Doctoral Scholarship holder Quantifying and modelling the impact of small-scale water retention measures

Updated: 15 days ago

Department: Department of Biology
Regime Full-time

Let's shape the future - University of Antwerp 

UAntwerpen and KULeuven, in collaboration with ILVO are looking for a full-time (100%)

Joint Doctoral Scholarship holder in the field of quantifying and modelling the impact of small-scale water retention measures.


The prolonged droughts of 2018-2020 have made it clear that we are not sufficiently prepared for water shortages and droughts. In addition, it remains a challenge to deal correctly with peak rainfall. There is a need to proactively improve water availability with an ecosystem-based approach. Understanding how best to plan, implement and scale up blue-green solutions is a challenge. Little is known about 1) the effectiveness (or side effects) of these measures on a larger scale and 2) what is actually needed to reduce drought risk to an acceptable level. Many initiatives also remain within the traditional sectors, which means that opportunities for cooperation are missed.

Your PhD will be part of project TURQUOISE funded by the FWO. TURQUOISE will test local blue-green measures in practice and create a decision support framework to facilitate planning and increase the implementation rate of blue-green adaptation strategies. The four blue-green solutions addressed in TURQUOISE are the restoration of (former) landscape depressions and headwater wetlands, controlled drainage systems (small weirs), infiltration zones in agricultural landscapes, and infiltration basins with active supply from rivers for irrigation and groundwater recharge. Your PhD research will specifically monitor and characterise the performance of local blue-green measures with groundwater/surface water modelling.

You will work in an interdisciplinary team of novice and experienced researchers from seven involved research groups where researchers conduct complementary research on blue-green measures.

  • The Ecosystem Management Research Group (ECOBE), UANTWERPEN
  • The department of Soil and Water Management, KULeuven
  • The Expertise Centre for Agriculture & Climate, ILVO
  • The Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development, UANTWERPEN
  • Hydraulics and Geotechnics, KULeuven
  • Research Group Environmental Economics (ENVECON)       UANTWERPEN

Your supervisors are Jan Staes (ECOBE, UANTWERPEN), Jan Vanderborght (KULeuven) and Sarah Garré (ELK,ILVO) The research group Ecosystem Management (ECOBE) is one of the 7 research groups of the Biology Department of the University of Antwerp. ECOBE is involved in research on ecological processes in aquatic ecosystems, both at the level of individual ecosystems and at the level of inter-ecosystem interactions and management, along the river continuum and river-coast interactions. You will be part of a team specialised in water management, climate adaptation and ecosystem services. The soil and water management division of the KU Leuven Earth and Environmental Sciences Department specialises in measuring and modelling transport processes of water and dissolved substances (nutrients - pollutants) in the soil. ILVO's expertise centre for agriculture and climate is a multidisciplinary, independent body to which policymakers and private stakeholders can turn for advice and research.

Your tasks

  • You conduct experimental and empirical research on the effectiveness of small-scale blue-green measures, including the development of local groundwater/surface water models at the level of the test sites.
  • You develop guidelines (design & management) to optimise the hydro-ecological impact of blue-green measures.
  • You participate in the development of methods that enable good representation of blue-green measures in hydrological models.
  • You actively work on the preparation of a PhD thesis in the field of ecosystem-based climate adaptation (nature-based adaptation).
  • You publish scientific articles related to the research project;
  • You perform a limited number of teaching and research support tasks.

Your profile

  • Preferably you are a Bio- or Civil Engineer, Master in Applied Sciences, Master in Geography but also Masters from other scientific disciplines are considered.
  • You have (basic) knowledge of hydrology and ecological processes and a strong affinity with water system management.
  • Technical skills related to modelling and programming (R, python, QGIS, HYDRUS, ...) are a plus.
  • You are motivated to write down your research results and those of the team in scientific articles. A good knowledge of English is important.
  • You are communicative and enterprising. This is multidisciplinary research in which you need to consult information and knowledge from various disciplines and policy areas.

What we offer

  • We offer a doctoral scholarship for a period of 1 year which may be renewed.
  • The planned start date is 1st of January 2022 or as soon as possible after that date.
  • Your monthly scholarship amount is calculated according to the scholarship amounts for doctoral scholarship holders on the pay scales for contract research staff (Dutch: Bijzonder Academisch Personeel, BAP).
  • You will work part-time at KULeuven and UAntwerpen.
  • Additional training and educational opportunities.
  • Regular participation in international conferences.
  • Find out more about working at the University of Antwerp here .

Want to apply?

  • You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform until 15th of November 2021 (by midnight Brussels time). Click on the 'Apply' button, complete the online application form and be sure to include the following attachments: a motivation letter and your academic CV.
  • The selection committee will review all of the applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure.
  • If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions or send an email to .
  • For questions concerning the position, please contact Dr. Jan Staes ( ) or Prof. Dr. Jan Vanderborght ( ).

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity  and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.

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