascades.

The project involves process modelling of group formation and migrations in fish, handling and processing of oceanographic data sets, sensitivity and scenario analyses, and visualisation (e. g., via GIS) of model outputs. The project integrates behaviour, population dynamics, movement ecology, climate-oceanographic change and fisheries science.

As the ideal candidate, you will either be a quantitative marine ecologist/fisheries scientist with ability and interest in learning and incorporating behavioural processes into advanced models of migration behaviour and habitat use, or a movement ecologist/behavioural ecologist with an interest in applying and integrating knowledge of climate-ocean and fishery dynamics in quantitative migration models of highly migratory pelagic fish species.

You should have several or all of the following skills:

    • Background knowledge and experience in some or all of the following: collective behavior, migration of large pelagic fish species, quantitative social and learning processes in animals, optimal foraging theory, trophic ecology, the oceanography and climate of the Atlantic Ocean and its coastal/shelf seas
    • Experience and proficiency in process-based ecological modelling, handling and analysing large data sets, including from physical oceanographic models.
    • Experience with visualising spatial data (e. g., GIS or similar)
    • Flexibility concerning research stays abroad (a foreign stay of 6 months is mandatory)
    • Good communication skills in English and Danish, both written and orally
    • Ability to conduct research independently and problem-solving skills
    • Strong interest in participating in an inter-disciplinary and international research environment

You must have a two-year master’s degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master’s degree.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see DTU’s rules for the PhD education.

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

The preferred starting date is May 1, 2023.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Prof. Brian MacKenzie ( and Prof. Patrizio Mariani (

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark. Furthermore, you have the option of joining our monthly free seminar “PhD relocation to Denmark and startup “Zoom” seminar” for all questions regarding the practical matters of moving to Denmark and working as a PhD at DTU.

Application procedure
Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 1 March 2023 (Danish time).

Apply at: PhD scholarship in fish migration and ecosystem processes

Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link “Apply now”, fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

    • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
    • Curriculum vitae
    • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma (in English) including official description of grading scale
    • A draft project description: 2 or 3 pages with a concise proposal on the research idea that the candidate would like to explore, including relevance and motivation, the theoretical framework and the results expected

You may apply prior to ob­tai­ning your master’s degree but cannot begin before having received it.

Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

The Section for Oceans and Arctic covers a wide research spectrum from oceanography, population ecology, observation technology and the Arctic. The research into oceanography integrates biological, physical and chemical parameters’ interactions in the ocean, ranging from individual plankton to regional seas. We focus on understanding the key processes that govern the structure and function of pelagic food webs, as well as climate and ecosystem interactions. The research in population ecology establishes how processes affecting individuals shape populations and ecosystems.

The purpose of DTU Aqua is to provide research, advice and education at the highest international level within the sustainable exploitation of living marine and freshwater resources, the biology of aquatic organisms and the dynamics of ecosystems as well as their integration in ecosystem-based management. DTU Aqua has 260 employees, of whom a third are scientific staff. The other employees are assistant biologists, laboratory technicians, IT employees, administrative staff, ship’s crew, student assistants etc. The institute is organized into eight scientific sections which carry out the research, educational and advisory activities. In addition, the institute has a number of scientific and administrative support functions, including the research vessel DANADTU Aqua has employees in Lyngby, Silkeborg, Nykøbing Mors and Hirtshals as well as on Dana.

Technology for people
DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear mission to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That mission lives on today. DTU has 13,400 students and 5,800 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. DTU has campuses in all parts of Denmark and in Greenland, and we collaborate with the best universities around the world.

Please apply via recruiter’s website.

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