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

PhD position on spatial modeling of biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes, Utrecht University

Application deadline: 22 November 2020

Are you a young ambitious researcher who wants to investigate how a new spatial layout of the Dutch countryside can lead to more sustainable (‘circular’) agriculture in the Netherlands? Do you like to collaborate with other researchers and societal stakeholders in a highly interdisciplinary research project, and want to make an impact?

We are looking for a PhD candidate spatial modeling of biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes as part of the SPLENDID (Spatial Planning for Environmentally Diverse Circular Development) project. Your research will focus on the impact of a radical transition to sustainable and circular agriculture on biodiversity and the delivery of a broad range of ecosystem services. The transition is expected to both diminish the environmental impact of farming, and improve the spatial configuration of agriculture and other land use functions, which both have consequences for ecosystem functioning and ecosystem service delivery. The PhD will combine analyses of spatial databases, spatial modeling and stakeholder consultations to quantify ecosystem service demand and delivery at farm, landscape and regional level for various transition scenarios for the development of circular agriculture in the Netherlands. The project will also identify which trade-offs exist between ecosystem services, and how their delivery differs among different transition pathways in order to guide policy and planning decisions.

The project aims at having high academic impact as well as high societal relevance, and is affiliated with the Environmental Sciences group of the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. You will be embedded in an interdisciplinary team with a postdoc and two other PhD students at Wageningen University, one working on spatial planning and governance for stimulating a transition towards a more sustainable agriculture, the other working on the farmer’s response to the foreseen land policy for sustainable agriculture. In addition, the PhD is closely collaborating with a wide range of societal stakeholders, such as policy makers and farmers.


A university degree (MSc) in a relevant natural science field (e.g. Ecology, Environmental Sciences, Physical Geography) with a broad and interdisciplinary interest:

  • Experience with GIS and spatial modeling of biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and/or ecosystem services at various scales;
  • Knowledge of the Dutch and European agricultural system and its connection with environmental sustainability;
  • Affinity with transdisciplinary work in living labs and collaboration with stakeholders;
  • Very good English communicative and writing skills. Proficiency in Dutch is considered an advantage, because stakeholder interaction will be conducted largely in Dutch;
  • A collegial attitude and a clear willingness to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams.


Tuesday 27 October 2020