Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues.

The Department of Earth Sciences is now looking for highly-motivated, high-potential applicant to fill a:

PhD position on sediment deposition on continental slopes from combined bottom currents and sediment gravity flows (4 years)

Sediment deposits on continental slopes provide a record of past oceanographic and climate conditions. They also host vast reserves of oil and gas that will be vital during the global transition to renewable energy sources. Furthermore, the processes that transport and deposit the sediment pose geohazards to marine infrastructure, and introduce anthropogenic pollutants in vulnerable deep marine ecosystems. Two types of currents dominate sediment transport and deposition on continental slopes: sediment gravity flows that travel down the slope through submarine canyons, channels, and gullies? and bottom currents that are part of the ocean circulation and commonly flow along the slope. Natural examples of mixed sediment gravity flowbottom current systems are increasingly being described in literature. Unfortunately, two communities of researchers have historically specialized in either gravity-driven sediment transport or bottom-current sediment transport. Consequently, the growing body of research is confusing when it comes to recognising the governing mechanisms behind continental slope deposition in mixed systems: rather similar deposits are explained with hypotheses of diametrically opposed bottom current directions. This confusion is caused in part by the absence of a quantitative modelling framework for sedimentation in mixed systems, which prevents hypotheses from being tested. This research project aims to establishes an integrated modelling framework for mixed-system sediment transport and deposition.

The candidate will develop the first scaled laboratory experiments of mixed systems, as an extension of established sediment gravity flow experiments performed previously in the Eurotank Flume Laboratory. They will configure an existing numerical model to simulate combined sediment gravity flow and bottom current sediment transport for the first time. Following the corroboration of the model approach, the candidate will apply the model to two real world datasets to establish its predictive capability and help uncover the governing processes behind observed continental slope deposits. These activities combined have the potential to achieve a step-change in our ability to model and understand sediment deposition on continental slopes, which will be of use for fundamental research into the past configurations of planet Earth and has applications in the deep-offshore petroleum industry, for marine infrastructure design and planning, and for evaluations of the environmental impact of transport of pollutants into the deep oceans. The project can therefore serve as a stepping stone in a career in fundamental ocean science or various societal and economic ocean-related activities.

The research team includes project leader Dr Joris Eggenhuisen, Dr Ricardo Silva Jacinto (L'Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer, IFREMER, Brest), and Dr Elda Miramontes (Centre for Marine Environmental Sciences, MARUM, Bremen). Technical support is provided by a technician in the Eurotank Flume Laboratory. The research will mainly be performed at Utrecht University, but extended stays in the partner institutes in France and Germany are included in the project planning.

Up to 10% of the candidate's time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Department of Earth Sciences. A personalised training programme will be set up, mutually agreed on recruitment, which will reflect the candidate's training needs and career objectives.


The successful candidate should be ambitious and have an MSc (or equivalent) in Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Oceanography, or in Physics or Engineering if they have demonstrable affinity with fluid flow and sediment transport in natural environments. Experience with one or more of the following topics would be an advantage: analytical (laboratory) skills, modelling of fluid dynamics and sediment transport, oceanographic datasets, and deep-marine sediments. A broad interest in ocean sediments, and the willingness and capacity to interact with the team members, are essential. The candidate should be proficient in English and have excellent scientific writing and presenting skills. The candidate is an enthusiastic team player and has good communicational skills.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a full-time PhD position, initially for one year with extension to four years in total upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. Employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. The gross monthly salary starts with € 2,395 in the first year and increases to € 3,061 in the fourth year of employment with a full-time appointment. The salary is supplemented by a holiday allowance of 8% per year and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%. In addition, we offer a pension scheme, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions.

About the organisation:

The Utrecht Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. With a population of 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 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 Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid Earth and environmental Earth sciences, with activities in almost all areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeology and hydrogeology. The department hosts a highly international tenured staff of over 45 scientists and more than 110 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. Our research programme spans four intertwined themes: Climate & Life, Earth interior, Earth materials, and Environmental Earth Sciences. We house or have access to a wide variety of world-class laboratories, which includes the Eurotank Flume Laboratory that will host this research project.

Additional information

For informal questions, please contact the project leader, Dr Joris Eggenhuisen, at j.t.eggenhuisen@uu.nl.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. The application deadline is March 7th, 2021. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter. We seek to initiate the position not later than July 1st, 2021.

Online screening may be part of the selection. Commercial response to this ad is not appreciated.

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posted: 22 January 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.