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PhD position: Action-based Flood Forecasting Under Climate Change

Posted 17 May 2024
Work experience
1 to 3 years
Full-time / part-time
Job function
€2,770 - €3,539 per month
Degree level
Required languages
English (Fluent)
Dutch (Fluent)
1 Jun 2024 00:00

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Your function

The Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) has a new position for a PhD in flood forecasting and risk assessment. You will become part of a new interdisciplinary research programme (JCAR-ATRACE) funded by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water. This project will assess flood risk and management in transboundary rivers and tributaries such as the Meuse and Geul between the Netherlands and neighbouring countries. You will assess how to effectively use short- to medium-term forecasts to reduce flood impacts and how this can complement long-term flood protection by levees. Your research will support cross-border cooperation to anticipate climate change.

You will further develop the existing Geographical, Environmental, and Behavioural (GEB) model, which couples a hydrological model with a decision model for adaptation measures (“agent-based model”). GEB allows to simulate how stakeholders in a river basin, such as households, farmers, governments, reservoir managers, and industry, adapt to rising flood risk but also before, during and after flood events. For example, GEB simulates how individuals may respond to events by protecting their homes with sandbags or evacuate and leave the area. Your task will be to include forecasting information from weather forecasts (e.g. ECMWF) and then further develop the GEB model such that it simulates how stakeholders use this forecasting information to act, also drawing from existing survey information from the region. By running this model over a longer time, simulating many possible events and responses, we can contrast the benefits of forecasting with long-term investments in protection in order evaluate a large set of possible measures to reduce risk of flooding.

Your main tasks are to:

  1. implement forecasting information from e.g. ECMWF into GEB
  2. develop decision rules in the agent-based model to simulate how people respond to flood events using the forecasting information
  3. run the updated GEB model for a longer time period, and assess the pros and cons of forecasting systems as compared to long-term structural flood adaptation measures
  4. use the GEB model to test forecasting and long-term measures under different climate change scenarios

The PhD project will be supervised by Prof. Jeroen Aerts, Prof. Wouter Botzen, Dr Jens de Bruijn and Dr Hans de Moel. You will collaborate with VU colleague Tim Busker (Postdoc), and 8 other international PhDs in the JCAR project. You will regularly work at our partner institute Deltares.

Your duties

An important part of the JCAR project is the integration of physical hydrological science with decision and behavioral theories from social sciences. As parts of these topics may be new to you, you are open to learn in an interdisciplinary environment together with researchers of different backgrounds. Programming and data processing skills are an important requirement as well as excellent communication skills as you will work with researchers and policymakers across borders.

  • you publish research results in international peer-reviewed journals
  • you teach for 0.1 FTE in Bachelor’s and/or Master’s educational programmes and supervise Bachelor and Master students
  • you contribute to project tasks, meetings and activities
  • you present your research findings, for example, at international conferences

Your profile

  • you have a MSc degree in Hydrology, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Computational sciences or in Earth & Economic sciences
  • you possess programming skills and have experience with risk and hydrological models
  • you have excellent writing and verbal communication skills in English
  • you are interested in doing cutting-edge scientific research

Nice to have:

  • affinity with flood management and/or climate change topics
  • learning Dutch is not required but is an advantage for your research

We realise that each individual brings an unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. Therefore we are happy to invite anyone who recognises themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet (fully) the requirements.

What do we offer?

An interersting position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:

  • a salary of minimum € 2.770,00 (PhD scale 85.0) and maximum € 3.539,00 (PhD scale 85.3) gross per month, on a full-time basis. This is based on UFO profile PhD Candidate. The exact salary depends on your education and experience.
  • a position for at least 1 FTE. Your employment contract will initially last 1 year. If there is sufficient perspective, this will be extended to a total of 4 years. Your dissertation at the end of the fourth year forms the end of your employment contract.

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and regulations. Some examples:

  • a full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

Additionally, we also offer a PhD education programme including training for teaching assistants and courses that are part of the SENSE graduate school.

About us

About the institute

Established in 1971, IVM is a leading environmental research institute that is internationally recognised for its high-quality research output in a range of environmental disciplines, as well as for its interdisciplinary work. The mission of the institute is to contribute to sustainable development and care for the environment through scientific research and teaching. IVM aims to do excellent problem-oriented research that is useful to a wide range of stakeholders in the Netherlands and internationally. A unique strength of our research is to understand sustainability problems in their social and economic context. IVM’s research community works within four departments: Environmental Economics; Environmental Geography, Environmental Policy Analysis; and Water and Climate Risk. Since 2001 IVM has been part of the Faculty of Science at VU Amsterdam (legal name Stichting VU).

The PhD position is in the department of Water and Climate Risk (WCR). WCR researchers study hydrological and climate processes, and how these processes lead to risks for society, the economy, and the environment. A defining characteristic of the department is a multidisciplinary approach combining expertise from natural sciences with knowledge from the fields of economics, data science, modelling and geography. This approach has led to a unique research portfolio of water and climate risk projects, and the department is a leading global institute in flood and drought risk assessment, and risk management research.

Faculty of Science

Researchers and students at VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science tackle fundamental and complex scientific problems to help pave the way for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, and from molecules to the moon: we cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. Our teaching and research have a strong experimentally technical, computational and interdisciplinary nature.

We work on new solutions guided by value-driven, interdisciplinary methodologies. We are committed to research, valorisation and training socially engaged citizens of the world who will make valuable contributions to a sustainable, healthy future.

Are you interested in joining the Faculty of Science? You will join undergraduate students, PhD candidates and researchers at the biggest sciences faculty in the Netherlands. You will combine a professional focus with a broad view of the world. We are proud of our collegial working climate, characterised by committed staff, a pragmatic attitude and engagement in the larger whole. The faculty is home to over 11,000 students enrolled in 40 study programmes. It employs over 1,600 professionals spread across 10 academic departments.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely – a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research. We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 5,500 staff work at the VU and over 30,000 students attend academic education.


Diversity is the driving force of VU Amsterdam. VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.

At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, we attach great importance to the societal impact of our education and research. Personal development and social involvement are key parts of our vision on education, in which individual differences are seen as a strength. This allows us to develop innovations and insights that contribute to a better world.

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