12 PhD research positions in fluid-rock interaction studies of the Continental Crust in a consortium of 8 partners in 5 EU-Horizon2020-member states

FluidNET: Fluids driving the evolution of the continental crust: influence of pathway networks, fluxes, and time scales.
Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network #956127 funded under the EU-H2020 program from 2021 – 2024

Research focus:

Fluids, in particular water, next to the solid components represent a key component in the Earth continental crust because water can act as a solvent, a catalyst enhancing chemical reactions, a transport medium for mass transport, and it controls the strength of rocks.

FluidNET’s approach will focus on tracking down the sources and pathways of fluids in the crust and will attempt to measure the timescales length scales over which fluids are mobile in the crust.

  • Would you like to work at the forefront of the fluid-rock research field, and planting the seeds for future actionable alternatives or improvements to the prevailing metal-ore forming paradigms?
  • Would you like to be trained in the FluidNET’s multi-facetted industry-academia research training programme and work on societal challenges in the field of responsible resource recovery?
  • Are you interested in acquiring the trans- and interdisciplinary skills needed to make significant contributions to both the academic and extra-academic fluid-rock interaction world?
  • Are you in the first four years of your research career, or will you graduate soon?
  • Are you enthusiastic about moving between science, policy and practice in order to qualify for successful careers in research, consulting, industry or governance?

Supported and fully funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie ETN Programme, the FluidNET Innovative Training Network offers 12 high level fellowships. The students will be selected for a 3-year advanced multidisciplinary research training, and are expected to start from 1 July 2021, with due to COVID related restrictions later starting dates negotiable.

The call for application will be open from 25 January to 1 March 2021. Please contact individual project supervisors for additional information and guidance how to apply (check project descriptions below).


  1. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam The Netherlands (Coordinator);
  2. Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster, Germany;
  3. Open University, Milton Keynes, UK;
  4. Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany;
  5. Università degli studi Milano Bicocca, Italy;
  6. Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands;
  7. Amphos21 Consulting S.L., Barcelona, Spain;
  8. Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Required skills:

  • A commitment to academic excellence with a track record of high impact research
  • Proven skills in executing empirical research in challenging contexts
  • high level of proficiency in English language, both oral and written communication (level B1 – C2)
  • Capacity to work independently and as part of a team
  • Examples of high-quality written work, such as a journal paper or equivalent
  • Outstanding interpersonal skills to work with multiple stakeholders


The successful candidates will receive an attractive salary in accordance with the MSCA regulations for Early Stage Researchers. The exact (net) salary will be confirmed upon appointment and is dependent on local tax regulations and on the country correction factor (to allow for the difference in cost of living in different EU Member States). The salary includes a living allowance, a mobility allowance and a family allowance (if married). The guaranteed PhD funding is for 36 months (i.e. EC funding. Additional local funding is in some cases possible, depending on local appointment regulations).

Eligibility criteria:

The positions are open for individuals from any nationality with the following restrictions in terms of eligibility.

  1. Mobility rule: Fellows may not have lived for more than 12 months out of the prior 36 months in the country where they wish to take up the fellowship. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are not taken into account.
  2. Early stage researcher rule: ESRs are: in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers, and not yet have been awarded a doctoral degree.
  3. ‘Full-time equivalent research experience’ is measured from the date when the researcher obtained the degree entitling him/her to embark on a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited or seconded) – even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged.
  4. Admission rule: The applicant is at the time of enrollment in the possession of a diploma that is recognized prerequisite for entering a PhD programme (for example an MSc diploma).

Selection process:

FluidNET’s ESR recruitment will be carried out in accordance with the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (COM (2005) 576 of 11/3/2005), and will provide fair, transparent and competitive selection. Candidates will be selected based on (i) MSCA multi-partner ITN eligibility criteria, (ii) scientific back-ground and potential as indicated by their experience and master/honours thesis, and (iii) in accordance with gender equality and minority (including refugee) rights.

Submit your application via website of the individual supervisor’s institution. You may apply for a maximum of 3 positions in the FluidNET network. Your one PDF file application should consist of the following documents, in the following order:

  • A complete Curriculum Vitae, including names and addresses of 2 academic references.
  • A copy of your Master certificate (and English translation). If you have not graduated yet, please provide a copy of your Bachelor certificate.
  • A copy of your grades list (and English translation). If you have not graduated yet, please include Bachelor grades and available grades for your Master.
  • A motivation letter (1 page). If you have indicated your preference for more than one position, please give a brief explanation of your interest for such positions in the motivation letter.
  • A draft proposal related to the first preferred ESR position you apply for (max. 3 pages excluding references).
  • Copy of TOEFL or IELTS scores, for non-native English speakers.

