PhD Position SALTISolutions

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)
Delft, 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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To strengthen our new SALTISolutions project team we are looking for two PhD Candidates.

SALTISolutions is a multi-disciplinary TTW-funded Perspective Program, led by Prof. Julie Pietrzak TU Delft and carried out in close collaboration with the universities of Twente, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Wageningen and NIOZ.

SALTISolutions will deliver the VirtualDelta, a digital twin of a real Delta, as a management and design instrument for salt-intrusion related questions in deltas worldwide. Increasing salt intrusion caused by human alterations of estuaries and deltas, increased freshwater demand, and climate change threatens freshwater availability in deltas. Freshwater supply is essential for health and human well-being, for ecological integrity of aquatic ecosystems, and for economic interests. An integrated and optimized societal response to salt intrusion challenges demands actions at several levels:

  • On short time scales: operational management tools based on short-term forecasts and available (‘big’) data for freshwater management;
  • On medium time scales: evaluation of effects of infrastructural changes on salt intrusion and, using scenario models, introduction into the society-stakeholder debate. Development of well-designed, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly solutions to salt intrusion based engineering (‘grey’) and nature-based (‘green’) solutions is essential;
  • On long time scales: evaluation of climate-proofness of infrastructure, policies and mitigation measures. Extreme climate-change scenarios require radically new solution pathways.

SALTISolutions’ Virtual Delta brings together advanced models, data-assimilation tools, visualisation methods, stakeholder-interaction tools, and exploratory strategic analyses for delta management at different levels. Scientific challenges and expected scientific breakthroughs include: incorporating multiscale physical processes; understanding impact of natural eco-morphological processes on salt intrusion, and developing forecasting systems and advanced game approaches for stakeholder engagement and decision making. Technology suppliers and end-users are actively involved in SALTISolutions, which will lead to conceptual and operational breakthroughs in freshwater management of deltas.

Position at EEMCS/DIAM: Development of the Virtual Delta module to support observing estuarine salinity from space.

Existing numerical models of salt intrusion are not very accurate. In addition to the development of improved models in other projects of SALTISlutions, there is also an excellent opportunity to improve modelling results using data-assimilation. For some deltas there may be sufficient local measurements availabe, but in many deltas and estuaries there are very few in-situ measurements available. However, there is a steadilly increasing wealth of satellite remote sensing data, with more and satellites, more and improved sensors, etc. With the increase in resolution and improved processing techniques, coasts and estuaries are now within the reach of current capabilities. This position will explore the potential of data-assimilation and remote sensing to improve our model results for salt-intrusion. You will connect these and other measurements to the advanced 3D model developed within SALTISolutions and can build upon existing data-assimilation tools from OpenDA. Potential satellite data includes, altimetry (sea-surface height), infrared (water temperature) and optical images. In addition, we will explore the use of fast empirical relations to support reconstruction of long time-series and provide real-time forecasts with manageable computer resources. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Ir. Martin Verlaan and Prof. Dr. Julie Pietrzak.