PhD Position(s) SALTISolutions - Salt Intrusion through Urbanizing Deltas

PhD Position(s) SALTISolutions - Salt Intrusion through Urbanizing Deltas

Published Deadline Location
30 Jun 2 Aug Delft

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To strengthen our new SALTISolutions project team we are looking for five PhD Candidates.

Job description

Job description

SALTISolutions  is a multi-disciplinary TTW-funded Perspective Program, led by Prof. Julie Pietrzak TU Delft and carried out in close collaboration with the universities of Twente, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Wageningen and NIOZ.

SALTISolutions will deliver the VirtualDelta, a digital twin of a real Delta, as a management and design instrument for salt-intrusion related questions in deltas worldwide. Increasing salt intrusion caused by human alterations of estuaries and deltas, increased freshwater demand, and climate change threatens freshwater availability in deltas. Freshwater supply is essential for health and human well-being, for ecological integrity of aquatic ecosystems, and for economic interests. An integrated and optimized societal response to salt intrusion challenges demands actions at several levels:

  • On short time scales: operational management tools based on short-term forecasts and available (‘big’) data for freshwater management;
  • On medium time scales: evaluation of effects of infrastructural changes on salt intrusion and, using scenario models, introduction into the society-stakeholder debate. Development of well-designed, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly solutions to salt intrusion based engineering (‘grey’) and nature-based (‘green’) solutions is essential;
  • On long time scales: evaluation of climate-proofness of infrastructure, policies and mitigation measures. Extreme climate-change scenarios require radically new solution pathways.

SALTISolutions’ Virtual Delta brings together advanced models, data-assimilation tools, visualisation methods, stakeholder-interaction tools, and exploratory strategic analyses for delta management at different levels. Scientific challenges and expected scientific breakthroughs include: incorporating multiscale physical processes; understanding impact of natural eco-morphological processes on salt intrusion, and developing forecasting systems and advanced game approaches for stakeholder engagement and decision making. Technology suppliers and end-users are actively involved in SALTISolutions, which will lead to conceptual and operational breakthroughs in freshwater management of deltas.

In the framework of SALTISolutions, TU Delft PhD Candidates will be working on the following topics:

Position #1 TUD00297-A: An advanced 3D salt intrusion model for the Rhine-Meuse Delta
The PhD candidate will work on the development and application of an advanced coastal ocean-delta salt intrusion model, that will form an integral contribution to the Virtual Delta. Worldwide, there is an urgent need for accurate, computationally fast 3D hydrostatic models for salt intrusion studies that are suitable for prediction on multiple time scales. The PhD candidate will work closely with other members of the SALTISolutions program to incorporate new parameterisations of non-hydrostatic physics and nature based solutions. Application of this model will provide important new physical insights into the role of the coupled system on salt intrusion, and advance our understanding of how salt intrusion could be impacted by deepening of estuaries, opening of gates and locks, nature based solutions and climate change. The candidate will explore the role of individual physical mechanisms on salt intrusion in the Rhine-Meuse Delta on intra- and inter-annual time scales. The candidate will work closely with fellow SALTISolutions PhD’s and Post-docs. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Julie Pietrzak and Prof. Dr. Ir. Martin Verlaan.


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


Position #2 TUD00297-B : Modelling salt exchange through shipping locks
The PhD candidate will work on the development and application of an advanced non-hydrostatic model, FINLAB developed by Dr. Labeur to investigate and quantify salt intrusion through locks. Man-made restrictions to the free exchange of salt and freshwater along coastal boundaries, such as shipping locks are frequently found in urbanized estuaries. Management of these structures, can drive salt far inland and threaten freshwater supplies, but on slower time scales. During every lock cycle salt is released. Salt intrusion from locks urgently needs to be studied and parameterised for use in computationally efficient 3D hydrostatic models for salt prediction. This project will provide unique insights into salt intrusion through locks, that will be incorporated into the Virtual Delta. The PhD candidate will work closely with other members of the SALTISolutions program to develop new parameterisations of non-hydrostatic physics. The PhD candidate will work closely with fellow SALTISolutions PhD’s and Post-docs. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr. ir. Robert Jan Labeur, Prof. Dr. Julie Pietrzak and Dr.  M. Duran Matute.

