PhD on Assessing Environmental Impact of Floating Structures

PhD on Assessing Environmental Impact of Floating Structures

Published Deadline Location
10 Jan 21 Feb Utrecht

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We are looking for a PhD candidate to investigate the ecological and societal potential of floating structures.

Job description

Utrecht University and Deltares are searching for a PhD candidate as part of the project ‘Floating Future - Scaling up floating structures as climate-proof space-creating solution enabling societal, industrial and ecological win-wins’.

Your job
The Floating Future research project aims at answering the question: ‘How can we keep our densely populated country liveable?’.

We will investigate possibilities of flood resilient, multifunctional, and inclusive living space on the water enabled by large floating structures. However, so far the ecological effects and water quality effects of large-scale floating constructions remain largely unknown.

Your task as part of our team will be to gain understanding how large-scale floating structures can be designed so that they minimise negative ecological impacts, maximise opportunities for restoring ecosystems and their services and include aquaculture. The environmental effects depend on the scale of the floating structure relative to the dimensions of the lake or sea, as well on how the edges of the floating structures are shaped for nature and aquaculture targets.

Within this project, you will design ‘scenarios’ for 3D numerical modelling of physical and biological processes around floating infrastructure using DFLOW-FM and possibly other model systems. You will (learn how to) couple mostly existing modules for hydrodynamics, suspended particulate matter, nutrient dynamics and the resulting primary and secondary production. Hydrodynamics specialists from Deltares will help with this. Then you will investigate effects of floating infrastructure on water quality, ecological impact and possible tipping points in the ecosystem. This means that you will work on a range of systems with different structure and characteristics, such as freshwater, brackish or fully marine. Models will be validated against existing and new data sets. The outcomes of these different models will be combined in an overall assessment regarding the ecological status of the system.

You will work closely together with your supervisors from Deltares and Utrecht University, other researchers from the different institutes, and (inter-)national collaborators. Your time will be spent at the UU (25%) and at Deltares (75%). You will closely collaborate with two other PhD candidates, focusing on optimizing the design of the edges of the floating systems for ecological purposes and on integrating seaweed cultivation into the floating structures.

To support academic and personal development, PhD candidates follow courses and assist in teaching Earth Sciences at Bachelor's and Master's level. Together these activities amount to twenty per cent of the contracted time.


Utrecht University


We look forward to your application if you have multiple of the following qualifications:
  • a Master’s degree (MSc) in aquatic ecology, oceanography, marine science, physical geography, or a related field;
  • experience in working with numerical models and/or a background in aquatic ecology is a large advantage;
  • quantitative skills including scripting (e.g. Python or Matlab);
  • a passion for aquatic environments;
  • good English oral and writing skills (C1 level);
  • good team working skills, especially in an (inter)national, interdisciplinary and diverse team;
  • excitement to (learn how to) think across disciplinary and institutional boundaries;
  • a VOG (Statement of Behavior) is required for this position, because you will often be at Deltares locations. You only have to arrange this after you are selected for this position.

Conditions of employment

We offer:
  • a temporary position, initially for one year with an extension to four years upon mutual agreement and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period;
  • a working week of 36 hours and a gross monthly salary between €2,770 and €3,539 in the case of full-time employment (salary scale P under the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU);
  • 8% holiday pay and 8.3% year-end bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave and flexible terms of employment based on the CAO NU.

In addition to the terms of employment laid down in the CAO NU, Utrecht University has a number of schemes and facilities of its own for employees. This includes schemes facilitating professional development, leave schemes and schemes for sports and cultural activities, as well as discounts on software and other IT products. We also offer access to additional employee benefits through our Terms of Employment Options Model. In this way, we encourage our employees to continue to invest in their growth. For more information, please visit Working at Utrecht University.


Universiteit Utrecht

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 Pathways to Sustainability. Shaping science, sharing tomorrow.

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 team of the Department of Physical Geography excels in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. We research processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s systems from the mountains to the sea, and the interaction in between. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations. We are a lively department that hosts an active early career community (PhD candidates, researchers and lecturers).

Deltares is a not-for-profit, world-leading, and mission-driven Dutch knowledge institute for water and the subsurface. We work throughout the world and we are guided by the major societal issues, for which Deltares' knowledge is indispensable. We have an open and collaborative culture.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3487



Princetonlaan 8a, 3584CB, Utrecht

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