PhD position: “Optimizing dike-marsh combinations for flood prevention: unraveling the development of marsh stability”.

Climate change increases the risks of flooding of lowland coastal areas and river deltas through sea level rise and increasing magnitude of storms. Nature-based flood defense (NBFD) solutions have increasingly been recognized as sustainable and cost-effective alternatives to conventional engineering approaches against climate change. Wetlands like salt-marshes that are fronting a dike / sea-wall, may significantly lower the wave-loading on such dike, and thereby strongly reduce construction and maintenance costs. Moreover, it may significantly reduce the impact of a dike breach. At this point there is however limited knowledge on how to create salt marshes in front of dikes (preferably in a relative short period of time), in order to gain the safety benefits we aim for. In this project we aim to investigate experimentally, in the field and the laboratory, which physical and ecological factors determine the vegetation development in front of a (re-aligned) dike, and how this contributes to the build-up and strength of the marsh sediment. Time scales of development of vegetation and sediment strength are key aspects, as they will eventually determine the effectiveness of dike-marsh combinations for flood prevention in face of sea level rise.

2019-12-10 08:45:09

LOCATION:                         ROYAL NIOZ - YERSEKE  

VACANCY ID:                     2019 – 092

CLOSING DATE:                February 18th , 2020



The department of Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS) aims at understanding how the interplay between organisms, hydrodynamics, sediment dynamics and chemistry shapes the sub- and intertidal landscape and how it affects the functioning and resilience of the diverse communities living in these landscapes. We take a multidisciplinary approach that combines state-of-art biophysical and biochemical measurements, remote sensing, and manipulative experiments with mathematical and numerical modeling to obtain in-depth process-based understanding. We do Frontier Applied science, meaning that we link fundamental understanding to societal usage. In doing so, we aim to actively support managers with insight needed for ecosystem conservation, ecosystem restoration and creating nature based flood defense, which is the focus of this project.



The vacancy is part of a larger integrated multidisciplinary research project (for details see project organization below), aimed at understanding how to apply nature-based flood defense making use of salt marshes fronting a dike.

In this PhD-position you will use a combination of methods, to study the following 5 sub-questions (using the methods listed in brackets):

  • Spatial factors determining the rate of marsh establishment (aerial image analyses).
  • Experimental study on spatial factors (drone monitoring & planting experiments).
  • Statistical analysis of factors affecting marsh stability (an EU-scale field-flume study).
  • Experimental study of the development of marsh stability (lab & field experiments).
  • Mechanistic modelling of the development of marshes and its stability (modelling).

The project explicitly aims to provide the fundamental understanding needed, to move from science to practice, in implementing Nature-Based Flood Defense.



The candidate will work in a research team that involves 2 other PhD’s (1 PhD at Delft University of Technology studying how dike breaching changes in the absence/presence of a marsh and 1 PhD at Wageningen University & Research studying how to optimize dike maintenance in the absence/presence of a marsh) and students of the HZ University of Applied sciences (studying social aspects). The team will actively interact with Dutch industry and governmental partners. This subproject is led by prof. Tjeerd Bouma (NIOZ & University of Utrecht), prof . Stijn Temmerman (University of Antwerp), prof. Johan van de Koppel (NIOZ & University of Groningen) and prof. Peter Herman (Delft University of Technology & Deltares).



We are looking for a highly-motivated candidate with an MSc degree in ecology/biology OR physical geography OR engineering. The candidate should have a keen interest in combining experimental work, using large data-bases, remote sensing and modelling. Good statistical knowledge is a prerequisite, and a good feeling for mathematics is a benefit. Candidates should be capable of planning and organizing their own work independently, to organize and carry out field experiments, and meet deadlines imposed by the project.

Most importantly, the candidate should be open and communicative, and keen on interacting with both end-users and interdisciplinary project partners. The candidate should be inspired by frontier-applied research, where fundamental knowledge is developed, in order to provide a knowledge base for managers. Excellent communication skills and an open collaborative attitude are essential for the success of the project.

Good English oral and writing skills are demanded, as the candidate must publish the findings in scientific journals and effectively communicate results to end-users.



Employment of this position at Royal NIOZ is by NWO (The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research). We offer a position for a period of 1 year (fulltime). At the end of this first year, the employment will be extended for a fixed-term of a maximum of 4 years, if the first year evaluation held with the employee is positive. The salary is compliant to the CAO-OI (Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Research Institutes), a pension scheme, a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, a year-end bonus, and flexible work arrangements.

The position will be based at the NIOZ-Yerseke, which is at commuting distance of cities like Antwerpen, Breda, Middelburg and Vlissingen.


For additional information about this vacancy, please contact the Prof. dr. Tjeerd Bouma  or dr. Jim van Belzen. For additional information about the procedure, please contact Sigrid Moerbeek, sr. HR advisor.  Please visit the Department of Estuarine & Delta Systems here.


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