Nitrogen effects on terrestrial ecosystems

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Bioscience programme. The position is available from 1 May 2018 or later.

Nitrogen effects on terrestrial ecosystems

Research area and project description:
Research activities at Bios cover all biological levels from genes, physiological processes, individuals, populations and species to ecosystems. The department aims to be an international leader in biodiversity and conservation biology.

During the study, the student will be part of a research group specializing in biogeochemistry, plant competition and ecological processes in light open terrestrial ecosystem. Activities in the group encompass mapping and modelling of critical loads, field research, national monitoring and advice, and international cooperation on monitoring and research in air pollution effects. You will get to work in a pleasant, international and collaborative atmosphere with colleagues from many countries.

Nitrogen deposition has been elevated for several decades in the Danish landscape. For much of the terrestrial nature the suggested critical loads are exceeded indicating a risk that soil ecosystems become enriched in nitrogen and plant communities change to become dominated by nitrophilic species (eutrophication).

Although nitrogen pollution has been recognized as a problem for long in Denmark, it is not known to what  extent nature and forests and has been enriched in nitrogen and there are no long term records of plant community changes related to nitrogen. The PhD study is part of a project financed by the Aage V. Jensen Nature Foundation investigating nutrient balances in nature areas and forest and mitigation options against eutrophication. The aims of the PhD study will be to investigate if and to what  extent natural and semi-natural ecosystems have become nitrogen enriched and if and how plant community composition (and its changes over time) is related to nitrogen deposition and soil nutrient availability. The project is a cooperation between Bioscience, AU, and Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Copenhagen University (KU). The PhD study will focus on biotic and abiotic effects of nitrogen deposition in dunes, heathlands and grasslands with manipulation experiments in low nitrogen deposition areas in Denmark, and studies of nitrogen gradients from local sources. The study will include different model approaches (deterministic as well as statistical) to describe plant community changes due to increased levels of nitrogen. Results and models will be used to inform land managers and authorities about eutrophication and potential mitigation options. A close collaboration with the above-mentioned group at KU is envisaged.

Qualifications and specific competences:
Applicants should hold an MSc degree in Biology, Geography or a related field of science with good results and good English skills. A solid knowledge in botany, geochemistry and soil – plant interactions is important, and good modeling and statistical skills will be an advantage. As criteria for the assessment of your qualifications emphasis will also be laid on previous publications (if any) and relevant work experience. A driver’s license is a prerequisite.

The position is available for a 3-year period and your key tasks as a PhD student at Science and Technology includes:

  • To manage and carry through your research project
  • Attend PhD courses
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis
  • Teach and disseminate your research
  • To stay at an external research institution for a few months, preferably abroad
  • Work for the department

Place of Employment and Place of Work:
The place of employment is Aarhus University, and the place of work is Vejlsøvej 25, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark. 

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Principal supervisor professor Christian F. Damgaard, Department of Bioscience, e-mail:, Direct Phone: +45 8715 8835,

or senior advisor Jesper Bak, e-mail:, Direct Phone: +45 8715 8808.

Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at Graduates School of Science and Technology is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” is documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test, minimum score: 560 (paper-based test) or 83 (internet-based test). The paper-based test must have a “total score”. From August call 2019, GSST no longer accepts the paper-based test.
    Aarhus University does not accept the TOEFL ITP test. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935. You must request that the test centre send your test results to Aarhus University, in order to enable verification of your test results.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate  with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, or United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at Aarhus University for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants able to document that English was the language of instruction during the whole period of their Bachelor’s and/or Master’s programme. This must be documented by uploading an official document from the institution stating this under “language skills documentation”. The onus is on the applicant to provide this information as GSST will not pursue information regarding language of instruction for any programmes or institutions.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to
Choose February 2018 Call with deadline 1 February 2018 at 11.59 PM MET.
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme 'Bioscience'

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: "Nitrogen effects on terrestrial ecosystems"
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

Please note that all information in the application must be in Danish or English.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts and diploma(s)
  • Project description (½-4 pages). For technical reasons, you must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, please simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found.  Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed. The e-mail will also include a link to the application – GSST urges you to check that all mandatory data, marked with an asterisk (*), is registered correctly and all attached files are readable. In case of significant errors, you should reply to the confirmation e-mail with the correct details before the application deadline.

GSST reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSST application guide here  

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.