PhD Position: Assessing the potential of nature-based solutions to promote carbon sequestration and biodiversity in coastal systems throughout Europe


Delft, Netherlands 🇳🇱

Would you like to collect your own data in salt marshes and on intertidal flats and with that have impact on the development of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) in Europe? Are you getting energized from working in an international and multidisciplinary team in a European project? Apply for this vacancy and start your PhD research.

What can you expect as PhD-researcher?

Coastal ecosystems, such as salt marshes, deliver valuable ecosystem services (ESS). Yet these ecosystems are vulnerable to anthropogenic impact and climate change. Restoration of coastal ecosystems and the development of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) does not often target and optimize ESS such as biodiversity and carbon fixation (Blue carbon). To develop NbS that deliver value for nature and people, quantitative information from restored coastal systems on biodiversity and carbon sequestration is needed. This information can be used to provide insight in trade-offs between different ecosystem services and allows for estimation of the contribution of marshes to estuary-wide climate mitigation and adaptation.

The PhD position is funded by the REST-COAST project. REST COAST is a large European project (part of the European Green Deal). The overall project will demonstrate to what extent upscaled restoration of coastal ecosystems among which salt marshes can mitigate climate change impact by providing carbon storage, reducing risks and providing gains in biodiversity for vulnerable coastal ecosystems. REST COAST will develop solutions for the resilient delivery of coastal ESS and test these at 9 pilot sites throughout Europe. The selected ESS (e.g. risk reduction, environmental quality) touch urgent coastal problems such as the erosion/flooding during recent storms or the accelerating coastal habitat degradation.

This PhD research will focus on:

  1. Quantification of ecosystem services related to carbon storage and biodiversity in existing salt marshes and restoration projects, by conducting field measurements. The PhD candidate is responsible for planning and executing field campaigns and work in laboratory facilities. The successful candidate is expected to publish outputs in peer-reviewed journals;
  2. Identifying which processes on a local scale determine long-term carbon storage potential of wetland soils. By measuring carbon stocks in salt marshes and relevant nature restoration sites;
  3. Assessing European field sites of the REST-COAST project to determine the effects of global climate change and potential NbS on carbon storage.

The research will be based on a multidisciplinary approach (ecology, morphology, hydrodynamics and the environment), and a good balance between experimental, analytical and numerical aspects is foreseen. During your research you will have a close collaboration with other PhD’s, postdocs and experts of several European project partners. Data and knowledge collected in the field is intended to be used as input for multiple work packages in the REST-COAST project, among others:

  • a process-driven module in Delft-3D or Delft-Flexible Mesh;
  • a quick scan tool based on empiric relationships for worldwide use;
  • estimation and provision of guidelines to optimize carbon storage potential in future nature restoration projects as Nature-based Solutions.

What we expect from a PhD researcher

  • MSc in the field of physical geography, soil water atmosphere or ecology, environmental studies and/or civil engineering;
  • affinity with numerical modeling, field sampling and carbon cycling;
  • experience in data analysis and use of geographical information systems (GIS);
  • an interest and practical background in working in laboratory facilities and coastal systems;
  • experience or affinity with working in international environments and teams;
  • open to work at different locations in the field throughout Europe and in different lab facilities in the Netherlands;
  • excellent command of written and spoken English. Dutch is a plus.

What we offer:

  • Working in offices in Delft, partly at Delft University of Technology (TUDelft) and partly at Deltares;
  • Supervision by a multidisciplinary team, amongst others Bregje van Wesenbeeck (TUDelft/Deltares), Kelly Elschot (Wageningen Marine Research), Pim Willemsen (Deltares) and Mindert de Vries (Deltares);
  • You will be employed at Deltares and linked as external PhD candidate to Delft University;
  • The gross salary will be in line with the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities;
  • A diverse and inclusive working environment;*
  • An informal, dynamic and challenging working environment;
  • Excellent training (including courses at the TU Delft Graduate School).


Are you interested in this job and do you fit the job qualifications? Then apply directly by uploading your CV and cover letter. The deadline for submission is February 1st 2022. The PhD track is foreseen to start in March 2022, fulltime with a duration of 48 months.
Interviews will be held in February. If you have any questions about the vacancy you can contact Brian de Bruin (HR Recruitment Officer; [email protected]).

*Deltares is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment