Ph.D. researcher in environmental sciences and organic geochemistry (m/f) (03-03-11)

Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University (Holanda)

(vacancy number 72198)

Project title: "From molecular to ecosystem level: measuring and modeling soil water repellency induced vegetation patchiness".

Soil water repellency (SWR) is a common property of soils and has been reported from all inhabited continents. It can have negative consequences for plant growth due to stagnation of water infiltration. Recently, the understanding of SWR has increased, mainly for the soil physical mechanisms. Although it is known that SWR-causing compounds, so-called SWR-biomarkers, stem from organic matter, the types and their origin (leaf, root, microorganisms, algae), are largely unknown. At the ecosystem scale, positive feedbacks between vegetation and increased soil water due to increased infiltration lead to self-organization of vegetation patchiness and abrupt shifts in ecosystem. Organic matter can enhance infiltration capacity but can also interrupt water infiltration through SWR. In this research project we hypothesize that biomarkers at the molecular level can explain spatial patterns of water infiltration while the origin of biomarkers determines whether they can trigger or halt regime shifts in patchy vegetation. Therefore, SWR-biomarkers found in soil will be analysed and related to their origin and the extent of SWR for patchy vegetated sites in Spain and the sand dunes in the Netherlands.

Vegetation-hydrology interactions at the ecosystem scale will be unraveled by combining molecular level mechanisms of SWR with soil physical mechanisms at macro-level in spatial ecohydrological models. It is aimed to understand the effects of SWR at the molecular level and emerging consequences at ecosystem level.

Experimental work will be conducted in the research group of Organic Geochemistry and modeling work in the research group of Environmental Sciences.

The PhD researcher will be involved in the teaching program of the faculty to a maximum of 0.1 fte.

The project is granted by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research/ Earth & Life Sciences Division (NWO-ALW) under the title: 'How the origin of organic compounds affects vegetation patchiness and regime shifts in ecosystems'.


We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with an MSc or equivalent in a relevant field (e.g. earth sciences, environmental sciences, ecology) with experience (or at least interest) in modeling and/or (organic) geochemistry. Candidates are expected to communicate easily in English, both verbally and in writing. Candidates should be able to work in a team, but independently.

Terms of employment:

The successful candidate will be offered a full-time Ph.D. position, at first for one year. Contingent on a (yearly) satisfactory performance this may be extended to a total period of four years, with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The first evaluation will take place approximately after 6 months of employment, the second after 9 months. After the second evaluation the decision will be made if an extension of the contract to a total period of 4 years will be offered to the employee.

Employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. The gross monthly salary starts at € 2,042.- in the first year and increases to € 2,612.- in the fourth year and is supplemented by a holiday allowance of 8% per year and a end-of-year bonus of 8.3% (salary rates per 1-1-2011). We also offer a pension scheme, a health insurance allowance and flexible employment conditions.

Further details:

For informal enquiries, contact the project leaders Dr. Stefan C. Dekker, email: or Dr. Klaas Nierop, email:

You may also wish to visit the Faculty website at:

How to apply:

Applications, including a motivation for the position, a statement of your research interests, a curriculum vitae, and the names and contact addresses of two referees (with e-mail contact addresses), should be sent to:

Faculty of Geosciences, Personnel Department
P.O. Box 80.115
3508 TC Utrecht
The Netherlands
or submitted by e-mail to:

Applications are accepted until the position is filled, but we prefer to receive your application before April 1, 2011. Please, mention where you originally saw our advertisement and quote the vacancy number 72198 in all communications.


(Publicado em a 03-03-11)

[Se desejar manter-se informado sobre as oportunidades de emprego que surgem diariamente na área do Ambiente e Gestão de Recursos Naturais, siga a página "NaturJobs" que a Naturlink criou no Twitter em]