PhD Position in Modelling Long-Term C-Dynamics in Floodplain Environments

Catholic University of Leuven Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences


We are looking for a Phd student to join our research group at the Division of Geography and Tourism within the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at KU Leuven to work on modelling C-dynamics in floodplain environments. You will work on the Belgian Science Policy funded project ‘RECARBON’ in partnership between KU Leuven, U Liège, the Institute for Nature and Forest Research and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage. You will closely collaborate with another PhD student and scientific staff members recruited on this project by the partner institutes.


Enhancing the natural carbon sink is an integral part of climate mitigation. Amongst terrestrial ecosystems, fluvial systems are important carbon stocks, and floodplain soils are – especially in a Belgian context – hotspots for carbon storage at millennial timescales. However, due to climate change and changing land use practices (including drainage, vegetation changes and urbanization, both local and in the catchment), these carbon stocks are under pressure and floodplains might change to net carbon sources, in particular because alluvial peatlands, often buried under mineral sediment, tend to degrade. Within the RECARBON project it is aimed to evaluate the potential of land use management practices within floodplains in general, and in Belgium in particular, as a climate mitigation tool through the capture and storage of carbon. This project combines a detailed insight in the present-day characteristics of carbon storage in floodplains with the dynamic nature of C in floodplain environments at different timescales. 
Within the framework of this particular PhD project, the net carbon storage at different timescales in dynamic fluvial environments will be simulated by combining hydrological, geomorphic and geochemical carbon models. The modelling approach will allow to test the sensitivity of carbon storage in wetlands to changes in land use practices (both local as in the entire catchment) and climate, and will allow us to identify best land use practices to increase the carbon stocks of floodplains and to sustain habitability in river valleys. Modelling approaches will be calibrated and validated with information on C quantity and quality that will be derived from field measurements. 


Required qualifications:
  • To have a Master degree in Geography, Geology, Ecology, Earth - or Environmental Science, or related disciplines;
  • To have expertise in geomorphology and/or biogeochemical cycling;
  • To have experience in computational programming;
  • To have demonstrated verbal and written communication skills in English;
  • To have interest in working in a multidisciplinary team environment;
  • To have experience with field work and willing to participate in field campaigns that involve soil sampling.


  • Ideal start time is December 1st 2022, but later starting dates can be negotiated. 
  • The PhD scholarship position is initially for one year but can be extended after positive evaluation up to a total duration of four years. 
  • Research is carried out at KU Leuven and partly at U Liège. A joint Phd degree between KU Leuven and U Liège is envisaged. 
  • The candidate is expected to take up a limited amount (approx. 10% of the time) of teaching activities at KU Leuven.
  • The remuneration is generous and is in line with the standard KU Leuven PhD scholarship rates. It consists of a net monthly salary of about 2100 Euro (in case of dependent children or spouse, the amount can be somewhat higher).


You can apply for this job no later than Monday 3 October 2022 via the online application tool only (applications by email are not considered). 
Please include: a) an academic CV and a PDF of your diplomas and transcript of course work and grades b) a statement of research interests and career goals, indicating why you are interested in this position c) a list of at least two references: names, phone numbers, and email addresses. 
Interviews take place Monday 17 October, at KU Leuven or online. Shortlisted candidates will be notified on Friday 7 October.

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Gert Verstraeten, tel.: +32 16 32 64 11, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than October 03, 2022 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: October 3, 2022
  • Tags: Aard- en Omgevingswetenschappen
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