PhD (2): Modelling coastal migration under climate change and sea level rise

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Amsterdam, Netherlands
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.

Are you interested in how coastal flooding and long-term sea level rise will affect coastal migration and adaptation? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

Future sea level rise (SLR), extreme flood events, and urbanization pressure will increase coastal flood risk. In absence of costly flood protection measures in numerous regions, millions of coastal residents will be forced to migrate to safer locations. This research addresses the significant challenge these trends pose to flood risk adaptation and migration policy: which coastal areas should be protected, and in which regions will mass migration become inevitable ?
The ERC-advanced project COASTMOVE will tackle this challenge by focusing on how human adaptive and migration behaviour of global coastal residents and other agents (government) will respond to sea level rise and climate change. For this, the project will develop both a global and regional agent-based model (ABM) which simulates under which conditions coastal inhabitants will move to safer locations. While the focus of this project is on the effect from coastal flooding and long-term sea level rise, other socio economic, demographic and environmental drivers also play a role. Key for the research is to collect data on these drivers, and to quantify the relation between migration behaviour and the drivers. There are two PhD positions available. Both positions focus on developing an agent-based model to simulate coastal migration flows between 2020 and 2100.

PhD 1 will focus on the regional-country scale, and develop a detailed agent-based model (ABM) for two case study areas/countries. The PhD will closely collaborate with another existing PhD who will perform surveys in 7 countries (e.g. Bangladesh, Marshall Islands, Alaska). These surveys provide insights in the migration decisions of people. The PhD will explore different migration theories (Gravity, radiation modelling) and how these compare to theories of individual decision making. These theories will form the basis for the ABM.

PhD 2 will focus on the global scale, and develops a global agent-based model. Similar to PhD 1, the activities will focus on the selection of the proper migration theory to model migration flows, and to collect global data on the main drivers of migration. Since the global scale ABM is computational more challenging, computational solutions (e.g., parallel processing, GPU computing) on a computational cluster will be required.

Once the behavioural rules are developed for both the regional and global ABM’s, the models will be validated and used to simulate coastal migration and adaptation behaviour for different (future) scenarios of sea level rise, coastal storms, and population growth. Both PhDs will intensively cooperate with an existing PhD researcher on surveys.

Your duties

  • setting up an Agent-Based Model for coastal migration using different migration theories (PhD1: regional; PhD2: global)
  • using collected survey data and global database in ABM models
  • developing future scenarios that influence migration, including sea level rise and coastal flooding
  • quantifying the number of people that will move away from the coastal areas, stay (and adapt) or move to the coastal areas
  • extensive calibration of both models and validation with stakeholders (e.g. Worldbank)
  • writing and publishing your scientific results which will lead ultimately to a dissertation
  • giving a limited amount of teaching


  • a Master’s degree in Hydrology, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Earth Sciences, Applied Mathematics, Computational Science, Social-Geography, Econometrics, or a related field
  • strong quantitative skills in data assessment, programming (preferably in Python, or willing to learn Python) and statistical methods
  • strong collaboration and communication skills to work in a larger team of researchers from other disciplines involved in international research projects

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for one year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of three years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

About the institute and department
Established in 1971, IVM is a leading environmental research institute that is internationally recognized for its high quality research output in a range of environmental disciplines, as well as for its interdisciplinary work. The mission of the institute is to contribute to sustainable development and care for the environment through scientific research and teaching. IVM aims to do excellent problem-oriented research that is useful to a wide range of stakeholders in the Netherlands and internationally. A unique strength of our research is to understand sustainability problems in their social and economic context. IVM’s research community works within four departments: Environmental Economics; Environmental Policy Analysis; Environmental Geography; and Water and Climate Risk. Since 2001 IVM is part of the Faculty of Science at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (
The department of Water and Climate Risk studies hydrological and climate processes, and how these processes lead to risks and opportunities for society, the economy, and the environment. A defining characteristic of the department is a multi-disciplinary approach that combines expertise from natural sciences with knowledge from the fields of economics, e-Science and geography. This approach has led to a unique research portfolio of water and climate risk projects, and the department is a global leading institute in flood and drought risk assessment, and risk management research.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload motivation letter, curriculum vitae, and the names and contact details of two references (we will only contact these for candidates selected for an interview) before 1 October 2020.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Prof. J.C.J.H. Aerts
Position: Head of Department Water and Climate Risk