The Society-Environment Interactions Research Group is a team that deals with the scarcity of land as a resource for meeting the increasing demand for land-based functions, goods and services. We believe it is vital to combine insights on the provision as well as the consumption of these goods and services. We therefore aim to improve land use (configurations) so that an optimal bundle of services is provided, and to guide consumers of food and land towards more sustainable behavior.

We thereby give special attention to the decision making processes of land managers like farmers and foresters, as well as end users like recreationists and food consumers. This requires an understanding of their knowledge, preferences and attitudes as well as testing the potential impact of public and private instruments that can catalyze a behavioral shift. The team – composed of researchers from diverse backgrounds such as economics, environmental sciences, bioscience engineering and ecology – believes that an interdisciplinary approach is more than ever needed to decrease pressure on resources while simultaneously meeting societal needs.

Therefore, it integrates different quantitative methods from various disciplines such as agricultural and environmental economics, experimental economics, econometrics, geography, life cycle analysis and spatial analysis.


The researcher will be linked to the H2020 project on “CLIMB-FOREST – CLImate Mitigation and Bioeconomy pathways for sustainable FORESTry”. The candidate should preferably start in Autumn 2022 and will be based at the Arenberg campus in Leuven (Heverlee), Belgium. 

Project summary:

CLIMB-FOREST suggests alternative sustainable short-, mid-, and long-term pathways for the forest sector to mitigate climate change in entire Europe, considering preservation of biodiversity, ecosystem services, bioeconomy, socio-economic factors, use of long-lived wood products, and barriers for change. It will have long-term impact by creating attitude change in the policymaking process in the EU and influence foresters to adopt to new forest management strategies. 

This is accomplished through several work packages closely interrelated: We aim to1) make a conclusive map of current forestry and management in Europe, 2)gather data and enhance process understanding of carbon uptake, sinks and other factors impacting on climate at intensively researched forest field site infrastructures, 3) quantify the bioeconomy, and customer and forest industry preferences for alternative wood products and management practices, 4) perform pan-European modelling of scenarios, and the environmental and climate impact of alternative pathways for European forestry, 5) ensure adaptation to new management strategies and forest preservation owing to intense field site visits in geographically representative locations in Europe, and 6) synthesize and disseminate the CLIMB-FOREST outcomes tailored for impact on the entire forest sector. 

The unique strength of the CLIMB-FOREST initiative and the potential to secure future impact, lies mainly in four crucial factors; 1) the unprecedented mapping of current forestry, management and carbon sequestration, 2) the quantification of all biogeochemical and biophysical processes in the forest, which is instrumental to the understanding of climate effects in the forest, 3)the beyond the state-of-the-art modelling that involves all socioeconomic and physical factors, and agents acting in the forest sector, and 4) the multi-actor stakeholder co-creation process generating knowledge transfer and means of change in the forestry sector. 

Key activities of the research assistant/PhD researcher

Within the project, the research assistant will focus on (1) the assessment the demand and supply of wood, i.e. investigation of current and future wood use and supply of wood products delivered by different forest management alternatives; (2) lifecycle assessment and life cycle costing of wood products relative to their substitutes/reference products; (3) Assessment of consumers’ and forest managers’ preferences for long-lived wood products, management alternatives and their related ES & biodiversity; (4) Assessment of the feasibility of a payment for ecosystem services to encourage climate proof forest management. 

Next to the project related activities, the researcher will:

  • Take part in the teaching activities organized at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
  • Supervise Master thesis students in collecting field data and analysis of the results.
  • Master degree in Bio-Science Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Economics or a Master’s degree with great affinity with sustainable forestry. 
  • A background in Life Cycle Analysis and Life Cycle Costing would be a plus.
  • Proficiency in quantitative and qualitative socio-economic survey methodologies (e.g. quantitative surveys, focus group discussions and/or field experiments) would be an advantage.
  • A background in statistical and econometric methods would be a plus.
  • Interested to work in an international and multicultural environment around climate mitigation and sustainable forestry.
  • Strong communication skills, both orally and in writing, in English and Dutch.
  • A dynamic and multi-cultural work environment consisting of motivated and competent researchers, where quality, professionalism, diversity and respect for social and cultural differences are among the basic values. 
  • A work environment in which bridging research, project management, education and outreach is central.
  • Participation in a European research projects involving both academic and non-academic partners
  • A one year position (linked to a salary in Academic staff scale 43), that can be extended (up to 4 years) after positive evaluation. Pursuing a PhD during this employment is a possibility.
  • Additional benefits in terms of health insurance, free travel to and from work by means of public transport or bicycle allowance, free bicycle use, access to university sports facilities, child care opportunities, ….
  • The possibility to follow academic, thematic and skills training courses at KU Leuven.

For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Liesbet Vranken, tel.: +32 16 32 23 95, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than August 15, 2022 via the online application tool

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