PhD candidate related to urban biodiversity, species traits, and human well-being linkages

PhD candidate related to urban biodiversity, species traits, and human well-being linkages

Published Deadline Location
31 Oct 3 Dec Leiden

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The Faculty of Science and Institute of Environmental Sciences are looking for:

1 PhD candidate related to urban biodiversity, species traits, and human well-being linkages

Vacancy number: 14245

Job description

Are you a curious and creative person who's driven to learn and know more? Are you passionate about interdisciplinary research, and do you want to contribute to connecting ecological data to human health outcomes? Does combining quantitative and qualitative research methods pique your interest? If so, the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University is looking for you!

Position Overview
We are seeking an enthusiastic PhD candidate to join our interdisciplinary research team at the Institute of Environmental Sciences. The aim of the project is to gain a deeper mechanistic understanding of the benefits of nature on mental health. Specifically, the PhD will look at which features of urban nature contribute to well-being and the role biodiversity plays specifically. The evidence linking nature and human well-being is compelling. Yet, there is a lack of understanding regarding which biodiversity metrics (e.g. abundance, species diversity) and attributes (e.g. colour, shape, texture) of green spaces (e.g. urban parks) are best or worse for mental health. This knowledge gap hampers our ability to understand and manage green spaces from an ecological perspective to improve human well-being. The PhD candidate will focus primarily on identifying species’ traits that directly elicit human well-being responses and apply this approach to inform urban planning and design that most benefits people. We are interested in candidates who have experience and, ideally, are skilled in biodiversity (field) surveys and/or social research methods (e.g., surveys and questionnaires, structured interviews), but also someone who is keen to learn and develop these skills.

The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr. Rita Sousa-Silva. Dr. Sousa-Silva is dedicated to fostering a collaborative, inclusive, supportive, and creative research environment where all individuals can thrive and develop their skills for whatever future career goals they may have. And feel fulfilled and happy! The candidate will enter an environment of “open-door-policy” and monthly informal meetings to promote progress and encourage growth into an independent researcher, while also engaging with the larger biodiversity and urban research groups at the Institute of Environmental Sciences that meet twice a month.

You are expected to:
  • Design and conduct experiments to test hypotheses and analyze data.
  • Be comfortable and confident working independently when required (e.g., fieldwork)
  • Be collegial and have a proactive attitude towards balancing your research endeavours.
  • Communicate your findings through presentations at national and international conferences and potential scientific publications.
  • Supervise BSc or MSc students for thesis projects and field sampling.
  • Collaborate with supervisors brainstorming and developing new research ideas and proposals.


Leiden University


Selection criteria
The preferred candidate:
Has an MSc degree, ideally in Biology, Ecology, Environmental Psychology, Sustainability, or a related discipline.
  • Has experience in biodiversity field surveys and/or social research methods (e.g., surveys and questionnaires, structured interviews).
  • Previous knowledge of statistics and modelling is desirable. Your BSc or MSc thesis ideally involves data analysis through R and reporting about the outcomes of your research.
  • Previous knowledge of plant functional traits ecology is a plus.
  • Demonstrable proactive and flexible attitude and good communication skills.
  • Proven ability to motivate and/or encourage students and to coach them through group work.
  • Is a team player and can communicate their work to other researchers of various disciplines within and outside of the CML
  • Has very good written and spoken communication skills in English.
  • Fluency in Dutch, verbally and in writing, is an advantage but not a prerequisite.

Conditions of employment

Research at our Institute/Faculty
Leiden University is situated between Amsterdam (36 km) and Den Haag (15 km) and was founded in 1575, making it the oldest university in the Netherlands. It houses around 35,000 students originating from 112 nationalities, facilitated by approximately 8,000 staff. The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. It is a faculty where personal and academic development are top priorities. Our people are driven by curiosity to expand fundamental knowledge and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to make a contribution to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.

The research carried out at the Faculty is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organized in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor’s and twelve master’s programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2,800 staff and almost 6,000 students. We are located at the heart of Leiden’s Bio Science Park, one of Europe’s biggest science parks, where university and business life come together.
The environmental science research in CML is organized around two major research areas: ‘Industrial Ecology’ and ‘Environmental Biology’. This makes CML one of the few institutes covering both the circular, sustainable economic use of natural resources and natural capital, as well as assessing the environmental impacts of economic activities on natural resources, biodiversity and natural capital. Presently, over 130 FTE (including postdocs and PhDs) are employed at CML. CML collaborates with the TU Delft and Erasmus University (Rotterdam) in the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Sustainability (LDE-CfS).

Terms and conditions
At Leiden University, a PhD candidate is seen as an employee rather than a student. As such, we offer a 1-year position with the possibility of extension to 4 years based on performance and following the pay scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. Salary ranges from € 2.770.- gross per month in the first year to € 3.539 gross per month in the fourth year based on a full-time position. Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses, we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break (“30% rule”).

At the Faculty of Science we value inclusiveness and strive for a diverse community with equal opportunities for all. We give full support to our staff in achieving their potential to become independent academic researchers and teachers. For more information about our policy on diversity and equality please go to the diversity page on our website. Female researchers are also welcomed to join the Researchers In Science for Equality network of the Faculty if Science (


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 14245



Rapenburg 70, 2311EZ, Leiden

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