PhD on the Global Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems Nexus under Climate Extremes (1.0 FTE)

Updated: 4 months ago

PhD on the Global Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems Nexus under Climate Extremes (1.0 FTE)

Job description

We are looking for:
An enthusiastic PhD candidate who is interested in global-scale hydrology and water resources modelling and its application to issues related to the water-energy-food-ecosystems nexus. You are a team player as you will work within the international multi-disciplinary consortium of the H2020 GoNEXUS programme that brings together hydrologists, climate modelers, energy scientists, agro- and hydroeconomists, governance researchers, social-scientists and ecologists. GoNEXUS consists of 18 partners from 14 different countries and will develop a framework for designing and assessing innovative solutions for the governance of the water-energy-food-ecosystems (WEFE) nexus (see the extensive description below).
What will you do?
As a PhD you will focus your research on the impacts of current and future climate extremes on the trade-offs between food and energy security, economic development and biodiversity. To this end, you will extend our in-house global hydrology and water resources model PCR-GLOBWB with state-of-the-art crop growth and energy (hydropower, thermo-electric) modules and work on separating manufacturing and cooling water use. You will also link the output from PCR-GLOBWB (water temperatures, discharge) to the biodiversity model GLOBIO. You will investigate the changing hydro-economic on the water-energy-food-ecosystems (WEFE) nexus by including sector-specific production cost modelling and linking this to economic partial equilibrium models to analyse the effects on prices and trade. You will use the evolving versions of the WEFE modelling framework under various combined climate-socio-economic (and policy) scenarios with specific focus on the development of the WEFE nexus during climate shocks (floods and droughts). In addition to the research line described above, you will be cooperating with partners from the GoNEXUS consortium by supplying PCR-GLOBWB model outputs to energy, agroeconomic and biodiversity models, by ingesting policy scenarios (e.g., CAP, Green Deal for Europe) and by including insights from basin-scale case studies.


We are looking for a candidate with:

  • a Master's degree in Earth Sciences, Hydrology, Environmental Sciences or a related field;
  • demonstrable enthusiasm for large-scale hydrological modelling in the context of global change and mastering a scripting or programming language (e.g., Python, R, Fortran, C++);
  • the willingness to work at the interface of research and policy;
  • the willingness to work in multi-disciplinary teams;
  • English oral and writing skills; you should be able to demonstrate English language proficiency. We require a qualification English at C1 level (comparable to level 3 of the Lecturer Assessment Grid) or you should be willing to obtain this level by training.


You will be offered a full-time PhD position (1.0 fte), initially for one year with an extension to four years in total 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 starts with €2,395 per month in the first year and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities) for a full-time employment.
In addition, you will receive a holiday allowance of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3%. Utrecht University also has an appealing package of terms of employment , including the choice for a good balance between work and private (a good arrangement for leave, among other things), possibilities for development and an excellent pension scheme. More information on working at Utrecht University can be found here.

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 societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.
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 Department of Physical Geography excels in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. Our research focuses on processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s continental and coastal systems, and on the interaction between these processes. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations.
The H2020 research programme GoNEXUS aims to develop a framework for designing and assessing innovative solutions for an efficient and sustainable coordinated governance of the water-energy-food-ecosystems (WEFE) nexus. Solutions will combine policy changes and soft path options with technical and infrastructure measures for a more resilient future. To achieve this objective, the project will build a powerful model toolbox and creative participatory Nexus Dialogues.
The model toolbox will include state-of-the-art global/continental and river basin models, innovatively establishing a functional link. At global and continental scales, the toolbox will include the individual WEFE element models CAPRI (food, agri-environment), LISFLOOD-EPIC and PCR-GLOBWB (water), PRIMES and PROMETHEUS (energy), GLOBIO (environment), and GEM-E3 (macroeconomics), some of them used in EU policies. River basin models will include nested strategic WEFE management models (including behavioral modeling) and hydrological simulation models to expand the resilience analysis at the basin scale, including impacts on ecosystems. Nexus Dialogues will co-design scenarios, models, and solutions for joint governance of the WEFE nexus. The solutions will be evaluated using the model toolbox through a set of novel nexus indicators and criteria (based on relevant SDGs metrics) to assess trade-offs between water status and food and energy security.
GoNEXUS will be applied at global and EU levels and six river basins representing different features and WEFE challenges in Europe (Danube, Como, Jucar, Tagus-Segura) and Africa (Zambezi, Senegal). The innovative combination of models and Nexus Dialogues will provide more accurate evaluations of future scenarios, enabling knowledge sharing and brokerage and improving WEFE nexus management. The project will also contribute to align existing EU WEFE policies, promote the reduction of institutional fragmentation, and strengthen the EU's role in water diplomacy.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact: Prof. dr. Marc Bierkens , via .


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 below.
Applications should include the names of at least two referees (with e-mail addresses and phone numbers).
Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Corona virus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews may be subject to change.

The application deadline is 30/06/2021
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