Doctoral scholarship holder Geomorphology and Ecology of Coastal Wetlands

WorkplaceAntwerpen, Flemish Region, Belgium


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Department: Department of Biology
Regime Full-time

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The Department of Biology in the Faculty of Sciences is looking for a full-time (100%)

doctoral scholarship holder in the field of Geomorphology and Ecology of Coastal Wetlands


  • You will work on a PhD study (4 years) on “Coastal wetland resilience to sea level rise and the role of bio-geomorphic self-organization” . Coastal wetlands (tidal marshes, mangrove forests, seagrass beds) provide important functions (such as biodiversity conservation, carbon capture and storage, fisheries production, etc.) that are threatened by global climate warming and resulting sea level rise. Whether these valuable ecosystems drown or continue to exist while sea level rises, depends on their ability to trap sand and mud that builds up the land surface in balance with the rising sea level. This ability to trap sediments is locally determined by so-called bio-geomorphic interactions between plant growth, water flow, and sediment erosion and deposition. At the larger scale, the landscape self-organizes by developing a branching network of channels, intertwined by vegetated wetland surfaces. The geometric properties of the branching channel networks will be key to the efficiency of tidal sediment supply and deposition within the wetlands, and hence their adaptability to sea level rise. A recent paper on this topic can be found here: ?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">
  • This PhD candidate will investigate how the small-scale (m²) bio-geomorphic interactions between plants, tidal flow and sediments lead to the large-scale (km²) self-organization of tidal wetland landscapes . Furthermore, you will study how the resulting self-organized structure of the branching channel networks will control the efficiency of sediment supply and deposition within the adjacent vegetated wetlands, and hence the ecosystem’s adaptability to sea level rise . Among several factors, the project will focus on the unknown impact of different plant species traits on the self-organization and adaptability of wetlands to rise with sea level. We test the hypotheses that (1) different plant species traits lead to the formation of different geometric properties of the self-organized channel networks; and (2) the resulting channel network geometries determine the efficiency to distribute and trap sediments in response to sea level rise.
  • This will be investigated based on a novel combination of field measurements and scaled lab experiments . Field methods that will be used, include remote sensing (e.g. using drones and satellites images) and topographic field surveying in tidal wetlands, and geo-spatial analysis of the resulting data to quantify geometric properties of the channel networks. The lab work will be conducted in a unique tidal flume at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands (?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">, in which alternating tidal flow can interact with a sediment bed and with the colonization by plants, allowing to study the formation of tidal wetland landscapes on scale.
  • This PhD study is part of a collaborative research project between the University of Antwerp (team of prof. Stijn Temmerman: ?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> ) and the University of Utrecht (team of prof. Maarten Kleinhans: ?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> ). Hence you will collaborate with other researchers within both research teams, and within the Centre of Excellence on “Global Change Ecology” of the University of Antwerp ( ?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> ).
  • You will communicate results at national and international conferences and symposia. You will publish results in high-quality scientific journals, and you will prepare a PhD thesis.
  • You may contribute to supporting teaching for courses on Estuarine & Coastal Systems, River Morphology & Hydrodynamics, and Geographical Information Systems.


  • You hold a master degree in Physical Geography, Geology, Biology, Bio-engineering or Environmental Engineering, or related disciplines; or you will have obtained it by the time you start working.
  • You can demonstrate excellent study results.
  • Preferably you have a background knowledge of processes (geomorphological, ecological) in tidal systems (estuaries, coastal lagoons...);
  • Experience with GIS and/or remote sensing analyses is considered as positive;
  • You are fluent in English (both speaking and academic writing);
  • Your teaching competences are in line with the University of Antwerp’s educational vision .
  • Your research qualities are in line with the faculty and university research policies .
  • You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity and cooperation.

What we offer

  • We offer a doctoral scholarship for a period of 1 year. Following a positive evaluation, the scholarship can be renewed for another 3 years (i.e. 4 years in total).
  • The planned start date is as soon as possible.
  • Your monthly scholarship amount is calculated according to the scholarship amounts for doctoral scholarship holders on the pay scales for contract research staff (Dutch: Bijzonder Academisch Personeel, BAP).
  • You will do most of your work at campus Drie Eiken in a dynamic and stimulating working environment.
  • Find out more about working at the University of Antwerp here .

Want to apply?

  • You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform up to and including April 15, 2021 (by midnight Brussels time). Click on the 'Apply' button, complete the online application form and be sure to include the following attachments: a motivation letter, your CV, and contact information of max. 2 reference persons.
  • The selection committee will review all of the applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure.
  • If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions or send an email to jobs . If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact Prof. Stijn Temmerman, e-mail: Stijn.temmerman .

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.

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In your application, please refer to and reference JobID 4442.

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