Position #3 TUD00297-C: Integral design and evaluation of estuary-scale, nature-based SALTIsolutions
The PhD candidate will work on the development of nature-based solutions to mitigate salt intrusion, along with benefits for other estuarine functions and values. The leading principle is that salt intrusion will be influenced by changing salt and fresh water mixing patterns. This can be done by either introducing phase lags in the horizontal flow regime (construction of ebb-flood channel loops, longitudinal dams or tidal lagoons), or by enhancing vertical circulations (through increased bed shear stress or landscaping of the estuary bed). In all cases, fundamental insight in the underlying eco-morphological processes is key. Key research questions include the investigation of suitable nature-based mechanisms to modify estuarine mixing processes, the design of such measures in urbanized deltas and the assessment of impacts and benefits in the context of broad sustainability frameworks that go beyond the functional efficiency of isolated engineering measures. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Prof.dr. ir. Stefan Aarninkhof and Prof.dr. Peter Herman.

Position #4 TUD00297-D: Implications of nature-based SALTIsolutions for waterborne logistics
Waterborne transport is an important economic function in deltas and estuaries. Salt intrusion mitigation measures will affect this function in various ways. Changes in current patterns, associated with increased mixing to reduce the impact of salt and fresh water stratifications, will affect nautical safety. Modified ship locking procedures, to reduce the exchange of salt water, will affect the transport capacity of waterways. Shifting sedimentation/erosion patterns, associated with changes in flow and salinity patterns, will affect port accessibility and the cost effectiveness of shipping routes. To incorporate such effects of SALTIsolutions on waterborne logistics in the VirtualDelta, you will connect agent based logistic models with hydro- and morphodynamic models. Key challenge is to parameterise the results of detailed models, and integrate these in larger network models to enable exploratory research. This PhD project will be embedded within the Ports and Waterways section of the Hydraulic Engineering department, within CITG. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Mark van Koningsveld.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

Position #5 TUD00270 PhD Position Applied Mathematics: Development of the Virtual Delta module to support observing estuarine salinity from space
This position is vacant at faculty EWI and can be found at the TUDelft website: PhD Position Applied Mathematics

  • MSc degree in Civil Engineering, Mathematics, Physical Oceanography, Physical Geography, Earth System Science or related discipline.
  • excellent ability to think conceptually and quantitatively.
  • excellent ability to communicate in English both in speech and in writing.
  • interest in estuarine processes and/or (bio)geomorphological interactions (sediment, hydrodynamics, vegetation).
  • good organisational skills and ability to work independently and in a team.
  • affinity with technical aspects of data processing and numerical modeling.
  • excellent communication skills and a capacity and willingness to interact with the end-users and stakeholders of the research.
Conditions of employment

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills. Please visit for more information.

All PhD candidates should be prepared to spend up to a maximum of 15% of their time on activities not directly related to the PhD research. This includes participation to Graduate School courses, an active role in education and other organisational activities.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.


Delft University of Technology

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers both in business and in a social context. TU Delft offers 16 Bachelor’s and 32 Master’s programmes to more than 23,000 students. Our scientific staff consists of 3,500 staff members and 2,800 PhD candidates. Together we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Civil Engineering & Geosciences

The Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (CEG) is committed to outstanding international research and education in the field of civil engineering, applied earth sciences, traffic and transport, water technology and delta technology. The research covers global social issues and is closely connected to education as well as the work of a wide range of knowledge institutions. CEG is convinced that Open Science helps to realise these goals and supports its scientists in integrating Open Science in their research practice. The Faculty of CEG comprises 28 research groups in the following seven departments: Materials Mechanics Management & Design, Engineering Structures, Geoscience and Engineering, Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Transport & Planning, Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management.

The Department of Hydraulic Engineering is mainly concerned with major surface water bodies such as rivers, estuaries and seas. The focus is on understanding, designing and implementing human interventions in the natural environment for the discharge of water, for protection against water, for transport over water and for building in water. The Department covers a several research areas, including Environmental Fluid Mechanics, Coastal Engineering and Ports & Waterways. We aim to provide an excellent academic education for future generations of hydraulic engineers and scientists, in an internationally highly respected tradition.

For information about Position#5: PhD Position Applied Mathematics


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD00297


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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