PhD Candidate on the Ecological Impacts of Deep-Sea Mining

Trondheim, Norway
10 Jan 2022
End of advertisement period
21 Jan 2022
Contract Type
Full Time

About the position

In 2015, the 2030 agenda with the 17 sustainability goals was adopted by all UN member states. The sustainability goals see the environment, economy and social development in context. The time horizon for necessary changes is short, and it is challenging to combine different considerations without conflicts of objectives and unintended consequences of measures.

NTNU is now announcing 43 individual PhD positions that will contribute to a greater understanding of system effects, societal changes and conflicts of interest related to the sustainability challenges. These positions are divided into 9 interdisciplinary projects with mainly 4-7 PhD positions in each project. (

In this position, the candidate is expected to cooperate with the other PhD students in the project Sustainability - Deep sea mining dilemmas by TripleDeep - NTNU 

We have a vacancy for a PhD candidate on the ecological impacts of deep-sea mining. The appointment has a duration of three years with the possibility of one additional year of compulsory work (a decision of 3 or 4 years is made in connection with the recommendation and offer, after assessment of whether compulsory work is suitable for the relevant candidate). The appointment is financed by NTNU through its call for interdisciplinary research collaboration in sustainability.

The Marine Science group at the Department of Biology uses interdisciplinary approaches at the interface between marine biology, aquaculture and marine technology and contributes to research and higher education within NTNUs Strategic Focus Area "Marine and Maritime Research".  The activities comprise research fields such as aquaculture, ecology, biodiversity, physiology, systematics, ecotoxicology, and populations dynamics in marine ecosystems with a strong emphasis on national and international collaborative projects.

For a position as a PhD Candidate, the goal is a completed doctoral education up to an obtained doctoral degree. The position is connected to the PhD program at the Faculty of Natural Science.

Project description

The deep ocean floor contains vast deposits of minerals that are necessary in renewable energy technologies. These minerals are expected to be in high demand due to the de-carbonization of the global economy and the transition to a net-zero economy. But while the “blue minerals” may hold the key to a greener future, mining the deep seas raises many questions and dilemmas. Can the minerals be mined without causing massive and irreparable harm to the unique ecology of the deep oceans? Who will be allowed to exploit these minerals, and on what conditions? How can conflicts over rich deposits be avoided? What rules and incentives are needed to attract responsible investors that can pay for the development of the necessary technology? Is it worthwhile to destroy unique and largely unknown habitats in the deep seas in order to address the climate crisis?

The primary objective of the TripleDeep project is to investigate whether Deep Sea Mining can provide a new source of critically important minerals in a sustainable manner. To do so we must address significant knowledge gaps about the political, economic, technological and ecological dimensions of deep-sea mining, and particularly how they interact with each other. The TripleDeep project group consist of an inter-disciplinary team, bringing together historians, marine biologists, economists and engineers.

The PhD position on the ecological impacts of deep-sea mining will focus on the dilemma to balance environmental protection against societal and economic interests. The aim is to assess potential impacts of mining activities on deep-sea species and ecosystems, habitat transformation and biodiversity. Knowledge gaps on mining-induced impacts will be identified and the consequences of change on the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems will be assessed. Aspects such as the degree of vulnerability of deep-sea habitats, ecological indicators, biodiversity loss, habitat modification, and recovery potential will be considered thus supporting a more sustainable ecosystem-based management and the process of decision-making.

You will report to Associate Professor Nicole Aberle-Malzahn. The position is embedded into the Marine Science group at the Department of Biology, NTNU campus Trondheim, and embedded into the interdisciplinary research project: TripleDeep – The Deep Dilemmas: Deep Sea Mining for the new Deep Transition.

Duties of the position

The TripleDeep project aims to achieve integrated interdisciplinary cooperation of high quality and according to international standards. As a PhD candidate you will be part of this research project consisting of 4 PhD candidates and 4 regular academic staff. Each PhD-candidate will have a co-supervisor from another discipline within the project.

