PhD on the Role of Knowledge in Planning & Governance of Nature-Based Solutions

PhD on the Role of Knowledge in Planning & Governance of Nature-Based Solutions

Published Deadline Location
15 Jan 20 Feb Utrecht

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Are you passionate about helping cities adapt to climate change? Are you interested in bringing this knowledge into inclusive planning and governance?

Job description

We are seeking a PhD researcher to investigate the role of knowledge in the inclusive planning and governance of nature-based solutions in cities and regions in the Mediterranean region. Nature-based solutions are leading climate adaptation solutions for dealing with climate pressures, biodiversity loss, and regenerating people-nature connections.

Your job
There has been much research about the drivers and barriers of planning and governing nature-based solutions and upscaling nature-based solutions from small-scale interventions to the scale of cities and regions. This PhD position will focus on the critical role of knowledge in mainstreaming nature-based solutions in urban planning and governance to promote upscaling, including knowledge-based planning instruments, processes of knowledge co-production, and more.

As PhD researcher, you will deepen and theoretically innovate the types of knowledge (e.g., expert, tacit, indigenous) and how to mobilise and integrate these for inclusive governance of nature-based solutions in cities and metropolitan areas. The research will build strongly from action research in a plenitude of real-life case studies in the Mediterranean region. Alongside research, you are expected to contribute to the deliverables and project work in the research project “CARDIMED: Climate Adaptation and Resilience Demonstrated In the Mediterranean region” (see below). Join us in this exciting research opportunity shaping the future of urban and regional resilience.

This PhD project is based at the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning and the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development and at the and it will be supervised by Professor Niki Frantzeskaki, Professor Flor Avelino, and Dr Katharina Holscher.


Utrecht University


We are looking for a colleague who brings the following:
  • a Master of Science in Urban Planning, Environmental Planning, Geography, Political Science, Policy Studies, or Sustainability Science, or related disciplines;
  • excellent research skills and ethical practices, including ability to gather, analyse and interpret qualitative data; experience in conducting and analysing structured and semi-structured interviews, large and small workshops, focus groups, and participatory research activities;
  • a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in English;
  • ability to work both independently and in a team;
  • good time management skills and ability to balance between the PhD and the research project demands;
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

The following qualities are desirable:
  • command of one or more of the following Mediterranean languages: Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, or Turkish;
  • experience in publishing in a conference or in a peer-reviewed journal;
  • knowledge of European environmental policies.

Conditions of employment

We offer:
  • a position 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;
  • 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 Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning investigates sustainability challenges in the context of an ongoing worldwide trend of increasing urbanisation. The Department’s ‘Urban Futures’ research program focuses on the enhancement of long-term economic developments 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 that are not solely at the forefront of academic debates but also create new perspectives on successful policies and interventions to address urban challenges.

The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development wants to have a positive impact on the transition to a sustainable society, which includes a focus on both the climate and nature challenges and how they interrelate. We do this by developing excellent and relevant knowledge in interdisciplinary teams and by educating the change agents of the future. The Copernicus Institute has had an excellent research evaluation in 2021 and the institute takes pride in maintaining its leading position in national and international sustainability research, and by developing new, internationally oriented teaching programmes. The institute consists of five research groups (sections): Innovation Studies, Environmental Governance, Environmental Sciences, Energy and Resources, and the Utrecht Futures Studio.

The CARDIMED research project will introduce a framework to build Climate Resilience in the Mediterranean biogeographical region, efficiently unifying individual efforts of regions and communities across different countries and continents. This will be achieved by deploying the digital infrastructure to harmonise the data collection and evaluation processes, providing open data to all the actors involved in the Nature-based Solutions (NBS) value chain, and integrating crucial functions for Climate Resilience. Among these functions, smart digital tools for citizen participation and capacity building will supplement an ambitious multi-stakeholder engagement strategy focused on knowledge translation and impact pathways. Furthermore, holistic modelling tools introducing the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus approach will provide comprehensive knowledge on the complex NBS interfaces that will decisively contribute to addressing socio-ecological challenges, along with issues of valuation and low-investment rate in NBS. These actions will be implemented across 9 demonstration sites, composed of 10 regions, 20 locations, and 28 communities, and comprising 47 NBS that directly relate to over 80 interventions and supporting units that tackle climate change and circularity challenges. The consolidation of the demonstrating regions and communities will establish the CARDIMED Regional Alliance, which will function as the vehicle for expanding the network via upscaling the existing sites and adding new ones. The project includes 5 transferability cases, as well as an additional 10 that will be defined during the implementation. Through these actions, the CARDIMED alliance will achieve at least 28 regions and 70 communities by 2030, will create 8000 jobs, especially in the NBS sector, and will leverage over 450M€ in climate investment.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 28—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3518



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