PhD Position in Climate Effects of Land Restoration at the Water Systems and Global Change Group
Wageningen University

PhD Climate effects of Land Restoration at the Water Systems and Global Change Group

Location Wageningen

We are looking for

Land degradation is a worldwide problem caused by non-sustainable management of farm and grazing lands. Strongly reduced vegetation cover leads to eroded, low quality soils, decreased rainfall infiltration and groundwater recharge, increased runoff loaded with sediments and an overall deterioration of the ecosystem services provided by the area affected. Especially in semi-arid areas, land degradation interacts with climate change, each reinforcing the other. As a result, livelihoods of people living in degraded areas, as well as those living downstream –hydrologically and meteorologically, are negatively affected.

Land restoration, or ‘re-greening’, tries to remedy such adverse effects, sometimes explicitly aiming at climate restauration too. Potentially positive climate effects of re-greening, such as reduced temperature extremes, enhanced total rainfall and/or less variable rainfall, have been relatively little quantified. It is not clear if negative climate effects following degradation are simply reversible upon restauration, or not. Also boundary conditions for successful climate restauration need to be identified. The PhD candidate will address such issues in this research, funded by the Africa Water Foundation.

The Water Systems and Global Change group ( ) of Wageningen University & Research has built up a considerable track record in studying interactions between hydrology, land cover and land use, and climate (change). We do this in the context of deforestation / agricultural expansion, large scale irrigation, urbanisation in both tropical and temperate climates worldwide.

As a PhD candidate, you will work on the following research topics (relative weight to be determined based on your interest and qualifications):

  •  Making an inventory of existing re-greening projects around the world and in Africa in particular, with the aim to construct a chrono-sequence.
  • Analysing observed first and second order hydro-climatic effects of re-greening as a function of project scale and – maturity, and of base line physiographic characteristics of the region.
  • Identifying causal processes in the soil-vegetation-atmosphere continuum responsible for the  observed effects or the lack thereof; analyse synergies and trade-offs between the small and large hydrological cycle
  • Identify design rules for land restauration projects that maximize the chance of positive climatic effects
Your work will consist of literature studies, analysis of satellite observed and in-situ meteorological data, as well as numerical modelling of land-atmosphere interactions. You will be member of a larger team of researchers within and outside Wageningen UR working on this topic, and have strong interaction with various stakeholders (governmental, NGOs, etc.) associated with re-greening projects around the world.
Your project results will be disseminated through papers in peer reviewed journals (as a basis of your PhD thesis) and conference proceedings, but using also popular media is encouraged.

We ask

The ideal candidate has:

  • A university degree (MSc) in earth or environmental sciences with a strong background in earth system dynamics, eco-hydrology and/or boundary layer and mesoscale meteorology;
  • Experience with remote sensing of earth surface and meteorological dynamics;
  • Experience with modelling of soil-vegetation-atmosphere interactions;
  • Experience with analysis, modelling and management of big datasets in an HPC environment;
  • Excellent writing and oral communication skills in Dutch and English and strong ambition to publish future work;
  • A team player who can work independently and who also communicates well with colleagues, and has the potential to (co-)supervise (under)graduate students in their research;
  • Affinity with stakeholder interaction and cooperation with other scientific disciplines.

We offer

We offer a full-time position (38 hours), initially for 1 year after which a go/no-go decision will be taken. You will be appointed to the CLA of the Dutch Universities. In case of a go, the contract will be extended up to 48 months. Gross salary per month is € 2.222,-- in the first year for a fulltime appointment.

In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance
  • a structural end-of year bonus of 8.3%
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions
  • flexible working hours that we determine together in good consultation
  • excellent pension plan through ABP
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes, e.g.
    the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra for extra leave
  • a flexible model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan
  • a lively workplace on the Wageningen Campus
  • make use of the sports facilities on campus for a small fee.
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with our internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for personal initiative in a learning environment. With us you get a versatile job in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

More information

For more information about this function you can contact Dr Ronald W.A. Hutjes, e-mail:, +31 (0)317-48 64 62

For more information about the procedure you can contact Edgar Tijhuis, corporate recruiter, e-mail:

Do you want to apply?

This can be done directly via the application button at the vacancy on our website so that we can process your personal data with your permission. This vacancy is open until 15 August 2020. We want to plan the first job interviews on 4 September 2020.

Equal opportunities employer

We are an employer that offers equal opportunities. We are happy to receive applications from all suitably qualified people regardless of race, gender, functional impairment, religion / belief, sexual orientation or age. We believe that a diverse and inclusive working environment makes us a more relevant, competitive and resilient organization. Click here for more information about working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of our University is to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life. Within Wageningen University & Research, nine specialised research institutes from the Wageningen Research Foundation and Wageningen University have joined forces to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With approximately 30 locations, 6,500 employees, and 12,000 students, it is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of the unique approach of Wageningen.

We have been named Best Employer in Education category 2019-2020.

The Water Systems and Global Change Group (WSG) is one of the chair groups in the Environmental Science Group of Wageningen University & Research. WSG aims to create new knowledge to contribute to sustainable water systems in a changing global environment, in order to contribute the provisioning of sufficient, clean and climate-proof water for society and nature. The Water Systems and Global Change group aims to improve the understanding of anthropogenically driven changes in water cycles in relation to interactions between climate-, water-, energy- and agricultural systems.

WSG performs integrated assessments of water systems, in which we integrate knowledge on water systems and global change. To this end, we use a variety of models and observations. We combine modelling analyses with participatory approaches. Our water assessments focus on (1) the effect of changing global drivers on water systems, (2) adaptation and (3) mitigation strategies, comprising of novel approaches such as adaptive water management and ecosystem-based adaptation and (4) climate-water services. We thus take an integrated approach across the water, food and energy systems, at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

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