  • Compile, manage and work with large data sets (obtained from field, experimental and historical data)
  • Identify knowledge gaps on the impact of mining on deep-sea species, communities, habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning
  • Define deep-sea habitats and ecological indicators that are especially crucial for conservation and sustainable ecosystem-based management
  • Assess the degree of vulnerability of deep-sea habitats, biodiversity loss, habitat modification, and recovery potential
  • Collaborate with the other PhD candidates within TripleDeep
  • Participate in regular project workshops
  • Contribute to joint project publications

Required selection criteria

  • You must have a professionally relevant background (MSc degree or equivalent) in Marine Ecology, Conservation Biology, Ecosystem Ecology, Natural Resource Management, Community Ecology or Ecological Modelling (or related fields). Your education must correspond to a five-year Norwegian degree programme, where 120 credits are obtained at master's level
  • You must have a strong academic background from your previous studies and an average grade from the master's degree program, or equivalent education, which is equal to B or better compared with NTNU's grading scale. If you do not have letter grades from previous studies, you must have an equally good academic basis. If you have a weaker grade background, you may be assessed if you can document that you are particularly suitable for a PhD education.
  • You must meet the requirements for admission to the PhD program at the Department of Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences (
  • Strong computational and statistical capabilities (e.g. using R, Matlab)
  • Experience with data management and interpretation of larger data sets
  • Proven written and oral English communication skills
  • Creative, with a strong ability to work towards positive solutions
  • Enjoy interdisciplinary research and take keen interest in learning and working in teams

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and Regulations concerning the degrees of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) and Philosodophiae Doctor (PhD) in artistic research national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant  

Preferred selection criteria

  • Experience with complex data sets (using empirical and modelling data)
  • Experience with meta-analysis and/or ecosystem modelling
  • Background in marine conservation, ecosystem management and/or ecological modelling
  • Interdisciplinary background (e.g. at the interface between biology and geology)
  • Good written and oral English language skills 

Personal characteristics

  • Self-motivated, enthusiastic, and dedicated
  • Motivated to solve environmental problems and advance sustainability
  • Ambitious and goal-oriented
  • Team player
  • Excellent communication skills

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 491 200 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is three years, with the possibility of one additional year of compulsory work (a decision of 3 or 4 years is made in connection with the recommendation and offer, after assessment of whether compulsory work is suitable for the relevant candidate).

Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution daily.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline. You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. 

The application must include: 

  • CV, certificates and diplomas
  • transcripts and diplomas for bachelor's and master's degrees. If you have not completed the master's degree, you must submit a confirmation that the master's thesis has been submitted.
  • A copy of the master's thesis. If you recently have submitted your master's thesis, you can attach a draft of the thesis. Documentation of a completed master's degree must be presented before taking up the position.
  • A motivation letter (1-2 pages), describing the relevance of your disciplinary background, your interest in the project, and how you would approach the given topic.
  • Name and address of three referees
  • If you have publications or other relevant research work

If all, or parts, of your education has been taken abroad, we also ask you to attach documentation of the scope and quality of your entire education, both bachelor's and master's education, in addition to other higher education. Description of the documentation required can be found here. If you already have a statement from NOKUT, please attach this as well.

Joint works will be considered. If it is difficult to identify your contribution to joint works, you must attach a brief description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal and interpersonal qualities. Motivation, ambitions, and potential will also count in the assessment of the candidates. 

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 

The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

In accordance with The Public Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Nicole Aberle-Malzahn, email

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. Chinese applicants are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from China Credentials Verification (CHSI).

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters. 

Application deadline: 21.01.2022

NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of Biology 

We work with global challenges in natural diversity, climate, the environment, health and nutrition. Our expertise in biological processes at all levels – from molecules to ecosystems – contributes to a sustainable society. The Department educate graduates for a wide range of careers in public administration, business and academia. The Department of Biology is one of eight departments in the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

Deadline 21st January 2022
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Permanent
Place of service

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