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PhD candidate: Modelling the Holocene development of estuaries (1 FTE)

The faculty of Geoscineces at Utrecht University is looking for a PhD candidate: Modelling the Holocene development of estuaries. Are you interested in this position? Then please read the full profile and apply.

ongeveer een jaar geleden


Domplein, Utrecht, Utrecht
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
40 - 40 uur
€ 2 - € 3 per maand


As a PhD candidate you will study Holocene development of estuaries from high-resolution reconstructions on the coastal plain of the Netherlands and by controlled experimental creation of estuarine landscapes in the laboratory.

The ERC Consolidator project ´Estuaries shaped by biomorphodynamics, inherited landscape conditions and human interference´supervised by Prof M.G. Kleinhans consists of a team of three post-docs and three PhD students and is connected to a similar-sized project on estuarine morphodynamics. The overall objectives are to develop numerical and analogue (´sand box´) models for large-scale planform shape and size of sandy estuaries and predict past and future, large-scale effects of biomorphological interactions and inherited conditions. Within this project-team we look for a multidisciplinary researcher with experimental skills to do a fully funded four year PhD thesis.

The general objective of this PhD project is firstly to assess how large-scale, long-term biogeomorphodynamics of estuaries lead to the morphology, patterns and stratigraphy that we observe in Holocene systems, and secondly to test hypotheses for how inherited conditions such as valley dimensions determined estuary planform development and its large-scale sedimentary architecture. The tasks for this PhD project will be to employ the in-house paleogeographical reconstructions of a series of contrasting, middle and late Holocene systems of the Netherlands and perhaps Germany and Belgium, and to let complete estuaries form in our novel facility, the Metronome. We already successfully created estuaries in the laboratory with mudflats and with saltmarsh using seedlings of several plant species. Other team members developed numerical models that can also be used. Specifically you will:

  • experimentally and perhaps numerically test alternative interpretations for contrasting Holocene estuaries in northwestern Europe, in particular how specific aspects of estuary planforms are attributable to externally imposed constraints (and timing where relevant) as opposed to biomorphological development
  • collaborate closely with the team for comparisons with numerical model results, field data analyses and geological reconstructions of Holocene estuaries
  • publish the synthesised knowledge in exciting papers for high ranking journals
  • actively participate in academic discussions in the group and in field site visits and meetings with collaborators

This PhD study is part of a larger group effort and close interaction with the PI, PhDs, other postdocs and external collaborators is expected. The graduate school offers courses for writing and presentation skills. This also offers opportunities for BSc and MSc co-supervision, academic and professional network building. Additional information can be obtained from Maarten Kleinhans at m.g.kleinhans@uu.nl


The candidate holds an MSc or equivalent degree in Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Sedimentology, Ecology, Civil Engineering, Eco-Hydraulics or another closely related research fields, and has experience with numerical modelling. Affinity with Quaternary geology and experimental river/estuarine morphodynamics will be an asset. The candidate is expected to be fluent in English, both spoken and written.


We offer a fully funded position as a PhD candidate (as employee) for four years with a go/no go evaluation in the first year. The gross monthly salary with a full-time appointment will amount to € 2,222 in the first year and to € 2,840 in the fourth (P-scale of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities).
Salaries are supplemented by a holiday allowance of 8% per year and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%. We offer a pension scheme, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions. You'll find more information about working at Utrecht University here.

Additionele informatie

Additional information can be obtained from Maarten Kleinhans at m.g.kleinhans@uu.nl
Download Extra information for the PhD candidate Modelling the Holocene development of estuaries.pdf.


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 has been ranked first nationally in the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities, and 47th globally. The University is committed to a strategies orientation on four overarching themes, which include ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Institutions’. The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old center and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its century-old university. Utrecht city has been consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the Netherlands.

The Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and anthroposphere.

The focus of the Department of Physical Geography is on physical processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s continental and coastal systems, and the interaction between these processes and their relations to biotic factors, including humanity. The Department of Physical Geography comprises about 120 employed and affiliated academic scientists, half of which are PhD candidates and Postdocs.

The group of Kleinhans focuses on the dynamics of
(i) river channels and floodplains,
(ii) river deltas and
(iii) estuaries.
This integrates state-of-the-art landscape experiments (aka analogue models) with computer models, field measurements, shallow coring, remote sensing observations on two planets, and interactions between the natural environment and human activities such as coastal protection and nature restoration.