Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

PhD-position in vegetation-sediment interactions and habitat development in coastal dunes, Wageningen University

Application deadline: 15 March 2019

Coastal dunes provide coastal defence and specific ecological habitat to human society. Those values are under pressure due to increased human activity in coastal zones and climate change. Management of coastal dunes relies on knowledge of the relevant eco-physics. However, state-of-the-art knowledge is not yet well-integrated across coastal domains (shoreface, beach and dune) and relevant disciplines (ecology, morphology, engineering). As a result, it is not possible to anticipate the combined impact of management strategies for coastal defence and habitat development. DuneForce addresses the eco-physical unknowns at the interfaces of coastal domains and disciplines through a combination of multi-disciplinary field work and numerical simulations. This will result in a quantitative model that predicts the development of the coastal zone in respect to dune habitat and coastal safety. This new model will be applied in real life case studies to optimize coastal management strategies and interventions in the coastal system.

As a PhD student you will work closely together within a broader Wageningen-Delft project-team of one technician, one PhD and one postdoc ( and Within the broader project you will be responsible for coupling aeolian sediment transport and ecological processes to topographic evolution and habitat development at the beach-dune interface. To do this you will develop hypotheses, and design and conduct field experiments, perform field observations and develop model scenarios. You will assess parameters related to dynamics of sediment, soil moisture, vegetation and habitat development using a combination of both land-based and UAV-based techniques. You will translate the data collected into probability density functions and integrate these functions in an existing dune-building model. You will be co-supervised by staff from the Plant Ecology and Nature conservation and Soil physics and Land Management groups and work closely together with staff of the GIS and Remote Sensing group of Wageningen University.


We are looking for an early career PhD candidate (F/M) who has a keen interest in mechanistic understanding of vegetation-sediment interactions and applying this knowledge to better model dune development in a changing climate. The project includes direct collaborations with Dutch stakeholders, hence fluency in Dutch (speaking and writing) is an advantage.


MSc degree in earth system science related discipline with training in ecology or vice versa: •excellent ability to think conceptually and quantitatively

  • excellent ability to communicate in English and Dutch, both orally and in writing
  • good knowledge of biogeomorphologial interactions (sediment, hydrology, vegetation)
  • good organisational skills and ability to work independently
  • experience with environmental characterisation (biological, chemical and physical)
  • experience with R or Matlab
  • experience with remote sensing techniques and data processing

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Tuesday 26 February 2019