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Postdoc position in Physical Geography: High-resolution modelling of groundwater flow as control on dike failure (1.0 FTE)

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences has a postdoc position available in Physical Geography: High-resolution modelling of groundwater flow as control on dike failure. Are you interested? Then please read the full profile and apply.

ongeveer een jaar geleden


Domplein, Utrecht, Utrecht
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur
€ 3111 - € 4084 per maand


The Department of Physical Geography seeks a Postdoc for the project ‘Improvement of dike failure probability estimates using knowledge of the subsurface’, which is part of the research programme All-Risk, funded by STW. The project contributes to the Utrecht University focus area ‘Future Deltas’.

In 2014 the Dutch Flood Protection programme adopted a new probabilistic risk approach for the management of the flood defences. Protection standards are expressed as flooding probabilities of polder areas, implying that multiple failure mechanisms for all dike sections within a dike ring must be considered, and then combined to assess the overall flooding probability. The All-Risk programme provides the scientific interdisciplinary support for this new approach, through collaboration of Dutch universities, Deltares, Rijkswaterstaat, Water Boards, and the private sector. The impact of All-Risk will also be international through collaborations with universities in e.g. Houston, Tokyo and Leipzig.

Dike failure due to various mechanisms (piping, undercutting by deep channel scour, deformation due to soil subsidence, basal slip) are related to the sub-surface and groundwater pressures, which show great spatial heterogeneity. Current predictive models rely on over-simplified average subsurface properties or parameterized process descriptions, resulting in potentially oversized designs, which need to be improved. The high-resolution geological databases of Utrecht University and TNO-Geological Survey of the Netherlands well document the subsurface heterogeneity, which shows systematic patterns associated with the processes that formed the deposits in the past.

The Postdoc project will focus on the efficient incorporation of subsurface characteristics into 3D groundwater modelling. The final goal is to develop tools that enable a rapid assessment of groundwater-related failure risk of dike stretches. To this end the postdoc will (i) create a tool to automatically generate a 3D-groundwater flow and stability model for a given dike stretch; (ii) develop methods to parameterize relevant subsurface and hydrological characteristics to be used in the 3D groundwater and stability model using available geological databases; (iii) perform quantitative model calculations regarding groundwater flow and erosion as function of subsurface architecture, dike geometry, and water levels for various dike stretches, (iv) explore the utility of geophysical methods (e.g. in-situ and airborne EM and surface temperature sensing to improve model parameterization by model-data fusion, and (iv) explore uncertainties and relevant scenarios in line with those used in water practice.

The Postdoc will work closely together with a PhD candidate at Utrecht University who focusses on schematisation and prediction of subsurface characteristics from a geological and geomorphological perspective and a PhD candidate at Delft University of technology who focusses on using geophysical methods in dike failure risk assessment. The candidate will also collaborate with the experts and stakeholders in Deltares, TNO-Geological survey of the Netherlands, Rijkswaterstaat, Water Boards, and the Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA).


We seek candidates with a strong motivation for scientific research, keen interest in translating scientific findings to practical applications, in the field of 3D high-resolution groundwater modelling and subsurface stability. The candidate:

  • has a PhD degree in Physical Geography, Groundwater Mechanics, Geohydrology or a closely related discipline;
  • has knowledge of 3D groundwater modelling, geohydrological field experience and basic knowledge of geomechanics;
  • has experience with complex modelling problems and preferably with high-performance computing, data-assimilation or model inversion;
  • is able to work across different disciplines of physical geography, sedimentology, hydrology and process modelling;
  • has excellent scientific writing and planning skills;
  • is an enthusiastic team player;
  • is able to place his/her results in the broader and interdisciplinary context of the All-Risk programme;
  • is able to communicate the main research results to professional end users.

The candidate is expected to be fluent in English, both spoken and written. Candidates who do not speak or understand Dutch are expected to be able to communicate in Dutch at a professional level within two years of the appointment.


You are offered a 12-month fulltime position with - at good performance - the prospect of a phased extension by a maximum of 24 months (in total 3 years fulltime). The gross monthly salary is dependent on qualifications and experience and will start between €3,111 (scale 10, line 4) and €4,084 per month (scale 10 max Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities). The extent of this position is 38 hours per week (1.0 FTE). The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition we offer a pension scheme, a collective health insurance and flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. More information: terms of employment.

Additionele informatie

For more information please contact Prof. Dr. M.F.P. Bierkens (m.f.p.bierkens@uu.nl) or Prof. Dr. H. Middelkoop (h.middelkoop@uu.nl)


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.

The Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and anthroposphere. With a population of 2,600 students (BSc and MSc) and 700 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organization. The Faculty is organized in four Departments: Innovation, Environmental and Energy Sciences, Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, and Human Geography and Urban and Regional Planning.

The Department of Physical Geography conducts research and teaching and is partly responsible for the BSc and MSc programme Earth Sciences. Within the Department of Physical Geography, the research group Coastal Dynamics, Fluvial Systems & Global Change (CFG) carries out top-quality fundamental research that focuses on the natural and human-induced morphodynamics and sedimentary processes, patterns and products in coastal and fluvial environments, and their response to global change. The Earth Surface Hydrology group has its expertise in the integrated modelling of soil water-vegetation dynamics, data-assimilation methods for operational water management and global scale hydrological modelling in the context of global change.