Student opportunities at NIOZ

The NIOZ internship program provides an exciting scientific educational opportunity for students from vocational education, universities of applied sciences, and universities. These internships provide career exploration in a variety of fields studied by NIOZ scientists and cover both fundamental and applied sciences as well as marine technology topics. Interns will work with leading scientists and experts in their laboratories, workshops or on board of our research vessels. 

Research internships Texel

Assessing the macrozoobenthos of the Dutch Wadden Sea

Benthic macrofauna are an integral component of the Wadden Sea ecosystem. Defined as organisms greater than 1 mm in size, they are a food source for many animal species, especially migratory shorebirds. In addition, they are pivotal in keeping the ecosystem functioning, as they recycle nutrients, decompose organic matter and regulate nutrient cycles. Thus substantial changes to the macrofauna community could induce changes that cascade through the ecosystem.

The Dutch Wadden Sea is acknowledged for its ecological importance, but also for its natural resources like fisheries, gas and salt. In the last decades, gas production has taken place under the Wadden Sea. To assess whether there are changes in the ecosystem due to land subsidence as a result of gas extraction, SIBES (Synoptic Intertidal Benthic Survey) has been completed across the entire intertidal Dutch Wadden Sea annually since 2008. The survey covers an area of 2483 km2 or ~5000 sampling stations on the tidal flats which are visited by boat or on foot. During fieldwork, samples are taken to assess the macrofauna on or in the upper sediment layer of the tidal flats. The findings offer valuable clues on the availability of benthic species as food resource for birds and fish.

Links to clips explaining the project:
SIBES fieldwork in the Wadden Sea (in English)
SIBES - De Basis voor Onderzoek en Beleid 2013 (in Dutch)

Within the SIBES project we offer opportunities in both fieldwork and lab work for hard-working students. The possible topics of student projects will strongly depend on the timing of the research.

SIBES sampling  SIBES Sander  SIBES boats

Contact: Sander Holthuijsen (Sander.Holthuijsen@nioz.nl)

Marine Population Genomics

We are looking for a MSc student who is interested in doing a project on population / invasion genomics of congeneric species of Mytilicola spp. parasites infecting mussels and oysters. Both parasites are invasive in e.g. the Wadden Sea. The project will be a combination of molecular laboratory work and bioinformatics of NGS (next generation sequencing) data.

As part of ongoing ecological and evolutionary research on this system, we want to use population genomic analyses to determine the population genetic structure of the parasites Mytilicola intestinalis and M. orientalis in Europe. Only genetic data will allow you to clarify details of the invasion history; when, how often and by which route did the parasites get here?

DNA samples of the parasites from various European coasts are already available. The lab work will consist of sequencing target nuclear loci, and of obtaining and analyzing NGS (next generation sequencing) data.

If you like the combination of lab work and bioinformatics, please get in touch.

Period: approximately 6 months, the starting date is flexible

MEDcoast 2 Mytilicola

Contact: Pieternella Luttikhuizen (luttik@nioz.nl)

Impacts of biological invasions on species interactions, food webs and diseases

Invasive species can often have strong impacts on recipient ecosystems. In particular direct effects via predation on and competition with native species have received much interest. Invasive species can also have many indirect effects by mediating species interactions with repercussion for food webs and diseases. However, those have been little studied to date.

This project will investigate the direct and indirect impacts of the recent invasion of two crab species from Asia into the Wadden Sea, Hemigrapsus sanguineus and H. takanoi. The work will involve field studies on the distribution of crabs as well as of their parasites in the Wadden Sea and possibly elsewhere in Europe, laboratory and field experiments on the interaction with the native crab Carcinus maenas and controlled infection studies on the effects on parasites. In addition molecular work on both the crabs as well as their parasites would be possible.

Several independent projects for MSc students will be possible, depending on interests and timing.

Period: approximately 6 months, ideally over the summer

crabs paths CWSS Wadden Sea

Contact: David Thieltges (david.thieltges@nioz.nl)

Hidden diversity in snails: parasites

Snails are common and conspicuous inhabitants of intertidal environments worldwide. What many people don’t know is that there is a hidden diversity in snails: parasites. These parasites are mainly trematodes infecting the gonads and digestive glands of the snails (see arrow in photo below), leading to host castration and other negative effects. While of great ecological importance, the diversity and distribution of trematodes in snails is poorly known.

