Assistant or Associate Professor Physical Geography (3 positions)

Utrecht University

Utrecht, , NL

Job Description

The Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University has a strong and unique profile in research on earth surface processes, natural hazards, hydrology, quaternary geology, palaeo-ecology, delta evolution, fluvial and coastal processes, spatio-dynamic modelling, earth observation and image processing. We want to expand our research capacity with three positions, each focusing on one from the following five themes:

1. Dynamics of living coastal landscapes

The department’s Coastal and River group focuses on the natural and human-induced dynamics of living fluvial and coastal landscapes, in particular the interaction between physical and biotic processes within their fluvial, marine and aeolian components. The overarching aim is to combine our knowledge in a generic bio-morphological delta model to contribute solving present-day and future scientific and practice-inspired delta challenges. A barrier coast, with its beaches and dunes, tidal rivers and floodplains, large estuaries with major ports, tidal inlet systems, barrier islands, back-barrier channels, tidal flats and salt marshes, is our work domain.

Ideally, the candidate will work across traditional mono-disciplinary fields. Examples of interactions that we consider of interest are (in random order):

  • wave, aeolian and ecological processes on beaches and dunes;
  • bio-geomorphological interactions;
  • tide and wave processes in estuary mouths and nearby beaches;
  • salt intrusion and mud dynamics;
  • channel and floodplain interactions at the river-estuary transition.

The candidate holds a PhD degree in a relevant area, such as earth surface dynamics, environmental sciences, physical geography, ecology, ecohydraulics or a closely related field.

2. Large-scale hydro-economics

The Hydrology group focuses on regional to global-scale hydrology, and hydrological modelling. Key subjects include: water resources and scarcity, mountain hydrology, water-climate interactions, water-related hazards, and econometrics. We are looking for a candidate to establish a research line on regional to global-scale hydro-economics and socio-hydrology. Examples of topics that the department considers of interest are (in random order):

  • economic valuation and theories of non-renewable water resources;
  • econometrics of water resources use and investments in water infrastructure;
  • including non-monetary valuation of water-related services (ecosystems, future benefits);
  • direct and indirect damage calculations of floods, droughts, water scarcity and water-related natural hazards;
  • understanding economic, technological and institutional change in relation to floods, droughts, water scarcity and water-related natural hazards;
  • using game theory, agent-based modelling or socio-hydrological dynamics to simulate human-water interaction.

The new research line will be developed in close collaboration with the in the department available expertise on global hydrology and water resources, mountain hydrology, natural hazards and earth observation. The candidate holds a PhD degree in a relevant area, such as earth sciences, environmental sciences, hydro-economics, large-scale hydrology and water resources, or a closely related field.

3. Paleo-ecology and vegetation dynamics

The Palaeo-ecology group focuses at past ecosystems, climate-vegetation interactions and climate change and climate variability. We are looking for a candidate to establish a research line on reconstructing past vegetation and landscape dynamics using palaeo-ecological data and spatial modelling approaches. Examples of topics that the department considers of interest are (in random order):

  • quantitative and qualitative analysis of landscape dynamics using palaeoecological data;
  • assessment of past landscape dynamics by integrated database approaches;
  • modelling of spatial vegetation distribution and diversity on local to biome scale;
  • human induced disturbance versus natural vegetation dynamics;
  • high-resolution time-slice and time-series reconstructions of vegetation response to climatic change;
  • spatio-temporal reconstructions of environmental change ranging from modern, Holocene, Glacial-Interglacial and Quaternary to Neogene;

The new research line will be developed in close collaboration with the available expertise on terrestrial palaeoecology, quaternary geology, geomorphology, landscape dynamics, and hydrology.The candidate holds a PhD degree in a relevant area, such as palaeo-ecology, physical geography, environmental sciences, biology, earth sciences, or a closely related field.

