PhD Position Enhancing Estuarine Flood Resilience by Tidal Foreshore-Management Technologies (1.0 FTE)

Hours per week: 
36 to 40
Faculty of Geosciences
GEO / Dept FG
Application deadline: 

Job description

The Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University (UU) and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) are seeking a PhD candidate for Future FRM Tech. In this programme we study future flood risk management technology for the Dutch rivers, estuaries and coasts. Adequate protection against flooding is essential for the existence of the Netherlands. There is a very large challenge to reinforce the current flood defence systems in our densely populated country, while also adapting them to deal with the effects of a changing climate. We seek to develop flood-resilient landscapes through technical and nature-based solutions for future climate adaptation. In this PhD project you will focus on the estuarine landscape of the Eastern Scheldt, located in the southwest of the Netherlands.

Estuaries worldwide are characterised by tidal foreshores consisting of salt marshes fronted by unvegetated tidal flats. These ecosystems are highly valuable in providing ecosystem services like enhancing biodiversity, massive carbon sequestration, and enhancing flood safety of coastal areas. Unfortunately, these tidal foreshore ecosystems are endangered worldwide by erosion due to reduced sediment supply, increased wave exposure and/or by drowning due to sea level rise. In the Eastern Scheldt, the construction of the Delta Works has caused strongly accelerated erosion and drowning of the tidal foreshores, making it a model-system for learning how to preserve flood safety and nature quality in estuaries worldwide.

Your main task will be to develop the understanding and approaches for minimizing erosion of the tidal flats and marsh edges in the Dutch Eastern Scheldt. Current maintenance of flood safety and nature functions of the Eastern Scheldt tidal system involves i) adding sand on tidal flats and ii) building stone dams as erosion protection at marsh edges. You will combine field experiments and flume studies to investigate 1) how to use mud instead of sand as building material and 2) how to develop nature-friendly approaches to minimize erosion of both tidal flats and marsh edges. Through collaboration with other researchers and stakeholders within the Future FRM Tech programme, you will design a strategy to enable a more sustainable management of the Eastern Scheldt estuary.

You will be based at the Physical Geography department at Utrecht University and, given the large amount of fieldwork in the Eastern Scheldt, you are also expected to spend considerable time at the department of Estuarine & Delta systems at NIOZ-Yerseke. At both departments, you will be part of a vibrant PhD community and research groups with renown expertise in coastal systems. As a project team we will collectively gain system understanding, be relevant in the application of our work, and communicate in an open and constructive way. You will gain skills in science communication for interdisciplinary collaboration and for explaining your results to partners that intend to use the knowledge. You will present your work at meetings and (inter)national scientific conferences.

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.


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

  • a Master's degree in ecology, biology, physical geography, coastal or civil engineering, or related disciplines;
  • affinity with and skills in quantitative data wrangling and spatial statistics, feeling for coastal and sedimentary dynamics would be beneficial, familiarity with Python, Matlab, R, or other programming languages would be convenient;
  • a keen interest for designing smart experiments, and setting up and carrying out challenging experimental field work;
  • motivation to work in a transdisciplinary team, consisting of ecologists, geomorphologists, civil engineers, and end-users from the private and public sectors;
  • a professional and collaborative attitude towards work, co-workers and partners, and communicate in an open and constructive way;
  • good English oral and writing skills, as you are expected to publish the findings in scientific journals and effectively communicate results to end-users.


We offer:

  • a position (1.0 FTE) for one year, with an extension to four years upon mutual agreement and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period;
  • a full-time gross salary between €2,770 in the first year and €3,539 in the fourth year (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO));
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, sports and cultural schemes 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.

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 team of the Department of Physical Geography 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 candidates, researchers and lecturers). We organise a warm welcome for every new member.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr Timothy Price (Assistant professor Coastal Morphodynamics), via or Professor Tjeerd Bouma (Professor Biogeomorphic Ecology) via

Note that we will unavailable from 23 December - 2 January, and access to e-mail will be limited from 2 – 7 January.


As Utrecht University, we want to be a home for everyone. We value staff with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and identities, including cultural, religious or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment in which everyone can flourish and contribute.

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

The application deadline is 8 January 2024.