We are looking for a MSc student to help change this. The project will involve sampling several species of Littorina in the Wadden Sea and possibly elsewhere in Europe. Trematodes will be identified morphologically to investigate parasite diversity patterns on local, regional and continental scales. In addition, molecular investigations on selected parasite species will identify large-scale population structure. The project will thus involve fieldwork, dissections of snails and molecular analyses. It is part of a larger project on the global biogeography of trematodes in Littorina spp. The exact focus will be flexible and can include or exclude the molecular part.

Is this something for you? Do you like to work in the field, but also enjoy lab work? Are you interested in learning about biogeographic analyses and molecular methods? Do you want to experience an international research collaboration and participate in a publication? You will be based at NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research on Texel.

Period: Summer 2016 or 2017

combi trematode snail CWSS Wadden Sea

Contact: David Thieltges (David.Thieltges@nioz.nl) or Pieternella Luttikhuizen (luttik@nioz.nl)

Research internships Yerseke

Density-dependent movement and front formation in Sea stars

Mussel beds can experience explosive predation by sea stars, where local outburst or concentration of sea stars can deplete a mussel beds in a matter of weeks. Strikingly, this appears to be a localized phenomenon, where sea stars are overwhelmingly present on one end of the mussel beds, forming a front of sea stars, while hardly present at the other end.

We hypothesise that the movement behaviour of the sea stars is – in part – responsible for the formation of these consumer fronts. Essential is that the sea stars are very mobile when they are on bare sediment, but there movement much reduces when they encounter stands of mussels. This question can be addresses by laboratory experiments in the lab, and can be expanded with Individual-based computer models if the student likes this.

We plan to:
Study the behaviour of the sea stars, to study whether it is density-dependent. This can be done with new experiments, or can be based on existing movie-material of sea stars in our experiments and we we can make models, if possible based on our experiments, in which we will investigate how density-dependent movement by the sea stars affects the formation of predator fronts, and can lead to quick depletion of mussel beds. 

Links to experiments: https://youtu.be/u-mEjfBaYks and https://youtu.be/ZgRRP_Wkymk


Contact: Johan van de Koppel (johan.van.de.koppel@nioz.nl)

Wetland restoration through artificial facilitation of ecosystem engineers

25 april 2016 Worldwide, wetland ecosystems (e.g. peatlands, salt marshes, marine reefs, shallow lakes) provide vital ecosystem services, representing a total value of 33 trillion US$ per year. However, despite increasing awareness of the ecological and socio-economical importance of wetlands, many have been either lost or degraded in the last three decades. Despite high costs invested in restoring wetland ecosystems success is generally below 50%. Restoration is difficult because wetland stability depends critically on self-facilitating feedbacks created by habitat modifying organisms that dominate these ecosystems, creating a ‘chicken-and-egg problem’. We have developed multipurpose Biodegradable Elements for Starting Ecosystems (BESE) that temporarily facilitate habitat modifiers (Mussels, Oysters, Coral, Cordgrass, Reed, Seagrass, Sphagnum, submerged aquatic vegetation), thereby bridging critical thresholds and enabling ecosystem development in degraded wetlands, thus creating a viable product for global application.

We are looking for hard-working independent students who will be responsible for their own research project related to the use of biodegradable materials in wetland restoration. There are opportunities in both fieldwork and lab work. A valid driver’s license is preferred. Supervision will be provided at Netherlands Institute of Sea Research in Yerseke (NIOZ) with further opportunities at Radboud University and Bureau Waardenburg.


Contact: Greg Fivash (greg.fivash@nioz.nl)

Providing a mechanistic understanding how to maximize combined nature and coastal protection goals

Ongoing accelerated sea-level rise, increased storm frequency and altered sediment dynamics, threaten coastlines and estuarine ecosystems around the globe, imposing the need for new, cost effective defense schemes. At the same time, many coastal ecosystems are currently threatened and declining, imposing the need for nature conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems. Restoration or creation of coastal ecosystems offers promising opportunities for building cost-effective coastal defense schemes that enhance nature goals. It is however unclear to which extent nature and defense goals are compatible or opposing.

We aim to unravel i) how to use intertidal ecosystems for coastal defense schemes, ii) how to maximize nature goals and iii) how to integrate both aspects. We study this for coastal vegetation as well tidal flats with benthic communities. Our studies integrate different scales, by combining both the local-scale (i.e., within an ecosystem) and the landscape-scale (i.e., the connectivity between ecosystems and ecosystem compartments). We aim at developing fundamental insights in the physical and biological drivers and interactions that can be widely applied.

Within this research theme we offer several topics, each with the opportunity to tune it towards your specific interest. The possible topics will however strongly depend on the timing of the research.


