PhD position: Ecohydrological modeling (Devising strategies for sustainable agricultural water management in the Hindon basin)

Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen, Netherlands 🇳🇱

We are looking for

Are you an enthusiastic, motivated, and creative scientist with a MSc in hydrology, environmental science/engineering, or a similar field? Do you have an interest in developing methods and applying models to guide interventions towards sustainable agricultural practices? Then you may be the ideal candidate for this project!

The Hindon tributary of the Ganga river is known to be highly contaminated by a broad range of pollutants. Intense fertilizer and pesticide use, combined with agricultural runoff and groundwater percolation, is a major cause of pollution of water resources in this basin. Devising strategies for river remediation requires a deeper understanding of the hydrological and chemical processes involved.

The PhD candidate will be part of a cross disciplinary research project between India and The Netherlands – Hindon Roots Sensing (HIROS): River Rejuvenation through Scalable Water and Solute Balance Modelling and Informed Farmers’ Actions – that seeks to develop pathways towards sustainable agricultural water management in the Hindon basin. The focus of this PhD is to develop and apply ecohydrological models to describe field scale hydrological and chemical processes. Specifically, as a PhD-student you will focus on the following objectives:

  • Determine sets of effective soil physical parameters through inverse modelling of water balances at a range of different scales and link these parameters to classical soil survey and optical remote sensing data. Develop aggregation rules to upscale soil water retention and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity curves.
  • Optimize irrigation regimes that reduces runoff and percolation – but optimizes crop production – to address the challenges faced by the Hindon basin using the soil physical properties acquired.
  • Develop new procedures to define system properties that will allow the computation of the chemical balances of nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides in typical soil-crop-climate combinations found in the Hindon basin and devise improved fertilizer application plans.

The HIROS project is funded by the Dutch Research Council NWO and the Indian Government Department of Science & Technology under the Cooperation India-the Netherlands joint call on “Cleaning the Ganga and Agri-Water”. The project aims at providing scientific knowledge to support pathways towards sustainable agricultural water management in the Hindon basin.

Fundamental research will create accurate methods for (a) the application of remote sensing technologies for high resolution soil physical and chemical monitoring, (b) eco-hydrological modelling at field/farmer level; and (c) integrated modelling from field to basin scale. The impact of farming interventions will be studied using modeling scenarios, a socio-economic-ecological framework, and innovative remote sensing-based farmers communication platforms.

As a PhD, you will be expected to intensively cooperate with other 5 PhD students as well as researchers from the other institutions involved in the project (both in the Netherlands and in India), within a multidisciplinary and multicultural research and training network aimed scientific excellence and at accelerating the applicant’s scientific career.

This PhD will be in close cooperation with TU Delft. Within this NWO programme another PhD position “PhD Position in Hydrology which focusses on the Hindon River Basin” is vacant at TU Delft. For more information check their website.

We ask

  • Completed MSc in hydrology, environmental science/engineering or a similar field.
  • Good academic results during the master’s program.
  • Proven experience with hydrological modeling (knowledge of SWAT, SWAP or HYDRUS is a plus).
  • Experience in programming scripts (e.g. Python, R, Matlab).
  • Strong analytical skills.
  • The ability to independently conduct scientific research.
  • Good communication and (academic) writing skills in English.
  • Being able to put your hydrological expertise in a water system perspective.
  • You are a team player. Working together is essential for the success of this project.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our  Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.434,- per month rising to € 3.111,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.
You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad

Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.
Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

Equal opportunities

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

More information

To learn more about this position you can get in touch with dr. Sara Bonetti, e-mail: [email protected]

For questions about the procedure you can contact Edgar Tijhuis, corporate recruiter, [email protected]

Do you want to apply?

This can be done directly by uploading the documents mentioned below via the application button at the vacancy on our website so that we can process your personal data with your permission.


To apply, please upload the following documents:

  1. letter of motivation (including brief outline of your research ideas related to the PhD project);
  2. your CV, including, together in one pdf file, up to three recommendation letters and a list of courses taken and exam scores.

This vacancy is open up to and including the 10th of January, 2022. We want to plan the first job interviews soon afterwards. The ideal starting date is the 1st of March 2022.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 6.800 employees and 12.900 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!