Postdoc Researcher: Effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on arthropods in agricultural food webs

WorkplaceZürich, Zurich region, Switzerland

Postdoc Researcher: Effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on arthropods in agricultural food webs

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

In modern agriculture, plastic products are used for various purposes. Residues of such products can accumulate in the environment, particularly in the soil of terrestrial ecosystems. Over time, larger macroplastic pieces break down to smaller particle sizes, which are difficult to detect analytically when in the µm or even nm size range. Despite these challenges, estimating the exposure of soil organisms to micro- and nanoplastics, as well as toxicity to organisms following exposure, is important. Microplastic pollution has already been shown to influence plants, microbial communities, and soil invertebrates in scenarios with high exposure concentrations and nano plastics have been shown to be taken up by crop plants. In this project, we will investigate the transfer and effects of micro- and nano-plastics in agricultural food chains involving model decomposer and predator species.
The position is fully funded for 1 year. Potential for extension exists if you are successful in applying for external funding, and such applications would be supported by all advisors.

Project background

This Postdoc is hosted by Prof. Denise M. Mitrano at ETH Zurich who leads the Environmental Chemistry of Anthropogenic Materials (ECAM) Group. Our research focuses on the distribution and impacts of anthropogenic materials in technical and environmental systems, and we are particularly interested in developing analytical tools to mechanistically understand the fate, transport and biological interactions of particles, such as metal colloids, engineered nanomaterials and microplastics. Our results can inform risk assessments of anthropogenic pollutants and propose solutions for sustainable freshwater and soil management. We work as an interdisciplinary team of environmental scientists, environmental engineers, analytical chemists and biologists with diverse scientific backgrounds coming from across the world, and find this diversity an asset in building a creative and dynamic working environment.

Job description

The position will be jointly supervised by Dr. Michael Meissle (Biosafety Research Group) and Dr. Thomas Bucheli (Environmental Analytics Research Group) at Agroscope in Zurich. Agroscope is the Swiss center of excellence for agricultural research and it is affiliated with the Federal Office for Agriculture. The Biosafety Research Group assesses environmental impacts of different technologies on the biodiversity in agroecosystems with a focus on beneficial arthropods. The Environmental Analytics Research Group studies the occurrence, behavior and effects of different organic micro-pollutants in agroecosystems.

We aim to establish test systems for food chain effects of micro- and nanoplastics using model particulate plastics with an inorganic tracer incorporated into the polymer produced in-house. These materials have been successfully utilized in a number of experiments, where we can track particles using standard methods for trace metals analysis. The work will include the adaptation of existing analytical protocols for micro- and nanoplastics detection in biological samples. Assays with prey species (decomposers) ingesting plastics will be established and the effects of plastic ingestion on those species will be determined. Then, plastic ingestion and its effects on predators, feeding on plastic-contaminated prey will be evaluated. The diverse nature of plastic research involving environmental science, analytical chemistry, and ecotoxicology will allow you to perform multidisciplinary research. The analytical portion of the project (particle characterization, body-burdens of plastics) will be conducted at ETH Zürich, while the arthropod rearing and bioassays will be carried out at Agroscope in Zürich-Reckenholz.

Your profile

  • Hold a PhD degree in biology, environmental science, agronomy, or a related field.
  • Experience with arthropod bioassays, soil ecosystems, and analyzing particles (microplastics, nanoparticles, colloids) or metals would be an asset.
  • The ability for independent, organized work is essential.
  • Teamwork is also important as the Postdoc will be integrated into two different research groups (ETH and Agroscope).
  • The working language is English, and advanced communication skills in English (oral and written) are expected.

We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Motivation letter
  • CV
  • Short summary of PhD thesis and prior Postdoc positions (when relevant) - maximum 1 page
  • Contact information for 3 potential references

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.
Further information about the Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics can be found on our website . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Dr Denise Mitrano ( (no applications).

Apply online now

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

In your application, please refer to and reference JobID 58960.

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