PhD Position in Geoscience
Utrecht University

PhD Position in Geoscience


Job description
Utrecht University has opened a new full-time four-year position for a doctoral (PhD) researcher in the field of governance for more resilient landscapes in Dutch sandy soils. The doctoral researcher will become part of a new 4-year research project, RESHAPE, led by Dr Ype van der Velde (VU). This position is part of Work Package 5 and the PhD project will be supervised by Professor Peter Driessen and Dr Dries Hegger.

RESHAPE is a new interdisciplinary research programme funded by NWO that aims to develop change pathways to increase the resilience of Dutch sand landscapes in the face of ongoing climate change. Think of droughts, floods, biodiversity loss and deteriorating water quality. The water system of the sandy area goes far beyond the visible ditches, puddles and rivers. It is above all the invisible water flows through soil and plants, that we can shift and improve. Moreover, in a resilient sand landscape, the spatial networks of water, economy, society and governance are strongly intertwined. Within RESHAPE we study how to stimulate these spatial dependencies, which can catalyze a change towards a future-proof sand landscape.

To contribute to this research programme, the Environmental Governance section at Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development is seeking a motivated PhD candidate to work on the development of novel governance arrangements for more resilient landscapes in Dutch sandy soils (Work Package 5 of the project). Addressing the challenges of land and water transformations in Dutch sandy soils is both a quest to allocate scarce land and water and a search for win-win solutions to improve multiple aspects of landscape quality. These are complex problems that include a diverse range of stakeholders within and beyond the landscape scale, each with their own perspective on the problem and power position. Within this PhD project, you will compile an overview of existing state-of-the-art governance arrangements relevant to Dutch sandy soils and assess their applicability in different contexts. Subsequently, you will empirically analyze and assess existing governance practices in two Dutch regions, De Dommel and Overijsselse Vecht watersheds. Finally, you will contribute to recommendations for novel governance arrangements, co-designed with societal stakeholders, in these two case study areas.

A substantial part of the project will be carried out in the context of the Reshape Academy, a trans-disciplinary innovation lab in which co-creation, validation and dissemination of the project’s results will occur. All PhDs will contribute to making this a vibrant and impactful community.

This PhD project will carry out social scientific governance-oriented research. The research will combine theoretical and empirical research into the actual and necessary governance arrangements to contribute to transformations towards more resilient Dutch sand landscapes. In so doing, the PhD candidate provides substantial social scientific input into an inter- and trans-disciplinary project.

The ideal candidate possesses the following skills:
  • Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as environmental social sciences, human geography, (environmental) governance, public administration, political sciences, or spatial planning;
  • You have a demonstrable interest in studying governance practices and science-policy interactions related to wicked sustainable land use problems characterized by complexity, uncertainty and value pluralities, including water scarcity, water quality and drought;
  • You are interested in doing cutting-edge policy-relevant scientific research, which you ideally demonstrate with relevant experience;
  • You are able to work independently, but also within the interdisciplinary project team. You have an interest in working in an interdisciplinary setting. This includes close cooperation with researchers well-versed in environmental economics, land-use planning or (eco)hydrology;
  • You have an interest in working in a transdisciplinary setting. This includes the facilitation of interactions with societal stakeholders and the execution of foresight methods;
  • Skills in organising workshops or seminars;
  • You have excellent writing and verbal communication skills in English. Due to the project’s empirical scope, we also require you to be proficient in Dutch.

The candidates are expected to publish the results in peer-reviewed papers. Up to 10% of your time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Department of Sustainable Development. A personalized training programme will be set up upon recruitment, which will reflect your training needs and career objectives.

You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, professional development, (partly paid) parental leave, sports and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

About the organization
A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The PhD researcher will be based in the Environmental Governance group of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. The Environmental Governance group is a dynamic, ambitious and internationally leading team of over sixty social science researchers focusing on fundamental and policy-oriented research in environmental governance across local to global levels.

PhD training programmes are provided by the Graduate School of the Faculty of Geosciences and, if required, other graduate schools at Utrecht University and beyond. The working language of the institute is English. Utrecht University is one of the leading research universities in Europe, with particular strengths in sustainability, climate change, and geography, among others. The doctoral researchers we are hiring will be able to develop their research at the interface of, and with the support of, key strategic themes of the university (“Pathways to Sustainability” and “Institutions for Open Societies”), opening up numerous opportunities for university-wide interaction.

Additional information
For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Dries Hegger (Assistant Professor) at

Due to the summer holidays, you may expect responses to your enquiries from 14 August onwards.

Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. 

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the 'apply' button.

The application deadline is

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