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 a highly motivated, high-potential applicant to fill a:

PhD position on the (hydro)stratigraphy of the Upper Cretaceous and Danian of the southeast Netherlands (4 years)

In South Limburg, groundwater is extracted by a variety of users from the Upper Cretaceous and Danian chalk aquifer. According to the EU Water Framework directive, the quality of the groundwater in this aquifer is insufficient due to high concentrations of nitrate? groundwater management measures to reduce nitrate concentrations need to be taken to improve this. Simulation of groundwater quality (and quantity) with current groundwater flow models is unsatisfactory. This is caused by inaccurate stratigraphic and hydraulic properties of the chalk aquifer. For this reason, predicting the effects of groundwater management measures is difficult.

Most publications until now have focused on biostratigraphic and paleontological aspects of the Chalk of South Limburg. Sedimentological studies on any scale of the Dutch Chalk are relatively rare, and stratigraphic studies have so far relied heavily on biostratigraphy to establish stratigraphic correlations. Some integrated regional stratigraphic overviews of the Upper Cretaceous and Danian were published during the last 20 years. The most recent attempt to build a detailed 3D geological model of these stratigraphic intervals has been done for Belgium. The hydrogeology of the Dutch Chalk, however, lacks recent publications. Therefore, the aim of this research project is to deepen our understanding of the (hydro)stratigraphy of the Upper Cretaceous and Danian aquifers of South Limburg.

The successful candidate will review extensively existing literature and databases, including reports and borehole data. This review includes mining of data relevant to facies and hydrostratigraphic characterization of the stratigraphic units of the Dutch Chalk. Existing database and core data will be complemented with fieldwork data and a logging and sampling campaignof available wells to correlate Upper Cretaceous and Danian outcrops, cores, and geophysical well logs. This integrated dataset will be used to revise the Upper Cretaceous and Danian stratigraphy and to establish the Late Cretaceous and Danian sedimentary and tectonic history and paleogeography of South Limburg and adjacent areas. The following step will be the determination of patterns and distributions of fractures, karstification, and hydraulic properties of the Upper Cretaceous and Danian succession (emphasis on chalk) and their relation to stratigraphic units in the Chalk as well as faults in the underlying Paleozoic basement. This work will lead to a revised Upper Cretaceous (hydro)stratigraphy of South Limburg.

This study is a joint effort between the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University and the Geological Survey of the Netherlands, part of TNO. The research team includes Dr João P. Trabucho Alexandre (adviser, UU), Dr Geert-Jan Vis (adviser, TNO), Ronald Vernes (TNO), Armin Menkovic (TNO), and Prof. Dr Lucas J. Lourens (promotor, UU). The research will be performed at the Department of Earth Sciences (UU) and the Geological Survey of the Netherlands (TNO). A personalised training programme will be set up, which will reflect the candidate's training needs and career objectives. As part of this training, up to 10% of the candidate's time will be dedicated to assisting in Bachelor's and Master's teaching programmes.


We are seeking a PhD candidate with an MSc (or equivalent) in Earth Sciences. Experience in the following skills/topics would be an advantage: analytical (laboratory) skills, carbonate sedimentology, fieldwork, hydrogeology, logging of cores, and subsurface facies analysis (wireline logs). We are looking for a candidate who will actively gather old and new data and who is familiar with multidisciplinary projects and willing to work in a team. Many of the older reports are written in Dutch. For this reason, in addition to being proficient in English, we are looking for a candidate who speaks or is willing to learn (basic) Dutch.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a full-time PhD position, initially for one year with an 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. The gross salary starts with €2,395 per month in the first year and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities) for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model).

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 and 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 and life, earth interior, earth materials, and environmental earth sciences. We house or have access to a wide variety of world-class laboratories.

The Geological Survey of the Netherlands, part of TNO, operates the national geoscientific databases DINO and BRO, creates 3D models of the Dutch subsurface in order to identify resource and geohazard potential, and advises the government on a variety of geological matters. Our 3D models predict the architecture and characteristics of the Dutch subsurface down to depths of about 5 km. Mapping, including supporting research activities, is carried out by the Geomodelling Department, which consists of about 60 highly enthusiastic professionals, most of whom have a background in the Earth Sciences. TNO sponsors PhD research projects because TNO considers them an excellent preparation for a career with them. A certificate of conduct (in Dutch: Verklaring Omtrent het Gedrag) is a prerequisite for working at TNO.

Additional information:

For informal questions, please contact the project leader, Dr João P. Trabucho Alexandre, at J.Trabucho@uu.nl.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. The application deadline is August 15th, 2021. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter. We seek to start the position on October 1st, 2021 or soon thereafter. Online screening may be part of the selection. Commercial response to this ad is not appreciated.

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posted: 06 May 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.