PhD position in Dynamics of mixed sands at manmade beaches in mixed-energy coastal environments (1.0 FTE)

PhD position in Dynamics of mixed sands at manmade beaches in mixed-energy coastal environments (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
22 May 21 Jun Utrecht

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We seek a highly motivated candidate with affinity for fieldwork, numerical modelling and/or data analysis.

Job description

As part of a joint project between Utrecht University (UU) and the Technical University Delft (TUD), we seek a highly motivated candidate for a PhD position within the field of coastal morphodynamics. The available position is one of two PhD positions within the EURECCA project (Effective Upgrades and Retrofits for Coastal Climate Adaptation), awarded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Your counterpart will be situated within the Hydraulic Engineering department of the TUD.
The EURECCA project will focus on the dynamics of man-made beaches in mixed-energy coastal environments, where both waves and currents drive the morphodynamic evolution. Sandy retrofits, where a sandy beach system is placed in front of an existing flood defense, are a novel engineering approach using sediment instead of stones and asphalt to guarantee coastal safety. Much of our understanding of sand deposits, or nourishments, stem from research in coastal areas that are dominated by energetic waves. However, the redistribution of sand and the evolution of different sediment sizes of potential retrofits is not understood in environments which are under the influence of both strong tidal currents and waves (i.e. mixed-energy systems). The EURECCA project aims to develop robust and quantitative knowledge of mixed-sand transport driven by mixed-energy forcing. The project will focus on the recently completed Prins Hendrikzanddijk (PHZD), a sandy retrofit of a dike on the back-barrier side of the Dutch barrier island of Texel, an area with strong tidal currents and relatively weak wind-driven waves: a typical mixed-energy system.

Your research will focus on the sediment transport processes and morphological evolution at the PHZD. As part of your project, you are expected to take part in a number of dedicated large field campaigns at the PHZD to measure the forcing conditions (waves, currents and water levels), bed levels, grain sizes and sediment transport, supported by our highly experienced field-technicians from the Faculty’s Earth Simulation Laboratory (ESL). In addition to these measurements, you will apply an operational numerical model (Delft3D) to further explore the role of mixed grain sizes and sediment sorting processes on the morphological development.

You will be supervised by Dr Timothy Price (daily supervisor, UU), Prof Gerben Ruessink (promotor, UU) and Prof. Maarten Kleinhans (advisor, UU). Also, you will work in tandem with the TUD-based PhD candidate, led by Dr Matthieu de Schipper. The EURECCA research team will work together closely with a diverse group of dedicated end-users for data collection, numerical modelling and the implementation of the acquired insights into practice: Jan de Nul B.V., Waterproof B.V., Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier, Deltares, Arcadis, and the Dutch Ministry of Public Works Rijkswaterstaat. This collaboration includes a (non-consecutive) 6-month stay at Waterproof B.V. in Lelystad, the Netherlands, where you will explore (using Delft3D) how different configurations of sediment mixtures and nourishment morphologies affect the dispersal of a nourishment.

Up to 10% of your time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Graduate School of Geosciences. You will be offered a personalized training programme set up, mutually agreed on recruitment, to strengthen your research profile, adding skills and filling knowledge gaps. It will help achieve your long-term career objectives as well as supplement and support the project-related research.


Utrecht University


Do you have:
  • an MSc degree in Earth Surface Processes, Physical Geography, Sedimentology, Marine Sciences, Coastal Engineering or a closely related discipline;
  • knowledge of (coastal) hydrodynamics and/or sediment transport processes;
  • proficiency in English, both spoken and written;
  • affinity for fieldwork, numerical modelling and/or data analysis;
  • demonstrable organisational skills and the ability to work independently;
  • a strong motivation to (learn how to) communicate your research in journal papers and international conferences;
  • a keen interest in the outreach of your work outside of the academic setting (e.g. through stakeholder meetings);
  • an enthusiastic mindset as a team player?

We are looking forward to your application! Our department has committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce, and we explicitly welcome women to apply.

Conditions of employment

We offer a position (1.0 FTE) for the duration of four years. The research group will provide the candidate with strong and collegial support on all aspects of the work. We offer a collegial and lively department with a lot of cooperation, including collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). The gross salary ranges between €2,325 in the first year and €2,972 in year 4 (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). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

Facilities for sports and child care are available on our main campus which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of 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 societal 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 of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and anthroposphere. The Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University has a distinct profile in research on land surface processes, natural hazards, large-scale hydrology, coast and river processes and morphology, spatio-dynamic modelling, earth observation and image processing. Our Coastal and River group focuses on the natural and human-induced dynamics of fluvial and coastal landscapes resulting from flow, sediment transport, biological interactions and human interference. The work domain encompasses barrier coasts, beaches and dunes, tidal inlet systems, rivers and floodplains, large estuaries with major ports, tidal flats, salt marshes and mangroves. In particular, we are excited about interactions between fluvial, marine and aeolian components in the widest sense and in feedbacks between physical and biotic processes in these landscapes. We combine numerical modelling, scale experiments, measurements in the field and also remote sensing. Our overarching aim is to contribute to the solution of major scientific and societal challenges, and to this end we aim to combine our knowledge in generic bio-morphological fluvial/coastal models.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Behaviour and society; Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2325—€2972 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1102003



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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