Time line:

Submission of applications: January – March 2021
Deadline applications: 1 March 2021
Interviews: March – April 2021
Appointment of selected candidates: July – December 2021 (late appointments due to COVID related delays will be considered)
First fieldwork: September – October 2021 (COVID conditions permitting)

PhD positions:

1. “Timescales of fluid mobility during metamorphic devolatilisation by 40Ar/39Ar stepwise crushing of vein minerals”.

Project information: Prof. dr. J.R. Wijbrans, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (j.r.wijbrans@vu.nl)

Objectives: To decipher conditions, timing and mechanisms of fluid release during the prograde Barrovian metamorphism of pelitic rocks. To fully quantify the fluid release framework in terms of age and metamorphic conditions for a natural “continuous section” laboratory. To set up and test crushing routines for vein quartz in different crustal levels using the new world leading multi-collector noble gas mass spectrometers at VUA (2013 vintage Helix MC, 2016 vintage ARGUS VI+).

Expected Results: Stepwise crushing 40Ar/39Ar analyses will result in provenance information for the fluid phases in terms of the K, Ca and Cl chemistries, and test the hypothesis of synchroneity-asynchroneity of vein formation during orogenic formation. ESR1 will accomplish an overview of stepwise crushing of vein quartz and minerals from their host rocks from different levels that provides the network partners a ‘time framework’ for vein formation.

2. “Constraining processes and sources of fluid-moderated metals in mid-crustal ore deposits”

Project information: Dr. F.M. Brouwer, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, (fraukje.brouwer@vu.nl).

Objectives: To separate fluids sourced from prograde dehydration from those related to granitoid intrusions near the lower-middle crust interface in selected key areas in the Variscan belt. To determine the provenance of metals dissolved in the fluid phase in the inclusions by chemical and (Ar, Sr) isotopic fingerprints of the fluids and their host rocks. To determine which of the fluids are responsible for ore genesis, and why. To derive a time and length scale-constrained model of fluid motion and interaction of different volatile fluxes in the middle crustal domain

Expected Results: The combination of different geochemical techniques will yield information on the major and trace elements in the inclusions. Fluid and mineral thermo-barometry will yield information on the ambient and fluid pressure and temperature at the time of entrapment, and Ar and Sr geochronology of trapped fluids and their host minerals will be used to shed light on the timing of entrapment. This will result in a model of the ore-genetic system in these key areas applicable to ore-forming processes and systems elsewhere.

3. “Quantifying processes of fluid-rock interaction at the nano-scale”

Porject information: prof. dr. C.V. Putnis, Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster, Germany. (putnisc@uni-muenster.de)

Objectives: To observe and measure nano-scale fluid-mineral interaction using in situ fluid cell atomic force microscopy (AFM) to directly observe replacement reactions and porosity development in rock-forming minerals, such as carbonates and silicates. To constrain the chemistry of fluids for the optimal formation of porosity and fluid inclusions during replacement reactions. To use stable isotopes (18O, 13C) to track porosity development and element mobilization

Expected Results In situ experiments at the nano-scale using AFM to provide the direct observation of mineral-fluid reactions, facilitated by the use of a specially designed fluid cell. New constraints on reaction kinetics from time-sequences of images during reaction with specified solutions, that simulate natural fluids, constraining composition, IS, pH, T. AFM data analysis for dissolution and precipitation characterisation in terms of measurements in x, y and z directions to obtain kinetic data. On the basis of the AFM data and interpretation, new systems will be investigated specifically for results showing the formation of interface-coupled processes that could lead to the development of porosity within the mineral and hence also fluid inclusions. This could also lead to the technical application of specifically designed geomimetic porous materials.

4. “Validating fluid permeation by experimental fluid-rock interaction”

Project information: prof. dr. C.V. Putnis, Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster, Germany. (putnisc@uni-muenster.de)

Objectives: To use model mineral systems in hydrothermal experiments to develop porosity and fluid inclusions in rock-forming minerals such as feldspars and carbonates. To constrain the conditions under which porosity and fluid inclusions are formed. Expected Results: Constraints on the conditions (P, T, t and chemical composition) under which porosity and fluid inclusions are formed in reacting minerals. Further experiments will optimise fluid inclusion formation. Repeated experiments with typical rock-forming minerals will provide insights into “real” scenarios in the rocks obtained from field excursions and hence an understanding of the conditions of formation of porosity and potential fluid flow within minerals in the Earth and also the conditions of fluid inclusion formation.

5. “How mobile are fluids and melts in the lower continental crust?”

