Modelling of river channel and floodplain dynamics under environmental change

KU Leuven
Leuven, Belgium
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


Please note: this job post has expired! To the best of our knowledge, this job is no longer available and this page remains here for archival purposes only.

Floodplains and river valleys represent many ecosystem services such as biodiversity, carbon storage, and water buffering. However, these ecosystem services could change under influence of climate change, land use change, urbanization or management of water resources. A sustainable management of floodplains therefore requires fundamental insights into the mid- to long-term geoecohydrological dynamics of rivers and floodplains. In this project you will develop a numerical model that simulates channel morphology dynamics (incision/aggradation – bank erosion/point bar deposition) following changes in flood hydrology and sediment transport. For the latter, you will make use of existing hydrology and spatially distributed erosion and sediment delivery models. The combination of a river channel morphology model with a hydrology and sediment transport model will make it possible to forecast how environmental change may impact flood frequency and sediment deposition in floodplains. Available data on changes in channel morphology will be used to validate the channel morphology model, whilst sediment load and discharge records will be used to validate the hydrology-sediment transport model. Whilst many hydrology, sediment transport and river channel morphology models do exist, these often do not interact sufficiently to simulate the impact of changes in e.g. climate or land cover on flood frequency when also the river channel morphology changes. There is thus a need to develop channel hydrology models that are capable of simulating changes in river channel morphologies following changes in controlling factors such as river discharge, sediment transport and riparian vegetation. With this project, it is aimed to develop such a novel and dynamic model that is capable to couple hillslope processes,channel processes and floodplain processes and that is able to simulate the impact of changes in the driving forces on the morphological evolution of channels and floodplains.


We offer a fully funded PhD-scholarship for 2 years at the Division of Geography and Tourism within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (KU Leuven, Belgium) , which can be extended with another 1 to 2 years. 

Alternatively, excellent postdoctoral researchers with relevant expertise will also be considered for this position, however, with a limitation of 2 years.

Leuven is a medieval university town a charming place with many historical buildings. The University of Leuven is among the oldest universities in Western Europe, and today it is the largest university in Belgium. Situated at the heart of Europe, KU Leuven offers a vibrant and international setting, supported by fast connections to several European cities (twenty minutes by train to Brussels, two hours to Cologne, three hours to Amsterdam, and an hour and a half to Paris). The KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School ( supports training of the PhD students. Currently 60% of the doctoral students are international students. KU Leuven pursues an equal opportunities and diversity policy.

Eligibility criteria

We are looking for candidates that:

  • have (or are about to finish) a Master degree in a relevant discipline (physical geography, earth sciences, geology, environmental sciences, hydraulic engineering, etc.) or that already obtained a PhD in the field of numerical modelling of river channels 
  • have interest in and knowledge of the functioning of river systems. 
  • have ample experience with numerical modelling techniques (e.g. matlab, python, R or other programs). 
  • are able to work independently but also within a team of researchers. 
  • have a critical and creative mindset, as well as a strong motivation.
  • are willing to contribute to geomorphic field work in rivers and floodplain environments.
  • are willing to contribute to the BSc and/or MSc programs in Geography (e.g. through supervision of practical sessions and/or field trips).

Selection process

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Gert Verstraeten, tel.: +32 16 32 64 11, mail: or dr. Nils Broothaerts, tel.: +32 16 37 22 86, mail:
You can apply for this job no later than 26/05/2019 via the online application tool

Web site for additional job details