HOURS PER WEEK: 36 to 40FACULTY: Faculty of GeosciencesDEPARTMENT: GEO / Dept FGAPPLICATION DEADLINE: 13 October 2023



Job description

The Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University and Deltares 

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 are seeking a PhD candidate for WadSED, a large project on the Wadden Sea tidal basins and the Western Scheldt estuary. We seek to understand these systems and predict their morphodynamics and long-term morphological development under influence of natural dynamics, human interference and sea-level rise. Morphological change involves fluxes of sediment that, integrated over time and space, are sediment budgets. Channel-shoal patterns arise and change as a result of these dynamics. The sediment budget, where the sediment comes from and goes to, and the timescale over which it is displaced, determine the short-term morphodynamics and the long-term morphological development. For better understanding and sustainable management, we need to track and trace the sediment.

Your main task will be to develop a new, objective method using our new technology to recognise patterns. Once we have subdivided the landscape into meaningful parts with coherent behavior, we can construct detailed sediment budgets of estuaries and tidal basins and determine sediment pathways from measurements and ongoing modelling. With this, we will gain understanding in systems functioning and effects of biota, extreme events, sea-level rise and human interference. Several ideas, methods and concepts for automated recognition of channels and bars are already available and are also developed by other researchers in our project. Your outcomes will be used by other PhD candidates, for example in model validation.

You will be based at Utrecht University and Deltares. At UU, you will be part of a vibrant PhD community and of the Physical Geography department with renown expertise in tidal systems. At Deltares, you will be member of the Applied Morphodynamics department, a team of about thirty experts, that undertakes a wide range of applied research and innovative, specialized consultancy projects in coastal environments related to coastal hazards and coastal defense, sediment management and coastal restoration, and long-term coastal evolution.

As WadSED project team we will collectively gain system understanding, have fun doing science, and be relevant in application. We collaborate with a professional attitude towards our work, our colleagues and partners and communicate in an open and constructive way. You will gain skills in science communication for interdisciplinary collaboration and for explaining your results to societal partners that intend to use the new knowledge. You will present your work at project meetings, for the societal partners, and at international scientific conferences. This PhD project includes courses for academic writing and presentation, responsible academic conduct and in-depth training and coaching for transdisciplinary communication and public science communication.

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 twenty percent of the contracted time.

For more information on the project and subprojects see WadSED 

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. This vacancy concerns project WP1.2.


We look forward to your application if you have the following qualifications:

  • a Master’s degree (MSc) in physical geography, earth sciences, coastal or civil engineering, oceanography, spatial data science, or a related field;
  • sincere interest in other fields of expertise that relate to coastal and sedimentary dynamics , such as wave dynamics, sedimentology and ecology;
  • affinity with and skills in quantitative data wrangling. Familiarity with Python and affinity with numerical models would be convenient;
  • motivation to work in a transdisciplinary team with geomorphologists, geologists, geographers, engineers, ecologists, and with policymakers in science and in society;
  • a professional attitude towards work, coworkers and partners and communicate in an open and constructive way
  • good English oral and writing skills: English at C1 level external link or better (comparable to level 3 of the Lecturer Assessment Grid) qualifies.


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 €2,770.00 in the first year and €3,539.00 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%, a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year and we offer an attractive retirement scheme.

In addition to the employment conditions 

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 from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development 

external link, leave arrangements, sports and cultural schemes external link and you get discounts on software and other IT products. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow. 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 Professor Maarten Kleinhans 

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 at m.g.kleinhans@uu.nl 

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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’ button.

The interviews in the first round are on 27/10/2023. In the second round on mid November 2023. The first round may be online via MS Teams.

Preferred starting date is in the winter of 2023-2024.
If you have an international (not-Dutch) Master-diploma you can be requested to send your BA- and MA-diplomas and gradelists.

The application deadline is 13 October 2023.


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