Naturalis is looking for a PhD student to work on Plant Identification and Distribution Modelling of the Built Environment in relation to Health and Ecosystem Disservices, 36 hours a week. Are you an aspiring researcher looking for a new opportunity in the field of urban greening and climate adaptation? Would you like to join a friendly and open environment where you can develop your skills and learn new things?

Then you have a part to play as a PhD student within the interdisciplinary research project ‘BENIGN’ that was recently funded by the Climate Adaptation and Health program of the Dutch Research Agenda. You will investigate how ‘blue’ and ‘green’ built environment characteristics influence health effects and produce ecosystem (dis)services in times of heath stress together with four other PhD students and two postdocs.

Position: The impact of climate change on health related to heat stress (indoor and outdoor), water quality, and plant diversity is increasing. Blue (lakes, canals) and green infrastructure (trees, other plants) may significantly contribute to reduce heat stress and the warming up of built-up areas.
The ‘BENIGN’ project – BluE and greeN Infrastructure desiGned to beat the urbaN heat – aims to investigate how blue and green infrastructure can be employed in urban areas to create healthy living conditions. To do so, 3 living labs in Dutch municipalities will be set up. A key outcome of BENIGN will be a decision support system for municipalities to guide them in creating healthier living conditions.

The envisioned PhD candidate will analyse and model the effect of built environment characteristics on the indoor and outdoor climate in relation to local hay fever pollen levels using DNA metabarcoding, spatial modelling, and vulnerability mapping. By doing so, the positive (i.e., services) and negative (i.e., disservices) effects of blue and green interventions will be monitored and predicted. The resulting models are then integrated into a decision support system co-designed with end-users and other experts. 

In short, core tasks will include (1) collecting aerobiological samples in collaboration with LUMC and LCAB and analyse these with DNA metabarcoding for identification of local plant species and pollen associated microbiomes, (2) hay fever plant distribution mapping and modelling in collaboration with Floron, (3) qualitative validation of GIS models using questionnaires in collaboration with RUMC and RU-GPM, and (4) using statistical analysis to explore whether specific elements of the environment correlate with aspects of public health. 

The PhD project will be carried out in the Evolutionary Ecology group, which focuses on contemporary evolution. Its six principal investigators, 2 postdocs and 4 PhD students all study how man-made environments create selective landscapes that invoke adaptations of wild animals and plants.

The candidate will receive his/her PhD degree at the Radboud Institute for Biological and Environmental Sciences and Prof. Dr. Barbara Gravendeel will be the promotor.


General requirements and skills

We are looking for a PhD candidate with:

  • a MSc degree in a relevant discipline (plant conservation, biology, ecology and/or evolution) and a strong interest in European native flora
  • proven experience with DNA sequencing and/or plant distribution modelling
  • a solid understanding of both quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • Academic excellence, as demonstrated by grade transcripts and CV
  • Experience with, knowledge of and affinity with programming in R

Excellent knowledge of the English language (written and verbal) is essential, as well as a scientific and critical attitude, outstanding time management and organisational skills, and the ability to work independently as well as collaboratively within the research group. The candidate should have good communication and academic writing skills and proven ability to conduct teaching in parallel with the PhD project.

Conditions of employment

A contract (36 hours per week) for a period of one year, to be extended with three more years after a successful first year evaluation, and a monthly starting salary of € 2,940.- (circa € 38,500.- gross per year). The starting date is from August 31st, 2022 onwards. The successful candidate will be employed by Naturalis in Leiden. Naturalis Biodiversity Center offers an inspiring working atmosphere with effective and efficient supervision of our PhD candidates.

Our Research Coordination Office also provides ample support to our scientific staff. Our institute promotes gender equality and wants to enhance the diversity of staff members. Feel free to contact with questions about the position. For procedural questions related to the application please contact HR:


We are

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden is the Dutch national research institute for biodiversity and systematics. With our collection of 42 million specimens, one of the world’s largest natural history collections, and our state-of-the-art research facilities we offer the (inter)national research infrastructure for species, identification and monitoring (for example in the ARISE and DiSSCo projects). We closely collaborate with many Dutch universities, research institutes, industry, and government.

We host over 120 researchers including 14 academia embedded professors and 40 PhD students. We present the history of our planet, and the diversity of life on Earth, through permanent and temporary museum exhibitions, educational programmes, and online presence, with more than 400,000 visitors per year. All in all, a unique combination of science and culture in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world!

The research department is organised in 7 research groups comprising researchers, postdocs and PhD-students. Naturalis has a completely new lab building, including state-of-the-art molecular facilities, microCT scanners and electron microscopy (SEM and TEM).

Additional information


Please address your application to Prof. Dr. Barbara Gravendeel and submit it, using the application form, no later than August 1st 2022, 23:59 Amsterdam Time Zone. Applicants are invited to submit their application in one pdf, including:

  • Motivation letter (max 2 pages), explaining your motivation, your interest in and ideas for the PhD project, and your competences
  • CV including qualifications, grades, a list of academic publications, and two academic references supporting your application
  • Proof of academic writing skills such as a chapter from your Master’s thesis or an academic publication.

Interviews are foreseen to take place in week 32/33.

Naturalis endorses the Cultural Diversity Code. In the case of equal suitability, preference is given to the candidate who reinforces diversity within the team.

Apply now

Make sure to apply no later than 1 Aug 2022 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam)

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