PhD Position Developing Ecosystem Digital Twins with Remote Sensing to Combat Biodiversity Loss

Updated: 4 months ago
Deadline: 12 Jan 2024

5 Dec 2023
Job Information

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)
Research Field

Researcher Profile

First Stage Researcher (R1)

Application Deadline

12 Jan 2024 - 22:59 (UTC)
Type of Contract

Job Status

Not Applicable
Hours Per Week

Is the job funded through the EU Research Framework Programme?

Not funded by an EU programme
Is the Job related to staff position within a Research Infrastructure?


Offer Description

Biodiversity loss has far-reaching and long-lasting consequences to our way of life, leading to reduced food security, increased vulnerability to natural disasters, deteriorating resilience to climate change, species loss, declining human health as well as economic and cultural losses. To combat this threat, international goals and targets have been defined in the 2022 Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework. Given the unprecedented rate of global change in climate, land use, and urbanisation, it is urgent to tackle these targets and goals. Of these challenges, the main pressing one in The Netherlands concerns the nitrogen deposition damage to biodiversity. Dutch nitrogen emissions per hectare are reported to be the highest in Europe. As such, ensuring effective control of nitrogen levels is important, which will require an expanded package of solutions based for the short (2030) and medium term (2050), as well as for locations close to and further away from Natura 2000 areas. For this purpose, the area of study will be focused on the Veluwe, as it hosts the largest nature area in the Netherlands in close proximity to both several recreational and agricultural facilities. To contribute to challenges of this area, biodiversity monitoring needs to transform into predictive science using ecosystem Digital Twins.

Remote sensing plays a crucial part in setting up ecosystem Digital Twins by providing key information on the surface dynamics at nitrogen deposition model resolution. Various remote sensing data types (Optical, Thermal, Microwave and LiDAR) will be considered to characterise the land surface in the form of essential climate/biodiversity variables. Using already existing models for nitrogen deposition simulations (e.g., LOTUS-EUROS developed by TNO) the PhD will then create a prototype ecosystem Digital Twin. For this, the PhD candidate will use the virtual research environment provided by LTER-LIFE. This long-term project provides a Large-Scale Research Infrastructure to build ecosystem Digital Twins, demonstrating Dutch technological capabilities in simulation, modelling, data science, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing to the new EU Nature Restoration Plan, as well as national initiatives such as the Deltaplan Biodiversiteitsherstel. Integrating the components within this research infrastructure allows for a co-design approach of the digital twins and facilitate the uptake of the results within actual policy making.

The candidate will study how remote sensing of the land surface can be used to improve nitrogen depositions estimations and projections using ecosystem Digital Twins in view of biodiversity loss, climate change and legislative responses. The study will include the detailed characterisation of the landscape using optical, microwave and lidar remote sensing observations, the simulation of the nitrogen transport and deposition using a 3D chemistry model, and the integration of these components within a ecosystem Digital Twin to assess different scenarios.

The candidate will work in a collaborative research community focused on developing and exploiting new remote sensing techniques within the TU Delft. This community consists of students from all levels from Delft University of Technology but also extents towards the LDE-collaboration, as well as universities abroad in a collaborative program that includes frequent exchanges of activities and people. The community is led by Prof. Ramon Hansen at the Dept. of Geoscience and Remote Sensing of Delft University of Technology. In addition, the candidate will heavily interact with the province of Gelderland, LTER-LIFE research infrastructure, led from NIOO, as well as TNO that are spearheading the community behind the EUROS-LOTUS model.

Specific Requirements

We are seeking a candidate with:

  • A MSc degree in Geography, Ecology, earth system science or related discipline with training in numerical modelling and programming.
  • An extensive experience with either remote sensing analysis, computer modelling and high performance processing.
  • A demonstrable affinity in remote sensing monitoring, biodiversity and policy making.
  • An excellent ability to think conceptually and quantitatively
  • An excellent academic record (grades of B or higher).
  • A keen interest in fieldworks.
  • A good affinity with supervision of students.
  • Good organisational skills and ability to work independently.
  • Very good command of English.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements .

Additional Information

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.

For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service . This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

Selection process

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply no later than 12 January 2024 via the application button and upload your motivation and CV.

  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • A pre-Employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.

Additional comments

For information about the application procedure, please contact Mariska Wagemans-Vos, e-mail: [email protected] .

For information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. ir. Joris Timmermans, e-mail: [email protected] .

Website for additional job details

Work Location(s)
Number of offers available
Delft University of Technology
Postal Code
2628 CD
Mekelweg 2

Where to apply



Mekelweg 2
Postal Code

2628 CD


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