PhD position, paleoclimatology (bivalve sclerochronology) - Mainz, Germany

The Institute of Geosciences (Paleontology group) at the University of Mainz, Germany, invites applications for a PhD student position (temporary appointment) to study the link between the microstructure and geochemistry of bivalve shells with the goal to develop new and constrain existing environmental proxies.


Project start: as soon as possible. The appointment will be for a maximum of three years. Salary according to E13 TV-L (50-75% position) includes fringe benefits (health insurance etc.).


Bivalve mollusks offer exceptional potential for paleoclimate research. However, extracting specific environmental signals from the shells remains a very challenging task owing to limited number of reliable and well-accepted proxies.

In many other organisms, trace and minor elements (TME) provide serviceable environmental proxy data. However, in bivalves their interpretation is notoriously difficult, because the uptake, transport and incorporation of TME into the shells is under strong biological control (aka 'vital effects'), which superimposes the environmental signals. Fortunately, these vital effects are reflected in the shell microstructure.

Some microstructure types contain higher levels of certain TME than others. In addition, the architecture of the shell varies strongly at the μm-scale which results in a small-scale chemical heterogeneity. Thus, contemporaneously formed shell portions deviate chemically from each other if their microstructure differs.

The successful candidate will test the hypothesis that environmental signals can still be isolated from TME variations through a combined and systematic analysis of shell TME and microstructure. Therefore, he/she will parameterize the typical TME levels in different microstructures in order to eliminate non-environmental variations from TME.

Together with our Japanese project partners, we will ultimately develop a multidimensional numerical model that combines the TME distribution, microstructure and environmental parameters.


Applicants must hold a master degree (above average grade) in geosciences, biology or marine sciences, or closely related field. Preferred key qualifications include (1) basic knowledge of paleoclimatology, invertebrates and geochemistry, (2) experience with data analysis and statistical methods, and (3) computer literacy (in particular, skillful use of MS office package, graphics software etc.). Previous experience with the analysis of growth patterns, geochemical properties and/or microstructure in biological hard tissues is advantageous.

In addition to scientific independence and expertise in topics outlined above, the ability to organize and prioritize own work and organize research within the project schedule, as well as a positive attitude toward and experience with field and laboratory work are required. The ideal candidate demonstrates originality within the overall research focus and has excellent communication skills. Proficiency in written and spoken English is essential. Besides team working capabilities, previous international experience is desirable.


Application deadline is 1 May 2019. Note, application review will begin immediately. The position will remain open and applications will be reviewed until the position is filled.

Interested individuals are invited to submit an application package including a motivation letter, CV, copies of certificates (high school, BSc and MSc [or equivalent]), degree transcripts (plus English or German translation) including an explanation of the scoring system, and addresses of at least two referees as a single pdf to Prof. Dr. Bernd R. Schöne: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Institute of Geosciences, University of Mainz, Joh.-J.-Becher-Weg 21, 55128 Mainz, Germany.

Further information

The University of Mainz is an equal opportunity employer. Disabled persons with comparable qualification receive preferential status.

Further information about the research focus of the Applied and Analytical Paleontology research team can be obtained at