PhD position DEEPNL: "Improvement of geophysical models at Holocene and Pleistocene depths: soils, hydrology and water management" (4 yrs)

Job description:

Within the framework of the joint NWO-DeepNL project of Delft University of Technology and Utrecht University: 'Subsidence - Integrating Geodesy and Geophysics to monitor and model the Dutch Subsurface', Utrecht University is seeking a motivated PhD candidate to work on this collaborative research project.

Intensive use of the subsurface is increasingly difficult in developed societies. While the natural resources are still necessary, society is critical on the associated hindrance. The Groningen area is currently undoubtedly one of the most significant examples, where the significance of seismicity and subsidence have reached unprecedented levels, in terms of risk, societal unrest, governmental and industrial accountability, and the national economy. The governmental decision to cease hydrocarbon extraction from the Groningen gas field is the latest development in this context.

The overall aim of this project is to significantly improve our ability to predict the effects of interaction with the subsurface to avoid or mitigate undesired effects. We achieve this goal by proposing a paradigmatic change in the use of geodetic data in conjunction with geophysical data and models, by establishing an integrated continuous iterative optimization procedure, using data assimilation between geophysical modeling (of different strata and mechanisms) and geodetic data processing (most notably InSAR and GNSS). This procedure will be applied and tested within the Groningen gasfield area.

Our project consists of 5 work packages (WP), all focusing on detecting and modeling the temporal variability of the various driving mechanisms of subsidence, at fine (sub-km) spatial scales:

  1. (PhD) Geodetic models and parameter estimation: InSAR data
  2. (PhD) Geophysical models at sub-Holocene depths: reservoir and overburden
  3. (PhD) Geophysical models at Holocene and Pleistocene depths: soils, hydrology and water management
  4. (PhD) Data assimilation: analysis of model-data differences; quantify model uncertainties
  5. (Computational Data Analyst): Advancement of numerical data processing techniques

The PhD candidates of WP1 and WP4, as well as the Computational Data Analytics expert will be primarily stationed in Delft, PhD candidates of WP2 and WP3 in Utrecht. All programme participants are expected to work as a team. PhDs work one day per week at the other university. Through regular visits of staff to various knowledge institutions, the research team will be able to work in seamless collaboration, leading to inspired partnership in follow-up projects.

At the Department of Physical Geography in Utrecht, we are now seeking a motivated PhD candidate for WP3: The aim of this PhD project is to quantify and model spatial and temporal changes in surface elevation due to rising or lowering of phreatic groundwater as a consequence of primary subsidence (natural or man-induced), and groundwater extraction from Pleistocene aquifers. Surface elevation changes due to individual drivers will be separated and quantified using the differences in response time, affected area, and foundation depth of the geodetic benchmarks, as reflected in existing and newly measured groundwater level and surface elevation data in combination with process-based modelling..


This PhD project combines soil sciences, hydrology, geo-mechanics, and numerical modeling, and therefore we are looking for a candidate with a strong drive and affinity in those disciplines. Candidates with a background in physical geography, soil science, (geo)hydrology, with clear affinity with physical and mathematical approaches are encouraged to apply. You are able to work independently, but also within the interdisciplinary project team, and have the ability to cooperate with algorithm developers. You have excellent writing and verbal communication skills in English and you are a fast learner with a broad interest.

The candidates are expected to publish the results in peer-reviewed papers. Up to 10% of your time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Department of Physical Geography. A personalised training programme will be set up upon recruitment, which will reflect your training needs and career objectives. The project is fully financed through the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

We encourage you to apply and are looking forward to meeting you!

Our Department has committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce, and we strongly encourage women to apply.

Terms of employment:

We offer a fulltime position (1.0 FTE) for the duration of four years. The gross monthly salary starts at €2,325 in the first year, and ends at €2,972 in the fourth year (scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities). Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8 % of annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3 % of annual salary per year. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model).

Facilities for sports and child care are available on our main campus which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of Utrecht.

About the organisation:

The Utrecht Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. With a population of 2600 students (BSc and MSc) and 600 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Sustainable Development, and Human Geography & Spatial Planning.

The Department of Physical Geography conducts research and teaching and is responsible for the BSc and MSc programme Earth Sciences. Within the Department of Physical Geography, the research groups carry out top-quality fundamental research that focuses on natural hazards, natural and human-induced morphodynamics and sedimentary processes, patterns and products in coastal, fluvial and terrestrial environments, and their response to global change. Next, the department has expertise in the spatio-dynamic, integrated modelling of soil water-vegetation dynamics, earth observation, geostatistics, data-assimilation methods and global scale hydrological modelling in the context of global change.

Additional information:

More information can be obtained from Dr Esther Stouthamer at (As of July 30 out of office up to and including September 1, 2019)

How to apply:

Our Department has committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce, and we strongly encourage women to apply.

  • A letter of application which describes your motivation and qualifications;
  • Your curriculum vitae and a list of publications;
  • And the names and addresses of two referees,

should be included in your application.

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. Applications will be accepted until September 1, 2019. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter.

We are looking forward to receiving your application and meeting you!

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posted: 02 August 2019     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.