PhD position in Natural environment, pro-environmental behaviors and mental health of urban youths (1.0 FTE)

PhD position in Natural environment, pro-environmental behaviors and mental health of urban youths (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
8 Feb 20 Mar Utrecht

You cannot apply for this job anymore (deadline was 20 Mar 2023).

Browse the current job offers or choose an item in the top navigation above.

Do you want to be a part of a research project that addresses the urgent need to investigate urban environment & mental health using data-driven approaches?

Job description

Are you passionate about understanding the relationship between urban youth’s mental health, pro-environmental behaviors (PEB), and their environment? Do you want to be a part of a cutting-edge research project that addresses the urgent need to investigate urban youth’s mental health issues in culturally diverse contexts using data-driven approaches? Then this opportunity is for you! 

We are seeking a highly motivated and talented researcher to join our multidisciplinary team investigating the relationship between nature exposure, mental health, and PEB among urban youth in diverse cultural contexts. Urban youth are experiencing increased stress, depression, and anxiety as they navigate a changing world affected by climate change and deteriorating planetary health. Studies suggest that nature exposure may improve mental health and stimulate pro-environmental behaviors, but previous research has been limited in scope.

This project will integrate high-resolution, longitudinal data on nature contact with cognitive and behavioral models based on the daily life experience of urban youth in different cities to explore these relations. You will investigate urban youths’ PEB and mental health in relation to nature contact in varying urban settings. The study will be conducted in two cities in the global south (i.e., Dhaka, Kampala) and one in the global north (i.e., Utrecht). 

Key responsibilities include:
  • Integrating theories and methods from urban geography and environmental psychology to develop and test a new conceptual framework to connect nature contact, connectedness, mental health, and PEB;
  • Collecting and analyzing quantitative data from urban youth in multiple cities. This will include modeling dynamic nature exposure along activity spaces using GPS tracking, integrating different types of nature exposure metrics, and measuring spatially explicit nature connectedness using geographic ecological momentary assessment. Furthermore, you will develop measures to assess mental health, PEB, and mental models;
  • Investigating relationships between nature contact, nature connectedness, mental health, and PEB analyzing the collected data using different modeling techniques, and testing if the pathways of these relations are moderated/mediated by individuals’ mental models about nature exposure and nature connectedness.
The findings of this research will contribute to creating and implementing effective policies to improve mental health and stimulate pro-environmental behaviors among urban youth using nature-based solutions and interventions. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to a growing field and make a meaningful impact on the future of global sustainability.


Utrecht University


Essential knowledge, skills, and experience:
  • Successfully completed MSc degree in any of these subjects: Geography, Social/Environmental psychology, Environmental Science, Urban planning, or related subjects;
  • Clear understanding of quantitative research methods, demonstrated through grade transcripts and CV;
  • Practical experience with quantitative data analysis (using Python, or JAVA, or R);
  • Excellent knowledge of managing spatial data in GIS Software/database or in the programming environment;
  • Excellent command of the English language (both written and oral);
  • Excellent writing and communication skills, demonstrated through a writing example such as your Master thesis;
  • Able to work independently and in a team, excited to be working in an interdisciplinary team;
  • Willingness to travel to case study sites and conduct fieldwork as needed.

Desirable knowledge, skills, and experience:
  • Experience in topics related to urban environmental issues, including the built environment, greenspace, mobility, mental models, mental health, and PEB;
  • Experience in developing a manuscript for publication or publishing as the lead author, a conference paper or international peer-reviewed journal;
  • Willingness to acquire new skills as required for the research of the PhD project. 

Note: You do not need to fulfill all of these requirements perfectly; make sure you address which ones you do in your motivation letter.

Conditions of employment

You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), 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, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic 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 faculty is located at Utrecht Science Park in the Vening Meinesz building A near the historical city centre of Utrecht.

The Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning investigates sustainability challenges in the context of an ongoing worldwide trend of increasing urbanization. The department’s ‘Urban Futures’ research programme focuses on the enhancement of the long-term economic development of cities, the inclusion and social inequalities in relation to transnational mobilities, the health outcomes of urban living, as well as on the governance and planning of sustainability transformations of cities and urban regions. It develops novel theoretical and empirical approaches which are not solely at the forefront of academic debates but which also create new perspectives on successful policies and interventions to address urban challenges. Our research programme is the basis for our Research Master's Human Geography and Geographical Information Management and Applications and Professional Master's in Spatial Planning, Human Geography, and International Development Studies. The department also runs a large and highly appreciated Bachelor's programme and is part of the Netherlands Graduate School of Urban and Regional Research for PhD candidates. Unique characteristics of the department are a special team focusing on innovations within teaching methods, its strong involvement in the transdisciplinary sustainability research theme, and professional consultancy for public partners.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1204752



Princetonlaan 8a, 3584 CB, Utrecht

View on Google Maps

Interesting for you