Postdoc: Socio-Hydrological Modelling of Drought-to-Flood Events

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands 🇳🇱

Do you have experience with socio-hydrological modelling? Do you want to work on the hydro-social processes behind drought-to-flood disasters? And are you interested in working in a multi-disciplinary team? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

FTE: 0.8 – 1


Cascading events like floods after droughts are complex hydro-social disasters that are expected to increase in the future. Droughts give ample time for impacts and adaptation, and these drought adaptations influence hazard, exposure, and vulnerability to a subsequent flood. There are many examples of these events; the Millennium Drought in Australia ending with the flooding of the city of Brisbane, the 2012-16 California drought ending with extreme rainfall causing the Oroville spillway collapse, the 2017-18 drought in East Africa followed by floods that killed hundreds, and the 2015-16 drought in Peru ending with extreme rainfall resulting in mudslides. These events are relatively rare, but result in huge economic losses and many casualties and displacements. Research is needed on the underlying interactions between hydrology and society.

In the EU-funded PerfectSTORM project (‘STOrylines of futuRe extreMes’), a team of scientists will study the hydro-social processes behind drought-to-flood events to provide the understanding needed to prevent major disasters in the future. We will use a mixed-methods approach based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative storylines of past and future drought-to-flood risk in case studies. Rich case study information will be extrapolated and up-scaled to the global level.

We are now searching for a postdoc with a socio-hydrological modelling background to join our team. You will investigate the interactions between drought impacts & adaptation and flood risk in drought-to-flood events with a system dynamics model. You will develop this model based on the quantitative and qualitative storylines, timelines, and causal loop diagrams collected by the PhD researchers for the case studies.

The socio-hydrological model will be designed to simulate effects of dynamic vulnerability and adaptation on both drought and flood risk. It will include effects on drought / flood hazard (via abstraction, changes in water storage, reservoir rules), exposure (via migration, changes in cropping pattern), and vulnerability (via changed financial situation, dependencies, conflicts). As a next step, the model will be used to simulate possible future storylines that can be used in interactive storytelling workshops. Finally, the model will be scaled up to other drought-to-flood hotpots around the world and a comparative analysis will reveal the physical and socio-economic drivers of drought-to-flood disasters and potential management options.

Your duties

  • develop the socio-hydrological model (system dynamics) for the case study regions, based on both quantitative and qualitative data
  • simulate and investigate the hydro-social processes underlying drought-to-flood disasters, both in the past and in the future
  • upscale the model to other drought-to-flood hotspots around the world and analyse the drivers of drought-to-flood disasters globally
  • write and contribute to scientific papers
  • work with the team members and project partners and support the PhD researchers
  • support the project administration and management
  • be involved in teaching activities at IVM (mostly supervision of MSc and BSc students)


  • a PhD degree in socio-hydrology or a related field, and knowledge of drought and flood risk, adaptation, water recourses
  • experience with socio-hydrological modelling (preferably system dynamics) and with combining quantitative and qualitative data (preferably with multivariate statistical methods and/or Machine Learning (Bayesian inference, Bayesian networks) or similar techniques)
  • strong programming skills (in R or Python)
  • experience in working in different parts of the world
  • experience in scientific publishing, exemplified by relevant and good quality peer-reviewed publications
  • good collaboration and communication skills to work in a larger multi-disciplinary team and with international partners


An exciting 2-year postdoc position in a socially-engaged organisation with a supportive project team and an active early-career scientist community. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,790 (scale 10) and a maximum €4,402 (scale 10), depending on your education and experience, 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 be for 2 years, with a possibility of extension. 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 personalised benefits package


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 endeavor – 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
Established in 1971, IVM is a leading environmental research institute that is internationally recognised 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 Geography, Environmental Policy Analysis; and Water and Climate Risk. Since 2001 IVM has been part of the Faculty of Science at VU Amsterdam (legal name Stichting VU).

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 your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 25 July 2021. Job interviews are provisionally planned for the week of 26-30 July and 2-6 August, if possible please take this into account when applying for the position.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

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

Name: Dr Anne van Loon
Position: Associate Professor Drought Risk
E-mail: [email protected]

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