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PhD position: Securing biodiversity within circular food systems

The sustainable consumption and production of animal-source foods (ASF) is at the centre of the debate for meeting several of the sustainable development …

3 maanden geleden


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


The sustainable consumption and production of animal-source foods (ASF) is at the centre of the debate for meeting several of the sustainable development goals. The tension in the debate is that animals provide essential macro- and micronutrients for humans, but also cause major environmental problems. Livestock currently use about 70% of all agricultural land (arable land and grassland). Expansion of livestock production, therefore, has been a main driver of the conversion of forests and native grasslands into agricultural land, resulting in a loss of biodiversity. The question is how we can secure or even optimize biodiversity within a circular food system.
The potential role of farm animals in the food system largely depends on how to keep the animals. Recently, several studies showed that farm animals reared under the circular paradigm can play a crucial role in feeding humanity. These farm animals then would not consume human-edible biomass, such as grains, but convert by-product from the food system and biomass from grasslands into valuable food, manure and other ecosystem services. In such a circular food systems interactions (trade-offs and synergies) can occur between food supply and biodiversity. Use of grassland for grazing, for example, has been reported to impair, but also to conserve and even enhance biodiversity, depending on the management intensity, site fertility, soil type, and other environmental factors. The use of grasslands, moreover, precludes alternative uses. Some grasslands, especially those that were once covered with forest, could benefit from being rewilded. As such there is an opportunity cost entailed in rearing livestock: not all biomass from grasslands can be considered 'free' for livestock production.


  • For this project we seek a candidate with a Master's degree in a field related to agro-ecology, food systems modelling, environmental sciences.
  • Affinity with geographical information systems.
  • Affinity with optimisation modelling skills.
  • The candidate should be motivated and able to carry out scientifically and societally impactful research in a multidisciplinary and international setting.
  • The candidate should be strong team player willing to contribute to the wider interests of the project.
  • The candidate should have a strong drive to contribute to the development of a sustainable food system.
  • Fluency in English: good writing, communication and presentation skills are essential. This position requires an excellent English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C1 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page.


PhD positions have a fixed salary from a minimum of € 2.325 in the first year for a full working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (scale P). Annual year salary increases are applied in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.
In addition, we offer:
  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays can possibly be determined in consultation so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours (with a full-time position), the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • a flexible working time: the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra and thereby to build up extra leave;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for own initiative in a learning environment. We offer a versatile job in an international environment with varied activities in a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

Additional information

For more information about this position please contact Hannah van Zanten by email at hannah.vanzanten@wur.nl.

General information about the Animal Production Systems group can be found on https://www.wur.nl/en/Research-Results/Chair-groups/Animal-Sciences/Animal-Production-Systems-Group.htm
Ideally we would like to start the project in December 2019 to enable participation in the overarching project from the start. So if you are enthusiastic about the vacancy, please apply before 26th of October! We are looking forward to your ideas to help shape a more sustainable future.

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 thus Wageningen has a large international community and a lot to offer international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, the so called 30% regulation.