PhD position - REACT (ecology focus)

PhD position - REACT (ecology focus)

Published Deadline Location
15 Nov 6 Dec Wageningen

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Job description

Are you passionate about nature-based solutions that work for both people and nature? Do you aspire to contribute to cutting-edge research in the field of forest and landscape restoration? Then this may be the perfect opportunity for you!

We have an exciting PhD position at the Forest Ecology and Forest Management chairgroup (FEM) at Wageningen University and Research. The PhD candidate will be part of the ERC funded project REACT: Regreening Africa with Natural Regeneration. The project aims to understand how, when and where natural regeneration contributes to forest and landscape restoration. This includes: what tree species regenerate under what social and environmental conditions? What restoration outcomes can be achieved and for whom?

As a REACT PhD student (ecology focus), you will do an in-depth analysis of the ecology of agroforestry systems in Kenya, where smallholders deliberately promote naturally regenerating trees on their farmland (a practice called Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration / FMNR).

You will focus on plant community assembly filters (dispersal, environmental, land-use and human filters) using a plant functional traits-based approach, and analyze how filters shape forest succession, the recovery of ecosystem functioning, and restoration outcomes like soil quality, and the supply of wood and food products. You will collaborate closely with the other PhD student who focuses on the social aspects. Together you will synthesize insights, generate new interdisciplinary understanding and provide recommendations for the upscaling of forest and landscape restoration.

As a REACT PhD candidate, your duties and responsibilities include:
  • collecting field data (establishing permanent sampling plots to monitor tree regeneration, assessing landscape features that determine seed dispersal, measuring microclimate and soil properties that act as environmental filters, measuring plant functional traits to explain plant responses);
  • analyzing the mechanisms that underlie tree regeneration under different socio-ecological conditions;
  • synthesizing data from social and natural sciences to generate a new interdisciplinary understanding of socio-ecological systems and together with local communities and stakeholders making recommendations for upscaling forest and landscape restoration.

You will work here
The research is embedded within the chair Forest Ecology and Forest Management (FEM), which is led by Prof. Douglas Sheil. You will be supervised by Dr. Madelon Lohbeck and Prof. Lourens Poorter.You will be based in Wageningen (the Netherlands) and conduct fieldwork across three sites in Kenya.


Wageningen University & Research


You have:
  • a broad interest into advancing restoration with new evidence;
  • excellent interpersonal skills;
  • excellent communication and collaboration skills;
  • strong interest to work with local communities;

You also possess:
  • a successfully completed MSc degree in a relevant field, including: biology, forest & nature conservation, plant sciences;
  • experience in, or strong motivation towards, working in interdisciplinary and international teams;
  • experience in working in different cultures and/or the tropics;
  • proven experience in, and strong motivation towards, conducting ecological or tree eco-physiological or trait-based field work in remote places in the tropics; experience leading / coordinating such fieldwork is a plus;
  • proficiency in quantitative techniques and statistical analyses of large datasets is a plus.

For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.
Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the "30% rule", certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.


Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • P1368493-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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