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PhD position ‘modelling socio-biophysical dynamics of sandy shores modified by nature-based solutions’ (4 years, full-time)

Job description

Are you interested in innovative, nature-based solutions that enhance flood protection of coastal areas and provide various social and ecological benefits? In the Water Engineering & Management group we have an active and dynamic group of researchers pioneering in nature-based engineering.

The advertised position is one of four positions that are part of the project “ReAShore: Resilient Anthropogenic Shores”. The ReAShore project addresses the socio-biophysical dynamics of sandy shores that are modified by multi-functional, nature-based solutions (NBS). We will be applying a Living Lab approach, documenting and analyzing interactions between these evolving anthropogenic shores (Sand Motor and Hondsbossche Dunes) and the users and managers of these NBS-modified landscapes. The ReAShore project aims to identify limits to, and optimums in, multi-functionality of the NBS design. You will explore how various stakeholders can influence the development of the NBS in desired directions with respect to primary NBS functions, including social and ecological goals. Together with consortium partners from public and private sectors, you will co-create guidelines for management and maintenance of multi-functional NBS and design procedures and visualization tools for intervention design.

This research is a collaborative effort that includes faculty and students from the University of Twente (project lead), Wageningen University and Research, Basque Center of Climate Change BC3, HZ University of Applied Sciences, as well as project partners from industry and coastal authorities.

Project description

In this PhD project you will focus on understanding the dynamics of the coupled socio-biophysical system and emergent behavior of anthropogenic sandy shores. These shores are beach-dune systems that have been newly created or have been modified by multi-functional, nature-based solutions. These dynamics will be studied at temporal and spatial scales of kilometers and decades, respectively.

The envisioned approach for the PhD-project is to first advance the modelling of the morphodynamic interactions of man-made shores, expanding an existing Cellular Automata type beach-dune model. Herein, you will integrate the transient development of large-scale shore nourishments such as the Sand Motor and the Hondsbossche Dunes projects including the groundwater table. Advancements will be supported by analysis of long-term datasets and new field data to be collected at these sites. Next, you will enhance the model with our improved understanding of vegetation dynamics and interactions with human activities (obtained by a fellow ReAShore PhD at WUR) as well as the impacts of relevant actors and their behaviors on the development of these sandy shores (studied by a fellow ReASHore PhD at UT and researchers from HZ University of Applied Sciences). The resulting socio-biophysical model will be instrumental to identify limits to, and optimums in, multi-functionality of the NBS designs for sandy shores.

The results, which you are expected to publish in high-quality scientific journals, will also be used (by a ReAShore PostDoc) to co-create guidelines for management and maintenance of multi-functional NBS for sandy shores. Given the interdisciplinarity of the project and the knowledge exchange both within the ReAShore team (PhD, PostDoc and faculty) as well as with the project partners, the position requires good communication skills and enthusiasm for working in a collaborative and multi-disciplinary team.

Your profile

We seek a talented, enthusiastic and inventive researcher with broad interests covering fieldwork, data analysis and numerical modelling in the coastal environment. Candidates should have a background in, or strong affinity with, geosciences and coastal engineering. In particular, we are looking for an independent researcher who is capable of conceptualizing complex socio-biophysical dynamics into simple models. Consequently, the candidate should be open minded to research in social sciences and landscape design. We consider it important that the candidate is able to put their research in a wider perspective, both in relation to other scientific disciplines as well as in relation to everyday practice of coastal management.

The candidate should hold an MSc degree in the field of coastal engineering, geosciences or a closely related discipline. They should have a good command of the English language, both in speaking and writing, and strong communication skills.


Your application should include a cover letter (emphasizing your specific interest, qualifications and motivation to apply for this position), a Curriculum Vitae, a transcript of all MSc courses and grades obtained, a publication list (if applicable) and contact information of two references that may be consulted.

Your application should be submitted through the button below no later than March 8th 2020

Selected candidates will be invited for interviews on March 30th 2020.

For more information about this vacancy you can contact prof dr. Kathelijne Wijnberg, (, telephone: +31 (0)53 - 489 4701). More information about the Water Engineering and Management Department is available at The project will start as soon as possible after a suitable candidate has been selected.

Our offer

We offer a full-time PhD position for 4 years in a stimulating scientific environment, where you will join an enthusiastic research team on nature-based engineering. The salary for a PhD candidate is € 2325,- gross per month for the first year and increases to a maximum of € 2972,- gross per month in the fourth year (in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). The University of Twente provides excellent facilities for professional and personal development, a holiday allowance (8%), an end-of-year bonus (8.3%) and a number of additional benefits.

The organization

The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability status. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

The Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET)
is one of the five faculties of the University of Twente. ET combines Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. Our faculty has approximately 1800 bachelor and master students, 400 employees and 150 PhD candidates. The departments of the faculty cooperatively conduct the educational programmes and participate in interdisciplinary research projects, programmes and the research institutes: Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centra and Digital Society Institute.

PhD position ‘modelling socio-biophysical dynamics of sandy shores modified by nature-based solutions’ (4 years, full-time)
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