4. Landscape dynamics, earth observation & geocomputation

Remote sensing, geocomputation and spatial analyses are key methods applied by the department in analysis of landscape dynamics across a range of spatial scales. We are looking for a candidate to establish a research line on mapping and modelling landscape dynamics using time series analysis, available earth observation images and spatio-temporal environmental models. Examples of topics that the department considers of interest are (in random order):

  • investigating the temporal shift of the seasons and natural vegetation due to global change using optical imagery of a.o. Landsat, Sentinel, Modis, Aster;
  • analysing time-series of optical images to detect and map hazardous events such as mass wasting, wind erosion, subsidence and flooding;
  • surveying soil moisture dynamics using microwave observations of e.g. SMOS, SMAP, Sentinel-1 to feed and validate our hydrological models;
  • quantitative analysis of space-borne altimeters to survey soil subsidence in deltas, dynamics of glaciers & ice sheets and variations of local sea levels.

The new research line will be developed in close collaboration with our expertise on earth observation, object-based image analysis, spatio-temporal modelling, palaeo-climate and hydrology.The candidate holds a PhD degree in a relevant area e.g. earth sciences, environmental sciences, physical geography, civil engineering, geocomputation, time-series analysis, earth observation, or a closely related field.

5. Subsurface modeling of deltas and coastal plains

The Global Change Geomorphology group focuses on Quaternary Geology and reconstructing the evolution and sedimentary structure of deltas. We link our understanding of delta evolution to the architecture and functioning of modern deltas, and the future development of deltas under global change. We are looking for a candidate to expand our understanding of Holocene deltas and coastal plains to the substrates of such systems, and to link substrate characteristics of modern deltas to their functioning as groundwater reservoirs, salinization, land subsidence and flooding. Examples of topics that we consider of interest are (in random order):

  • sequence stratigraphy models of delta stacks, that reflect our understanding of the architecture of Late Tertiary and Pleistocene delta sequences;
  • preservation effects of deposits, internally and during cycles of sea level change;
  • the role of internal controls in delta formation on the final subsurface architectural properties;
  • integration of large geophysical datasets and 3D subsurface modelling;
  • linking process-based modelling to sedimentary build-up of deltas;
  • modelling and representing key properties of the subsurface (e.g., hydrological, geotechnical) relevant for assessment and prediction of present and future groundwater quality, and the potential of land subsidence in response to loading and groundwater extraction;
  • the role of delta build-up and sediment mass accumulation in GIA modelling.

The new research line will be developed in close collaboration with our expertise on delta evolution and architecture, delta processes, 3D-subsurface modelling, subsurface hydrology, land subsidence modelling, as well as external parties including TNO-Geological Survey of the Netherlands and Deltares. The candidate holds a PhD degree in a relevant area, such as earth sciences, physical geography, sedimentology, sedimentary geology, marine geology, geophysics, or a closely related field.


For all the following functions apply:

  • The candidate is expected to build or continue his/her own line of research, based on external funding, and seeks collaboration within Utrecht University, and with external partners, including the private sector.
  • All candidates will be involved in the co-supervision of PhD candidates and Postdocs, sharing responsibility for the field- and laboratory experiments, and presenting results in journal papers and at international conferences, in collaboration with the other staff.
  • The candidates will be involved in supervising master and bachelor research topics and theses writing. He/she are also expected to contribute to courses in the field of their groups. Modest contributions must be made to management tasks within the group, research institute and/or department/faculty.


Selection criteria for all positions include the academic track record of the candidate, his/her research vision, funding potential, experience with or affinity for teaching, and communication skills. The candidate has experience in conducting scientific research leading to high-quality publications, as evident in recent publications in international peer-reviewed journals, and should be fluent in English (speaking and writing). At associate professor level the candidate has demonstrated to be capable of leading a scientific group. The candidate is able to work across different disciplines relevant for the themes, and shows a vision on the new research line, how this relates to the research themes within the department, and how this will contribute to societal issues. We expect that the candidate will build her/his research line based on external funding.

Additional Information:


Applicants should indicate which of the five themes they aim at, and add a motivation letter and description of their vision on the chosen research line, including scientific challenges, societal relevance, external partners, and funding possibilities. 

  1. Assistant/Associate Professor Dynamics of living coastal landscapes – apply here
  2. Assistant/Associate Professor Large-scale hydro-dynamics – apply here
  3. Assistant/Associate Professor Paleo-ecology and vegetation dynamics – apply here
  4. Assistant/Associate Professor Landscape dynamics, earth observation & geocomputation – apply here
  5. Assistant/Associate Professor Subsurface modeling of deltas and coastal plains – apply here 

The application deadline is 31/03/2018