Contact: Tjeerd Bouma (tjeerd.bouma@nioz.nl)

Biogeomorphic landscape formation by ecosystem engineers: generalizing across species

Interactions between organisms and hydrodynamic forces from waves and currents determine where sediment will erode, and where sediment will accumulate. Hence, these bio-physical interactions are a main determinant of landscape formation (i.e., geomorphology) at intertidal areas. Especially large (vascular) plants and macro algae have striking effects on intertidal geomorphology. In the intertidal zones, a broad range of different types of plant and algae co-occur, that strongly differ in their appearance (i.e., morphology) Such differences will affect how plants affect the currents and waves, and thereby thus the sediment transport.

Besides plants, there is also a large group of benthic animals (i.e., macro benthos) that affect the landscape formation.  Some are highly visible in that they create large reefs, such as oysters and mussels (i.e., epi-benthos). Others are invisible, as they are ‘hidden’ in the sediment (i.e., endo-benthos). Although hidden, these organisms also have major impact on the sediment dynamics and grain-size distribution by affecting both the critical threshold for erosion to occur and mixing different depth layers.

We are working on developing a general understanding how traits of individual organisms affect processes at the level of populations and thereby affect the large-scale long-term intertidal landscape development.

Within this research theme we offer several topics, each with the opportunity to tune it towards your specific interest. The possible topics will however strongly depend on the timing of the research.


Contact: Tjeerd Bouma (tjeerd.bouma@nioz.nl)

Developing knowledge to preserve and restore valuable coastal ecosystems

Coastal waters with healthy seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and salt marshes belong to the most productive ecosystems in the world, and also have a high economical value. They provide food and shelter for various organisms, including young life stages of various commercially important fish species. They contribute to coastal protection and store considerable amounts of carbon. At this moment, seagrasses, mangroves and salt marshes are rapidly disappearing on a global scale. Proper management requires a mixture of measures aimed at maintaining existing ecosystems, restoring lost ecosystems and mitigation measures for threatened ecosystems. Experience has learned that such management measures will only be successful when based on fundamental insight in the processes affecting these ecosystems. We want to contribute to preserving seagrasses, mangroves and salt marshes, by dedicated research around the globe (i.e., the Netherlands, Mediterranean, and tropical regions). We specifically aim at understanding basic mechanisms affecting the establishment, growth and disappearance of these vegetation types, and to derive indicators and critical threshold values that can be translated in management objectives.

The research is done by a combination of techniques, including field studies in exotic places, as well as studies in the flume where we can control all environmental conditions, including current and flow.

Within this research theme we offer several topics, each with the opportunity to tune it towards your specific interest. The possible topics will however strongly depend on the timing of the research.


Contact: Tjeerd Bouma (tjeerd.bouma@nioz.nl)

Identifying the relation between the traits of intertidal-organism and the ecosystem services they provide

Intertidal landscapes are a harsh environment for both plants and animals. These organisms have to withstand tidal flow, wind waves, anoxic soil conditions, flooding/drought-cycles, and many more stresses. Despite these harsh environmental conditions, a wide range of organisms (plants, algae and benthic animals) inhabits the tidal landscapes, each with their own specific adaptations that enable them to survive. Some of the organisms are even able to modify their physical environment via their structures or activities, which is often referred to as ecosystem engineering. Although the importance of ecosystem engineering for providing ecosystem services is well recognized, the underlying mechanisms explaining how it works are still poorly understood, as it requires an interdisciplinary approach.

We aim to understand which organism traits are most important for i) the ecosystem resilience and long-term survival, ii) their ecosystem engineering effect on the intertidal landscape development and iii) ultimately the ecosystem services they provide (carbon storage, coastal protection and biodiversity).

To answer this question, we combine field and laboratory studies, using state of the art techniques including (wave) flumes, instruments to manipulate and measure mechanical properties of the organisms, various chemical analyses, and many other techniques

Within this research theme we offer several topics, each with the opportunity to tune it towards your specific interest. The possible topics will however strongly depend on the timing of the research.


Contact: Tjeerd Bouma (tjeerd.bouma@nioz.nl)

Engineering & technology internships Texel

If you are interested in an internship with the National Marine Facilities, please have a look here.

Conditions and accommodation for interns

For temporary accommodation, NIOZ provides apartments at campus 'De Potvis' on Texel and rooms in guesthouse 'De Keete' in Yerseke. More information on accommodation can be found here.

Details on conditions for an internship can be found here.

For questions about internships at NIOZ, please contact:

Dörte Poszig, NIOZ education coordinator
T +31 (0)222 369 469
@ education(at)nioz.nl