HOURS PER WEEK: 36 to 40FACULTY: Faculty of GeosciencesDEPARTMENT: GEO / Dept FGAPPLICATION DEADLINE: 30 September 2023



Job description

The Department of Physical Geography has a vacant fully funded PhD position. This project is focused on the global morphological classification of rivers and the causal analysis of global patterns using remote sensing. It allows you to have significant autonomy in shaping and executing your research.

While the controls on river morphology and patterns have been extensively studied, the global distribution of river morphologies remains unmapped. Recent advancements in automated mapping and quantitative analysis of satellite data now enable us to pursue this research goal. The main objectives of this project are to characterise river patterns, investigate potential causal factors, and quantify these findings on a global scale. The research questions are:

  1. What is the global distribution of river patterns, such as meandering, anastomosing, and braided?
  2. What factors influence the morphological patterns of rivers?
  3. To what extent do river patterns correlate with variables like gradient and structural controls (e.g., vegetation cover, hinterland lithology, and proximity to the ocean)?
  4. What are the anthropogenic impacts on fluvial landscapes?

The proposed study covers a wide range of river research, combining remote sensing with spatial data analysis. Furthermore, it integrates the expertise of our department in physical modeling, remote sensing, and numerical simulation.
Your research journey will be based at Utrecht University, providing you with a stimulating academic environment and access to cutting-edge resources. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with experts both locally and internationally, and you will present your findings at various scientific meetings. Additionally, you will have access to a wealth of experience and knowledge from experts in river research across our department.

To support academic and personal development, PhD candidates follow courses and assist in teaching Earth Sciences at Bachelor’s and Master’s level. Together these activities amount to 20% of the contracted time.


We welcome your contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field of physical geography and river systems. We look forward to your application if you have:

  • a Master’s degree (MSc) in earth sciences, physical geography, civil engineering, spatial data science, planetary science, or a related field;
  • affinity with and skills in remote sensing, data wrangling and statistical inference;
  • demonstrated experience with river research;
  • motivation to work in an interdisciplinary team with morphologists, geologists and geographers;
  • good English oral and writing skills: English at C1 level external link or better (comparable to level 3 of the Lecturer Assessment Grid).

You are expected to submit your results to open access peer-reviewed academic journals and contribute to Open Science 

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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 €2,770 in the first year and €3,539 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 

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, including an attractive retirement scheme, professional development 

external link, (partly paid) parental leave, sports external link and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University external link.

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University 

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, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes 

external link. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow external link.

Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences 

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 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 team of the Department of Physical Geography 

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 excels in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. We research processes, patterns and dynamics of earth’s systems from the mountains to the sea, and the interaction in between. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations. We are a lively department that hosts an active early career community (PhD-students, researchers and lecturers). We organise a warm welcome for every new member.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact:
Dr. Daan Beelen 

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 (Assistant Professor) at d.beelen@uu.nl 

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Dr. Frances Dunn external link (Assistant Professor) at f.e.dunn@uu.nl external link.


Everyone deserves to feel at home 

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 at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. 

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply now’ button.

  • The first round of interviews will take place on 9/10/2023. This round of interviews may be online via MS Teams.
  • The second round of interviews will take place on 19/10/2023. 

If you have an international (not-Dutch) Master-diploma you can be requested to send your BA- and MA-diplomas and gradelists.

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

The application deadline is 30 September 2023.


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