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PhD position on Hydrological Modelling with Machine Learning

Do you want to analyse how different machine learning approaches can be used to model river hydrology? Are you eager to set up a case study in one or more …

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Droevendaalsesteeg, Wageningen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur


Do you want to analyse how different machine learning approaches can be used to model river hydrology? Are you eager to set up a case study in one or more major European river basins as well as a river basin in Brazil? And have you successfully completed an MSc degree in environmental sciences, earth system sciences, hydrology, landscape ecology or another relevant field? Then we are looking for you!

The PhD project builds upon earlier work that has been conducted in the ESA group and that has led to an AI-based model that allows analysing how deforestation (past, and future scenarios) affect rainfall patterns. The model allows simulating daily rainfall patterns, and provides insights in how deforestation changes rainfall magnitude and seasonality of rainfall. In this continuation project, we want to understand how changes in rainfall influence river hydrology, including flood risks, dry season flows and overall streamflow. The model will be built with a broad range of variables including topography, vegetation characteristics, daily rainfall patterns, etc., and calibrated with streamflow data. Most datasets are already available.

The broader aim of the project is to develop a modelling approach that is as accurate as traditional hydrological models, but more flexible in terms of data requirements as well as more easily scalable. The project will be conducted in the context of a major European funded research project and the PhD student will collaborate closely with a team of researchers including other PhD students. Visits to project sites and meetings is also envisaged. The PhD project will result in a PhD dissertation comprising four individual chapters that have been submitted or published as scientific article.


  • A completed MSc degree (before starting the PhD) in a relevant field (environmental sciences, earth system sciences, hydrology, landscape ecology, etc.);
  • Demonstrated experience with machine learning;
  • Experience with spatial modelling;
  • Experience with modelling hydrology and or ecosystem services;
  • An interest in inter- or trans disciplinary collaborative research;
  • Excellent skills in English writing.
Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria mentioned above. The position is scheduled to commence in November or latest December 2021.


Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and 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 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 € 2.434,- per month rising to € 3.111,- 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 16th 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.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact prof Lars Hein, professor at ESA, lars.hein@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 using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.
Via our site you should first upload a Cover letter (approx. 500 words) detailing in a single document your research interests, qualifications and motivation.

Secondly, you should upload a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and added to that in the same pdf your:
(1) (Academic transcript(s): Final and current degree transcripts including grades and degree certificates - scanned copy in colour of the original document/s and;
(2) Degree Certificate(s) - scanned copy in colour of the original document/s

This vacancy will be listed up to and including 15 October 2021. The preferred starting date for this position is in November 2021 or at the latest December 2021.

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.