PhD position for the project ‘Supply and provenance of fine sediment from the Rhine River basin'

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


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Job description

The Department of Physical Geography seeks a PhD candidate for the project ‘Supply and provenance of fine sediment from the Rhine River basin’, which is part of the Rijkswaterstaat funded Rivers2Morrow research programme on the long-term development of lowland rivers with respect to morphology, hydraulics and ecology. The project contributes to the UU thematic area ‘Water, Climate & Future Deltas’.

In many rivers of the world, suspended sediment concentrations have dramatically declined during the past decennia. This decline is primarely attributed to upstream human interferences in the river system including reservoir construction. The Rhine River, the most important supplier of water and sediment in the Dutch delta, is no exception to this global trend: in the Rhine River, the suspended sediment concentrations and loads have decreased by more than 50% since the 1950s. For an adequate assessment of potential consequences of this decline for river management and ecology in the long-term, insight and understanding in the origin of suspended sediment that is transported by the Rhine River is essential.
This PhD project aims to quantify the changes in the supply and provenance of suspended sediment in the Rhine River and to understand the controlling factors of these changes. Specific questions that will be addressed in the project are:

  • What are the origin and pathways of the suspended sediment through the system: what is the supply of suspended sediment from the upstream tributary rivers and what is the contribution of the erosion of the riverbed and banks, hillslopes and the supply from anthropogenic sources (e.g. urban areas, resuspension by shipping or dredging)?
  • What are the drivers of the observed decline in sediment concentrations and loads during the past decades?
  • Which factors may determine future suspended sediment concentrations, and what trends can be expected in the future?

These questions will be answered through time series analysis of satellite and monitoring data, establishment of sediment budgets in river reaches, and the application of geochemical tracing techniques. For this purpose, we will use time series of monitoring data across the Rhine basin and satellite imagery, complemented with new data to be collected during field sampling campaigns.


We seek a scientifically creative candidate holding an MSc degree in Physical Geography, Environmental Sciences, Civil Engineering or a closely related discipline with a strong motivation for scientific research, who is open to working with colleague Researchers at universities and other institutes, able to convey the relevance of the project for river management, and who has a demonstrable affinity with at least three of the following fields:

  • river morphodynamics and sediment transport;
  • environmental geochemistry;
  • field sampling of water or sediment;
  • satellite image processing and GIS analysis.

The PhD candidate will closely collaborate with Rijkswaterstaat and other colleague PhD candidates of the Rivers2Morrow programme at Utrecht University and other universities in the Netherlands.


We offer a fulltime position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,395 in the first year and €3,061 in year 4 (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

About the organization

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 societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

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 Department of Physical Geography conducts research and teaching and is responsible for the BSc and MSc programme Earth Sciences. Within the department of Physical Geography, the research groups carry out top-quality fundamental research that focuses on natural hazards, natural and human-induced morphodynamics and sedimentary processes, patterns and products in coastal, fluvial and terrestrial environments, and their response to global change. Besides, the department has expertise in the spatio-dynamic, integrated modelling of soil water-vegetation dynamics, earth observation, geostatistics, data-assimilation methods and global scale hydrological modelling in the context of global change.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact:
Dr Marcel van der Perk (Associate professor), via .

Interviews will take place on 5, 8 or 12 October 2020, either in person or via an online meeting (Skype or MS-Teams).


To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button below. Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

The application deadline is