PhD position on Water-carbon-nutrient dynamics for more resilient landscapes in Dutch sandy soils (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

Environmental GeologyEnvironmental ScienceEnvironmental StudiesGeologyHydrology
Utrecht University (UU), the Netherlands
Sep 15, 2023 21:59:00 GMT+00:00
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  • HOURS PER WEEK- 28 to 40
  • FACULTY- Faculty of Geosciences
  • APPLICATION DEADLINE- 15 September 2023

Job description

Utrecht University has opened a new full-time four-year position for a doctoral (PhD) researcher in the field of water-carbon-nutrient dynamics for more resilient landscapes in Dutch sandy soils. The doctoral researcher will become part of the 5-year research programme RESHAPE

RESHAPE is a new interdisciplinary research programme funded by NWO that aims to develop change-pathways to increase the resilience of Dutch sand landscapes in face of ongoing climate change. It focuses on droughts, floods, biodiversity loss and deteriorating water quality. The water system of the sandy area goes far beyond the visible ditches and rivers. It is especially the invisible water flows through subsurface and plants that we can influence and improve. Moreover, in a resilient sand landscape, the spatial networks of water, economy, society and governance are strongly intertwined. Within RESHAPE we study how to stimulate these spatial dependencies, which often start with water and can catalyze a change towards a future-proof sand landscape.

The Environmental Sciences section at Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development is seeking a motivated PhD candidate to develop nature-inspired guiding principles of water-carbon-nutrient dynamics at the watershed-scale and their implementation strategies in anthropogenic landscapes, thereby working towards more resilient landscapes and water systems in Dutch sandy soils. Developing and implementing these guiding principles is crucial to address increasing vulnerability to pollution, soil carbon emissions and biodiversity loss in Dutch sand landscapes under climate change.

Within this PhD project, you will contribute to designing a future proof agricultural landscape by:

  1. quantifying water, nutrient, and carbon balances using existing datasets, additional fieldwork data, and models;
  2. proposing future-proof nature inspired solutions that restore biodiversity, climate resilience, and the natural water, nutrient, and carbon buffers;
  3. quantifying the effects of the proposed solutions by monitoring field implementations and/or model explorations.  

This position will be supervised by Dr Stefanie Lutz (UU), Professor Stefan Dekker (UU), Dr Ype van de Velde (VU, overall lead RESHAPE) and Dr Joachim Rozemeijer (Deltares). A substantial part of the project will be carried out at the knowledge institute Deltares under the supervision of Dr. Joachim Rozemeijer. Moreover, the PhD candidate will be embedded in the RESHAPE Academy, a trans-disciplinary innovation lab in which co-creation, validation and dissemination of the project results will take place. All PhDs within RESHAPE will contribute to making this a vibrant and impactful community.


The ideal candidate possesses the following interests and skills:

  • You have a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as environmental sciences, hydrology, geosciences, or a related field.
  • You have a demonstrable interest in quantitative methods including working with large model outputs, datasets, spatial data and/or satellite data.
  • You have experience with programming languages such as Python, R and/or Matlab, and an affinity for numerical modelling.
  • You are interested in doing cutting-edge policy-relevant scientific research.
  • You are able to work independently, but also within the interdisciplinary project team.
  • You have excellent writing and verbal communication skills in English.
  • You are proficient in Dutch or prepared to acquire Dutch language skills.

The candidate is expected to publish the results in peer-reviewed papers. Up to 10% of your time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programme of the Department of Sustainable Development. You will be enrolled in the Graduate school of the Faculty of Geosciences, in which a personalized training programme will be set up upon recruitment, which will reflect your training needs and career objectives.


You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, professional development, (partly paid) parental leave, sports and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth’s core to its surface, including man’s spatial and material utilisation of the Earth – always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The PhD researcher will be based in the Environmental Sciences group of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. The Environmental Sciences group is a dynamic, ambitious and internationally leading team of over eighty researchers studying environmental systems and associated sustainability challenges such as human-environment-ecosystem interactions, climate adaptation, the earth’s energy balance and climate system.

PhD training programmes are provided by the Graduate School of the Faculty of Geosciences and, if required, other graduate schools at Utrecht University and beyond. The working language of the institute is English. Utrecht University is one of the leading research universities in Europe, with particular strengths in sustainability, climate change, and geography, among others. The doctoral researchers we are hiring will be able to develop their research at the interface of, and with the support of, key strategic themes of the university (‘Pathways to Sustainability’ and ‘Institutions for Open Societies’), opening up numerous opportunities for university-wide interaction.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr Stefanie Lutz (Assistant Professor) at or Professor Stefan Dekker (Professor Global EcoHydrology and Sustainability and Research Director Copernicus) at


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. 

Please submit the following documents in your application:

  • a motivation letter explaining your interest and suitability for the position;
  • a full curriculum vitae (CV), including the grade for your Master’s thesis and overall grade point average (or equivalent) of your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees;
  • names and contact details of 2-3 people who can act as references/referees. No reference letters are required at this stage.

Please do not include photos or references to your gender, age or marital status in your application.

*Note to recruitment agencies: Please refrain from contacting us regarding this job posting.

The application deadline is 15 September 2023.