Fully funded PhD position Crossing the divide: sediment exchange between basins and sub-basins

 The Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University and Royal NIOZ 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 long-term morphological development under influence of natural dynamics, human interference and sea-level rise. Morphological change involves fluxes of sediment across the tidal inlet and across the tidal divides that separate the tidal basins. At a more detailed level, within basins subdivides are present that separate sub-basins, areas within a basin that are believed to have small exchange of water and sediment during normal tidal conditions. However, during wind events tidal (sub)divides are often flooded and sediment is exchanged. This raises the question to what extent they can be considered isolated systems. The main aim of this PhD project is to quantify the sediment transport across tidal (sub)divides, to understand its sensitivity to the external forcing conditions and to study how these transports can possibly change under influence of sea-level rise and human interventions. Therefore, you will gather new field data, analyse new and existing field data and use models to systematically study sediment transport across tidal (sub)divides. Your outcomes will be used by other PhD candidates, for example in setting up sediment budgets of the tidal basins of the Wadden Sea. You will also learn, in close collaboration, how to communicate your results to expert and non-expert partners in the project that wish to use these results and apply these methods.

You will be based at Utrecht University and NIOZ Yerseke. As WadSED project team we will collectively gain system understanding, have fun doing science, and be relevant for societal partners. We collaborate with a professional attitude towards our work, our colleagues and partners and communicate in an open and constructive way.

At Utrecht University you will become member of a vibrant PhD community and of a department with renown expertise in tidal systems. At NIOZ, you will be likewise welcomed in the Department of Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS), Yerseke. You will be welcomed in our team of experts in the WadSED project, and you will present your work at project meetings, for the societal partners, and at international scientific conferences. 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.

This PhD project includes courses for academic writing and presentation, responsible academic conduct and, as part of our project, in-depth training and coaching for transdisciplinary communication and public science communication.

For more information on the project and subprojects see WadSED 

. This vacancy concerns project WP1.2.

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 (MSc) in physical geography, physical oceanography, earth sciences, coastal or civil engineering, spatial data science, or a related field;
  • affinity with and skills in quantitative data analysis. Familiarity with Python and/or Matlab would be convenient;
  • experience in using full numerical hydrodynamic and sediment transport models, like Delft3D or GETM;
  • an interest to do field work (sea-going campaigns);
  • 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 or better (comparable to level 3 of the Lecturer Assessment Grid) qualifies.


We offer:

  • a position (1.0 FTE) for 1 year, with an extension to a total of four years upon successful assessment 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 of employment in 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 
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, leave arrangements, sports and cultural schemes 
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 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 
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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 
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. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow 
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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. Maarten van der Vegt 

 (Associate professor), via m.vandervegt@uu.nl 
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 or Dr. Theo Gerkema (Senior scientist), via theo.gerkema@nioz.nl. 
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The interviews in the first round are on 01/02/2024. The second round is mid February 2023. The first round may be online via MS Teams. Preferred starting date is April 2024.

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


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' button.

The application deadline is 14 January 2024.

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