Project information: Prof. dr. C. Warren, Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. (clare.warren@open.ac.uk)

Objectives: To develop new methods for applying light noble gas (Ar, He, Ne) concentrations and isotopic ratios for tracing fluid/melt mobility in the lower crust. To apply these methods to lower crustal samples of different bulk composition, strain history and melting history. To constrain the timescales of fluid mobility in the lower crust by using Ar/Ar chronology of different K-bearing (hydrous) minerals and fluid inclusions in K-free (anhydrous) minerals in conjunction with U-Pb zircon/monazite chronology. To use these data to constrain models of fluid reactivity and transport in the lower crust.

Expected Results: We expect to see significant differences in fluid mobility and reactivity between different lithologies and rocks that have melted or deformed during residence in the lower crust compared to rocks that have not. We expect the Ar/Ar chronology to show that timescales of fluid movement in the lower crust are short compared to the exhumation history. Together we expect all the data to constrain the time and length scales of fluid mobility in rocks of different bulk composition, strain history and melting history.

6. “How and how quickly do critical elements mobilise in the mid-lower continental crust?”

Project information: Prof. dr. C. Warren, Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. (clare.warren@open.ac.uk)

Objectives: To determine the main mineral hosts for a variety of critical elements in lower crustal rocks of different bulk composition. To constrain the transport pathways (e.g. grain boundary percolation, shear zones, veins; in hydrous fluids or melts) of critical element mobilisation in the mid-lower crust. To constrain the length scales and timescales of critical mobilisation in the mid-lower crust.

Expected Results: We already know that critical elements are extracted from the mantle during melting and concentrate in the crust when these magmas crystallise. However, we have very little knowledge of the processes and mechanisms by which critical elements are transported through the crust and concentrated into economic deposits at the surface. This project will quantify the amount, mobility length scales, mobility timescales and transport processes of critical mobilisation in the lower crust.

7. “Halogens in hydrous minerals as proxies for crustal fluid flow”

Project information: Prof. dr. T. Wagner, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany, (thomas.wagner@iml.rwth-aachen.de)

Objectives: To develop microanalytical techniques for analysing low halogen concentrations in hydrous minerals. To characterize the halogen systematics of hydrous minerals and fluids along crustal-scale fluid flow paths. To establish halogen partitioning between fluids and hydrous minerals from high-temperature experiments.

Expected Results: Halogens are used as proxies for the source of groundwaters and fluids, but we have little knowledge of the halogen ratios of deep crustal fluids, and the processes which fractionate them during fluid-mineral interaction. The project results will quantify halogen exchange processes between hydrous minerals and aqueous fluid in crustal fluid flow systems and establish proxies for the ultimate source of deep Earth fluids.

8. “Timescales of fluid migration in orogenic foreland basins”

Project information: Prof. dr. J.L. Urai, Rheinsch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany, (j.urai@ged.rwth-aachen.de)

Objectives: To constrain fluid provenance in compaction and tectonically driven veining in the Variscan foreland basin of Avalonia, NW Europe. To obtain time constraints on the timing of vein development by absolute dating of the fluid inclusions in the vein minerals quartz, and adularia.

Expected Results: The Avalonian foreland basin was formed north of the Variscan mountain chain of central western Europe. It was folded during the Variscan Orogeny. In the slates of the Rheno-hercynicum veining is well studied and fluid pressure estimates are well constrained. The water from which the basins were crystallized is likely to be derived from compaction of marine sediments during diagenesis related to folding in the basin. The time range over which this occurred is unknown, and can be potentially constrained by direct dating of the fluid phase in the FIs.

9. “Transport capacity and physical properties of fluids in the lower middle crust”

Project information: Prof. dr. M.L. Frezzotti, Università degli studi Milano Bicocca, Italy, (maria.frezzotti@unimib.it)

Objectives: To decipher conditions, timing, mechanisms and composition of fluid/melt release from metabasites in lower-middle crust. To characterize the role of fluids in partial melting processes, involving both metabasites and metasediments, in the lower-middle crust. To define the difference in fluid mobility and mass transfer between the fluid/melts produced by metabasites with respect to those produced by metasediments. To develop a conceptual model for the physical, thermodynamic and transport capacity of fluids in the lower-middle crust. The project will focus on the Ivrea Zone and on the Argentera Massif (NW Italy), where Variscan deep crustal granulitic rocks, not recording the Alpine metamorphism, are exposed.

Expected Results: Field and petrological (P-T-t conditions) studies on partially-melted HP-mafic boudins (eclogites and HP-granulites), on hosting migmatites and related veins in order to characterize the processes responsible for the production and mobilization of fluids/melts during the whole evolution of the studied rocks. Petrological and geochemical data on fluid/melt inclusions in distinct mineral assemblages, in particular in peritectic minerals and in vein minerals, to identify the major, trace-elements composition and timing of the released fluids/melts, and the fluid-forming molecular species. Petrological and geochemical data on lithologies potentially recording metasomatic processes with these fluid/melts to characterize the mass transfer in the lower-middle crust. All the data will be compared to highlight similarities and difference in genetic processes, fluid composition, fluid mobility and mass transfer between fluid/melt released by metabasites and those produced by metasediments.

