PhD position - Nature inclusive farming for farmland birds

  • WO
  • Tijdelijk
Wageningen University & Research


Do you have a passion for doing biodiversity research in an agricultural context? Are you interested in farmland birds? Do you want to find out how we can combine sustainable food production with biodiversity conservation? Then we invite you to apply for a PhD position in our team!

Farmland birds in Europe have been declining rapidly over the last decades, mainly due to agricultural intensification and specialisation. The agricultural landscape, once consisting of a diverse set of crops and landscape elements, now comprises large scale fields with few crops and landscape elements. Especially ground-nesting birds of open landscapes, such as species like Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis) and western yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava) are in need of creative solutions because they breed and forage in the crops themselves. Nature-inclusive farming practices, such as strip cropping and plant-based protein crops, combined with agri-environment schemes may provide such a solution. In this government-funded project led by Wageningen Environmental Research, Wageningen University, and University of Groningen, we will study the combined effects of nature-inclusive farming with strip cropping, and agri-environment schemes on farmland birds. More specifically, the PhD candidate will study how the implementation of these agricultural practices affects their reproductive success, how they use the landscape, and ultimately trends of farmland birds.

The project will be carried out in ten study areas in different parts of the Netherlands and the successful PhD candidate will be expected to co-supervise field assistants on top of their own field work. The focus of the work will be on analysis and interpretation of the collected data. Outside the field season, you will regularly work on all three groups (Wageningen & Groningen, the Netherlands). Furthermore, because the study aims to investigate the changes over the years, this is a position for five years (0.8 fte).

We are looking for a PhD candidate who is keen to perform state-of-the-art research on opportunities for farmland bird conservation in novel farming systems, and who is eager to collaborate with farmers and who is able to think along with farmers. Fieldwork, and leading a team of field workers, should be appealing to you. Research findings will be published in international academic journals, but also in reports to the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV). You will also be involved in the supervision of MSc students who perform their thesis research within the framework of the project.


  • MSc in ecology, (conservation) biology, nature conservation or related field;
  • experience with ecological field studies;
  • previous experience with finding nests and handling birds is a plus;
  • knowledge of arable systems, or affinity with farming practices;
  • team-player;
  • good organizational and communication skills;
  • fluency in Dutch (or willingness to learn Dutch through an intensive course) is a plus;
  • experience in collaborating with partners from a variety of backgrounds is a plus.
  • For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.


The mission of Wageningen University & Research is "To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life". Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR's Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!


Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • study leave and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the " Best University " in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

Meer informatie

For more information about this position, please contact Thijs Fijen (thijs.fijen@wur.nl).
For more information about the procedure, please contact Edgar Tijhuis, corporate recruiter, edgar.tijhuis@wur.nl

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly by uploading your CV and motivation letter, using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.
This vacancy will be listed up to and including January 4th 2023. We hope to schedule the first job interviews soon afterwards.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.