PhD candidate «Assessment of the impact of climate change on the stocks and fluxes of nutrients, toxicants and pathogens at the river basin scale»

This four-year PhD position is offered within the department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment – RIVM in Bilthoven (the Netherlands) and the Soil Quality section at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). The PhD project is part of the RIVM-funded «Climate Cascades» project that involves two parallel PhD projects.

Climate change will most likely affect the concentrations of contaminants, such as nutrients, metals, and pathogens, in soil, groundwater, and surface waters. Consequently, climate change will also affect the exposure of humans and ecosystems to these contaminants. The relationship between climate change and soil and water quality involves many partial feedback mechanisms. For example, changing precipitation and temperature will change the soil structure and the production, decay, and composition of soil organic matter, which in turn may enhance contaminant mobility and toxicity.

The candidate will focus on the development of a spatially distributed river basin model that integrates existing catchment-scale contaminant transport models. In addition, a novel soil module will be developed to include the effects of changing soil organic matter content and composition on the speciation and transport pathways of contaminants. The river basin model will be tested for a moderately-sized river basin in the Netherlands and will feed input to a probabilistic risk assessment model that will be developed in parallel by the other  «Climate Cascades» PhD project.

The place of work will be Utrecht University, although the candidate is expected to work for several days per week or for several months at the partner institutes. The candidate is expected to closely communicate with the partners, other PhD candidates and the principal investigator and to publish in international peer-reviewed journals. The PhD candidate is also expected to write a PhD thesis (based on articles) within the project duration of four years.

Information concerning the research activities of the Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University can be found here and here.



We seek a highly motivated candidate with a MSc degree in hydrology, physical geography, environmental sciences, geology, civil engineering or a related discipline with affinity for one or more of the following fields: soil hydrology, soil chemistry, water quality, spatio-temporal environmental modelling. The candidate should be proficient in English, have excellent scientific writing and planning skills and be an enthusiastic team player.



The PhD candidate is offered a one year fulltime position with – at good performance – the prospect of an extension with a maximum of three years (in total 4 years fulltime). The salary starts with € 2,042 gross per month in the first year and increases to € 2,612 gross per month in the fourth year of employment at fulltime appointment.

The extent of these positions officially is 38 hours per week (1,0 fte). The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition we offer a pension scheme, a collective health insurance and flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities.


About the organization

Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and anthroposphere. With a population of 2,200 students (BSc and MSc) and 500 staff members, the faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The faculty is organised in four departments: Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Innovation & Environmental Sciences, and Human Geography & Urban & Regional Planning.


Additional information

Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from dr. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Applications until 29 January 2012 here.