10. “Quantifying lithospheric fluid flux through melt transfer from mantle and lower crust to middle and upper crust”

Project information: Dr. L.M. Kriegsman, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands (leo.kriegsman@naturalis.nl)

Objectives: To build a model for the amounts and rates of fluxes of different fluid species from the mantle and lower crust to the middle and upper crust. To test this model using carefully selected field examples, experimental data, geochemical analyses and isotopic tracers. To quantify these fluxes and link them to geochronological data to constrain process rates. To compare these rates with rates of direct fluid flux in shear zones connecting the same reservoirs to estimate their relative efficiency.

Expected Results: The project will describe and quantify the amounts and rates of fluxes of different fluid species from the deepest two fluid reservoirs (mantle and lower crust; sources) to the shallowest two reservoirs (middle and upper crust; sinks). The ESR will produce an extensive survey of the relevant literature on fluid contents and fluid distribution/partitioning coefficients in mantle-derived and crustal-derived melts, and of fluid contents in a variety of sedimentary (including metamorphosed) crustal rocks. The ESR will link these with geochemical and experimental data. Together with data on the efficiency of melt escape and melt transfer from the lower crust, this will lead to a model of fluid flux from the lower crust into the middle and upper crust as a function of the transient thermal gradients in a given crustal level. Subtracting the fluids remaining within the igneous rocks upon cooling, generally as components of a critical set of minerals (e.g., micas, amphiboles, carbonates, scapolites), this gives the net flux of fluid species into the host rocks during transport (as decompression leads to fluid release) and final emplacement, a critical parameter for the redistribution of volatile elements between the reservoirs. It also leads to constraints on the metal and trace element flux into the middle and upper crust, which may guide novel ore exploration methods. This project thus provides critical input for fluid modelling, and constrains the large-scale transfer of ore-bearing fluids and the (re)mobilisation of elements crucial for society.

11. “Modelling fluid flow and water-rock interaction in fractured crust using a Discrete Fracture Network approach:”.

Project information: Dr. F. Grandia, Amphos21 Consulting S.L., Barcelona, Spain, (fidel.grandia@amphos21.com)

Objectives: To use large scale Discrete Fracture Networks (DFN)-based reactive transport models to: (1) study how fracture granitic rocks are affected by weathering processes, (2) understand how mineral dissolution/precipitation processes impact hydrological patterns at large scale (i.e., the scale of interest for a safety assessment study for deep geological disposal of nuclear waste), (3) understand how fracture evolution, due to weathering, affects the potential of the rock to retain harmful radionuclides potentially released due repository failure.

Expected Results: Discontinuities are ubiquitous in crustal rocks as complex networks of fractures, joints and faults. These discontinuities represent preferential flow and transport pathways that might be critical when assessing contaminant transport due to e.g. the release of radionuclides from a deep geological repository for nuclear waste. Fracture alteration, due to geochemical reactions, have the potential to alter hydrological patterns at large scale. However, due to the high computational requirements of the underlying calculations, these processes have so far been studied at the scale of a single fracture only. By using High Performance Computing technologies, we aim at expanding here the assessment of fracture evolution due to geochemical reactions to the scale of multiple fractures, through a Discrete Fracture Network representation. The results of the study are expected to provide relevant information on how local-scale weathering process could alter hydrological patterns, and thus the underlying rock retention capacity of contaminant radionuclides, on a much a larger scale.

12. “Constraining the evolution of transport pathways & chemistry of crustal fluids during geothermal processes using in-situ experiments and vibrational spectroscopy “

Project information: Dr. O. Plümper, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands, (O.Plumper@uu.nl).

Objectives: This project will determine the interplay of reaction-induced fluid pathway evolution and fluid chemistry using oxygen isotope tracing, in situ vibrational spectroscopy and 4D (3D space + time) X-ray tomography. In situ experiments will be carried out at pressure and temperature conditions akin to those in the upper and middle crust specifically focusing on Si-rich geothermal environments. In situ experiments will be coupled with post-mortem, multi-scale electron microscopy and numerical modelling.

Expected Results: The experiments will yield information into the physico-chemical mechanisms that determine the feedbacks between the evolution of reaction-induced fluid pathways and fluid chemistry. This will provide critical information for future models that can predict fluid pathway generations and fluid chemistries at elevated pressure and temperatures.

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