Fully funded PhD position: Understanding impacts of mountain greening on hydrology from a plant traits and ecological perspective (1.0 FTE)

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 21 Sep 2022

Fully funded PhD position: Understanding impacts of mountain greening on hydrology from a plant traits and ecological perspective (1.0 FTE)
Fully funded PhD position: Understanding impacts of mountain greening on hydrology from a plant traits and ecological perspective (1.0 FTE)
Published Deadline Location
today 21 Sep Utrecht

Utrecht University is looking for a PhD candidate in Understanding impacts of mountain greening on hydrology from a plant traits and ecological perspective.
Job description
The Department of Physical Geography (Faculty of Geosciences) is searching for a PhD candidate as part of the project ‘Understanding the impacts of mountain greening on hydrology from a plant traits and ecological perspective’. This interdisciplinary project combines knowledge and approaches from mountain hydrology and (palaeo)ecology.  Are you interested in the interaction between mountains, climate, water and plants? Do you like working both in the field and with computer models? Do you have an interest in developing into a scientific researcher? Then this might be the job for you.
The loss of glaciers and snowpacks in mountain regions due to climate change has strong impacts on local and downstream water supply. With ice and snow vanishing from mountains, vegetation increasingly comes into play, revealed by widespread ‘greening’ of mountain slopes over recent decades. More vegetation can increase evapotranspiration, infiltration and water retention, potentially reducing streamflow in the future with serious consequences for downstream water availability.
However, while we know that mountains are greening around the world, it is difficult to tell how greening will affect the mountain water supply exactly. How vegetation affects hydrological processes depends various factors, including its biomass, structure and functional traits of plant species. In addition, mountain greening can be caused by different ecological processes, such densification of existing vegetation, but also changes in species composition. Hence, to understand how widespread greening will affect mountain hydrology, we need to understand the role of different plant species, plant traits and ecological greening mechanisms.
What will you be doing?
You will use a trait-based eco-hydrological approach to quantify the impact of different mountain species, seasonal/annual greening variations and greening mechanisms on mountain hydrology. For this, you will conduct detailed hydrological and ecological field studies in a small mountain catchment in the Swiss Alps. During fieldwork, you will measure plant traits, soil properties and hydrological properties over multiple years, and you will conduct regular drone flights to monitor catchment-scale vegetation patterns. Subsequently, you will assess effects of different mountain plant types and greening processes on hydrological processes using a physically-based ecohydrological model at both plot and catchment scale.
You will work closely together with your supervisors, other researchers from the department and international collaborators. Also, as a PhD candidate at Utrecht University you will follow courses and attend congresses as part of your own academic and personal development. You will also assist in teaching courses at bachelor's and master's level at our faculty. Both activities amount to approximately 10% of the contracted time.
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • Utrecht View on Google Maps

Utrecht University

We are looking for a candidate who:
  • has an MSc degree in physical geography, ecology, hydrology, environmental sciences or a related field;
  • is passionate about mountains, climate, water and plants, and enthusiastic about feedbacks between hydrological and ecological processes. Experience in plant trait measurements, ecohydrology, physically-based modelling and/or drone monitoring is an advantage;
  • is keen on getting out into the field for extended periods to apply a wide range of hydrological, ecological and remote sensing methods. Fieldwork experience and knowhow, for example gained during your studies, is therefore highly preferable;
  • wants to (learn to) apply advanced numerical models in this context, so affinity and experience with scripting and/or modelling is an advantage (e.g. Python, R or MATLAB);
  • is a team player who likes to think across disciplinary boundaries, who is willing and able to work in an interdisciplinary team of two Assistant Professors and other scientific staff;
  • has good English oral and writing skills (English at C1 level or better qualifies) or willingness and aptitude to obtain this level by training.

Conditions of employment
You will be offered a temporary full-time position for four years, 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, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions  (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University .

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, colleagues from various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Sustainability, Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, and Life Sciences.
Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts researchers, professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Geosciences a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.
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 team of the Department of Physical Geography excels in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. We research processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s systems from the mountains to the sea, and the interaction in between. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations. We are a lively department that hosts an active PhD candidate community of more than thirty PhD students. Will you join our team?
Additional information
For more information about this position, please contact Asst Prof Philip Kraaijenbrink (Assistant Professor in Quantitative Methods in Extreme Environments), via P.D.A.Kraaijenbrink@uu.nl or Asst Prof Jana Eichel (Assistant Professor in Biogeomorphology) via j.eichel@uu.nl .

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Application procedure
Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.
If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the 'apply' button. Please enclose:
  • a motivation letter stating why you want to investigate mountain ecohydrology and why you have the skills to do this;
  • a curriculum vitae;
  • the names of at least two referees (with e-mail contact addresses and phone numbers).
  • We look forward to receiving your application no later than September 21st, 2022. The interviews will be scheduled October 6th or 11th. The intended starting date for the PhD project is January 1st, 2023.
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