PhD position NWA-ORC-programme Living on Soft Soils: Subsidence & Society: Relative sea-level rise related subsidence (1.0 FTE) at Utrecht University

Onderwijs en onderzoek
Uren per week: 
36 tot 40
Faculteit of dienst: 
Faculteit Geowetenschappen
GEO / Dept FG
Uiterlijk reageren op: 
10 april 2020


Within the framework of the joint NWA-ORC-programme Living on Soft Soils: Subsidence & Society project of Utrecht University, TUDelft, Wageningen University and Research, Deltares Research Institute, TNO, Wageningen Environmental Research and Utrecht University, Utrecht University is seeking a motivated PhD candidate to work on this collaborative research programme. 

Programme description

The threat of land subsidence, the knowledge hiatus on process-interplays causing it, and lacking mid- to long-term coping strategies, ask for an integrated research programme that addresses the issue of land subsidence in a holistic way, whereby insights about physical-chemical-biological system functioning, development, evaluation and implementation of measures as well as an assessment of their governance and legal implications co-evolve. The overall aim of our programme is to develop an integrative approach to achieve feasible, legitimate and sustainable solutions for managing the negative societal effects of land subsidence, connecting fundamental research on subsidence processes to socio-economic impact of subsidence and to governance and legal framework design.

The programme consists of four scientific work packages:

WP1: Measuring and monitoring of land subsidence

WP2: Land subsidence mechanisms and associated greenhouse gas emissions

WP3: Impact analysis of land subsidence

WP4: Measures and governance approaches to cope with land subsidence

The programme is funded by and contributes to the Dutch Research Agenda – Research along routes by consortia (NWA-ORC) aiming to stimulate research and innovation focused on the NWA routes, designed and implemented by interdisciplinary consortia spanning the entire knowledge chain, in which relevant social partners (Deltares Research Institute, TNO, NAM, Tauw BV, Sweco, Municipality of Gouda, Platform of Soft Soil Municipalities, Province of Utrecht, WDOD, HDSR, STOWA, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom relations, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and Wageningen Environmental research) are also represented.

Work package 1 focusses on making remote sensing data on total subsidence useful for human-induced soft-soil shallow subsidence analysis and forecasting, by optimizing its processing and by filtering for subsidence due to other factors: background natural ones (tectonic and hydroglacio-isostatic) and human-induced processed in the deeper substrate (drinking water from aquifers at intermediate depth; salt mining and gas field exploitation at kilometers depth).

For this work package Utrecht University is seeking a motivated PhD candidate to work on Relative sea-level rise related subsidence.


PhD-project WP1.3 will study the part of total observed and projected subsidence that is attributed to glacio- and hydro­isostatic adjustment (GIA) caused by past ice-sheet mass loss which contributes to relative sea-level rise (SLR). The project takes a data-science approach to the inputs and outputs of suites of geophysical simulations and data-driven interpolations of GIA. It will be executed in the Global Change Geomorphology group at UU (Dr. Cohen), in close cooperation with research groups at NIOZ (Texel: Dr. Stocchi), TU Delft (Dr. Ir. Van der Wal) and UU-IMAU (Prof. Dr. Van de Wal). Differences in spatial patterns and rates of modelled GIA will be evaluated and made explicit  at resolutions relevant for subsidence analysis in the Netherlands. To aid such evaluation, a benchmark dataset will be developed using geological data. This way, the uncertainty in attributing modern-day regional subsidence components to GIA is to be reduced.

Various national and international networks supporting subsidence, GIA and SLR science exist of which the PhD candidate will be part. Interaction is foreseen with fellow researchers of the Living in Soft Soils programme; with subsidence, GIA and SLR researchers within UU, TU Delft, NIOZ, TNO – Geological Survey of The Netherlands, Deltares Research Institute, University of Leeds; and with the PALSEA international SLR and GIA research community.

Candidates with a background in earth sciences, physical sciences and/or data sciences and a critical and open-minded attitude to computation are encouraged to apply. Candidates have excellent writing and verbal communication skills in English and you are a fast learner with a broad interest. Candidates are expected to publish their results in peer-reviewed academic journals as Open Science contributions.

Up to 10% of your time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the host institute. A personalised training programme will be set up upon recruitment, which will reflect your training needs and career objectives.


We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with extension to four years in total 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 €2,325 and €2,972 (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, (partly paid) parental leave, the choice for a good balance between work and private (a good arrangement for leave, among other things), possibilities for development and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

Over de organisatie

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 societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

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 Department of Physical Geography conducts research and teaching and is responsible for the BSc and MSc programme Earth Sciences.

Aanvullende informatie

More information can be obtained from Dr. Kim Cohen (


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

Our Department has committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce, and we strongly encourage women to apply. 

  • A letter of application which describes your motivation and qualifications;
  • your curriculum vitae and a list of publications;
  • and the names and addresses of two referees

should be submitted via the application button below. 

We are looking forward to receiving your application and meeting you!

Uiterlijk reageren op 10 april 2020.