PhD Candidate to study ontogeny of Triceratops

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD Candidate to study ontogeny of Triceratops.

A full time position (36 hours a week); initially for one year, and after a successful evaluation for another three years.


One PhD position is available within the “Horned dinosaurs from cradle to grave” project which is funded by a Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Open Programme grant and led by Prof. Dr. Anne Schulp (Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Utrecht University). The project is scheduled to start in June 2019.

In the past few years, Naturalis excavated two extraordinarily rich Triceratops bonebeds from the Lance Formation of Wyoming, USA. Over one thousand Triceratops bones of at least eight individuals of different ontogenetic age were recovered - an order of magnitude more bones than any other Triceratops site known to date. Development, longevity and life history are relatively well-documented in all but one major group of dinosaurs: the ceratopsians – the horned dinosaurs, such as the iconic Triceratops. This research project aims to address the major questions: (1) how and how fast did Triceratops (and other ceratopsids) grow? and (2) does the remarkable variability in cranial ornamentation in Triceratops represent different growth stages, truly different taxa, and/or sexual dimorphism?

The candidate will perform an integrated analytical approach on the newly excavated Triceratops fossils, by mapping (full skeletal) histological and geochemical properties and by obtaining morphological data. Additionally, comparisons with other specimens will be made on the basis of both literature research as well as collection visits. These analyses should result in a developmental series of Triceratops supported by the reconstructed age of each of the ontogenetic stages based on Lines of Arrested Growth. This in turn would allow for the evaluation of traditional relative ontogenetic indicators, including cranial display structures and bone suture closure regimes, in a comprehensive developmental framework.

The daily supervisor (at Naturalis) and promotor (at Utrecht University) will be Anne Schulp. Within Naturalis, the PhD candidate will work with Collection Management, the team of volunteers, and Dylan Bastiaans and other researchers at the “Live Science” Dinolab, where the preparation work on the skeletons is ongoing. A close collaboration, in particular in the field of bone histology, will be with Prof. dr. Martin Sander and colleagues at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn (Germany). Martin Sander will be co-promotor. Other collaborations will include stable isotope work with Dr. Jeroen van der Lubbe (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam), and µXRF analyses with Dr. Koen Stein (VU Brussel).

With a new dinosaur gallery scheduled to open at the Naturalis public exhibitions in 2019, and additional Triceratops skeletons expected to be included in this gallery in the early 2020s, the candidate will also be required to participate in exhibition development, outreach activities and the educational programmes of the museum.

General requirements
and skills

The successful candidate should have an MSc (at the start of the contract) in a relevant discipline (Earth Sciences and/or Biology) with a demonstrated interest and experience in a relevant field in vertebrate palaeontology, as well as prior experience in one or more of the techniques outlined in the job description. Ideally, the candidate has:

  • Prior experience with collection-based research, preferably with ceratopsian dinosaurs;
  • Experience in dinosaur histology;
  • Excellent organizational skills;
  • Hands-on experience in fossil preparation;
  • Willingness to travel abroad; the project requires extensive collection visits in North America as well as presentations at international conferences;
  • Relevant digital skills (including 3D visualization of CT data);
  • Excellent command of the English language (verbal and written);
  • In addition to the research outlined above, the Triceratops project involves a lot of outreach activities, in which the successful candidate is expected to participate and contribute. Therefore, a good command of the Dutch language is highly desirable, too.

we offer

A full time position (36 hours a week); initially for one year, and after a successful evaluation for another three years. A salary of circa €2.771 gross per month, circa €37.042 gross per year, depending on relevant experience. The successful candidate will be employed by Naturalis in Leiden and defend his or her PhD at Utrecht University. Naturalis has a dynamic research environment with involved research staff, a lively PhD and postdoc community, and a national and international academic network. Naturalis has well-equipped modern laboratories with highly qualified technical staff. Naturalis promotes gender equality and wants to enhance the diversity of staff members.


Applicants are invited to submit their application as a single PDF, including a cover letter, CV and contact information of two individuals who could provide an evaluation of the candidate upon request before April 15, 2019. Please use the application form. More information about this position can be obtained from Prof. Dr. Anne Schulp (+31 6 51 22 93 17).