PhD: Geomorphology and Ecology of Coastal Wetlands via EURAXESS

University of Antwerp

Antwerp, , BE

The University of Antwerp (Belgium) has a full-time vacancy for a

PhD student in the area of Geomorphology and Ecology of Coastal Wetlands

Job description

  • You will work on a PhD study (4 years) on “Coastal wetland resilience to sea level rise and the role of bio-geomorphic self-organization”. Coastal wetlands (tidal marshes, mangrove forests, seagrass beds) provide important functions (such as biodiversity conservation, carbon capture and storage, fisheries production, etc.) that are threatened by global climate warming and resulting sea level rise. Whether these valuable ecosystems drown or continue to exist while sea level rises, depends on their ability to trap sand and mud that builds up the land surface in balance with the rising sea level. This ability to trap sediments is locally determined by so-called bio-geomorphic interactions between plant growth, water flow, and sediment erosion and deposition. At the larger scale, the landscape self-organizes by developing a branching network of channels, intertwined by vegetated wetland surfaces. The geometric properties of the branching channel networks will be key to the efficiency of tidal sediment supply and deposition within the wetlands, and hence their adaptability to sea level rise. A recent paper on this topic can be found here:
  • This PhD student will investigate how the small-scale (m²) bio-geomorphic interactions between plants, tidal flow and sediments lead to the large-scale (km²) self-organization of tidal wetland landscapes. Furthermore, you will study how the resulting self-organized structure of the branching channel networks will control the efficiency of sediment supply and deposition within the adjacent vegetated wetlands, and hence the ecosystem’s adaptability to sea level rise. Among several factors, the project will focus on the unknown impact of different plant species traits on the self-organization and adaptability of wetlands to rise with sea level. We test the hypotheses that (1) different plant species traits lead to the formation of different geometric properties of the self-organized channel networks; and (2) the resulting channel network geometries determine the efficiency to distribute and trap sediments in response to sea level rise.
  • This will be investigated based on a novel combination of field measurements and scaled lab experiments. Field methods that will be used, include remote sensing (e.g. using drones and satellites images) and topographic field surveying in tidal wetlands, and geo-spatial analysis of the resulting data to quantify geometric properties of the channel networks. The lab work will be conducted in a unique tidal flume at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands (, in which alternating tidal flow can interact with a sediment bed and with the colonization by plants, allowing to study the formation of tidal wetland landscapes on scale.
  • This PhD study is part of a collaborative research project between the University of Antwerp (team of prof. Stijn Temmerman: and the University of Utrecht (team of prof. Maarten Kleinhans: Hence you will collaborate with other researchers within both research teams, and within the Centre of Excellence on “Global Change Ecology” of the University of Antwerp (
  • You will communicate results at national and international conferences and symposia. You will publish results in high-quality scientific journals, and you will prepare a PhD thesis.
  • You may contribute to supporting teaching for courses on Estuarine & Coastal Systems, River Morphology & Hydrodynamics, and Geographical Information Systems.

Profile and requirements

  • You hold a master degree in Physical Geography, Geology, Biology, Bio-engineering or Environmental Engineering, or related disciplines.
  • You can submit outstanding academic results;.
  • Preferably you have a background knowledge of processes (geomorphological, ecological) in tidal systems (estuaries, coastal lagoons…).
  • Experience with GIS and/or remote sensing analyses is considered as positive.
  • You are fluent in English (both speaking and academic writing).
  • Your academic qualities comply with the requirements stipulated in the university’s policy.
  • You are quality-oriented, conscientious, creative and cooperative.
  • You have a communicative and enterprising attitude and are able to work independently as well as in a team.

We offer

  • a doctoral scholarship for a period of 1 year; after positive evaluation, there is the possibility for an extension of the doctoral scholarship to a total period of 4 years;
  • the start date of scholarship will be as soon as possible;
  • a monthly grant amount ranging from € 2.447,20 – € 2.596,27;
  • a dynamic and stimulating work environment.

How to apply?

  • Applications may only be submitted online, before the closing date of 16 February 2020 and should include:
    • your curriculum vitae;
    • a brief (500 words) motivation letter;
    • contact information of max. 2 reference persons.
  • A pre-selection will be made from amongst the submitted applications. The remainder of the selection procedure is specific to the position and will be determined by the selection panel.
  • More information about the online application form can be obtained through [email protected].
  • For questions about the profile and the description of duties, please contact Prof. Stijn Temmerman, e-mail: [email protected] (Tel. +32 3 265 23 13).

The University of Antwerp is a family friendly organization, with a focus on equal opportunities and diversity. Our HR-policy for researchers was awarded by the European Commission with the quality label HR Excellence in research.

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