PhD position: developing digital twins for real-time biodiversity monitoring at Wageningen University, Netherlands. The Environmental Systems Analysis Group at Wageningen University offers an exciting and challenging PhD position at the interplay between data science, ecology, biodiversity monitoring and human-wildlife conflict mitigation.

The project is part of a HORIZON Europe project called ‘NATURE-FIRST’, which aims to continuously monitor the biodiversity status of core conservation areas in Europe with the help of state-of-the-art data techniques. During this PhD you will be developing models (Digital Twins) that facilitate the continuous monitoring of biodiversity by translating environmental observations (data) into facts and actionable information (intelligence) for site managers and policy makers.

You will collaborate with various field partners (WWF, Danube Delta National Institute, Bulgarian Academy of Science) and tech partners (3edata, Sensing Clues) to work with the most recent data, technologies and expert knowledge to be used in the digital twins. The development of such digital twins will consist of the following tasks:

  • Reviewing scientific and grey literature on the ecology of specific species, biodiversity monitoring, human-wildlife-conflicts and other anthropogenic pressures, with a specific focus on four different study areas in Europe;
  • Combining auxiliary data, algorithms, machine learning, simulations, expert knowledge, scientific insights, and visualisation tools in comprehensive digital twins of the four study areas;
  • Intensive collaboration and communication with international partners from various European countries;
  • Contributing to scientific publications on the project’s findings.

It may be necessary to perform part of the research at the four field sites: Stara Planina Mountain (Bulgaria), Danube Delta (Romania), Maramures Transboundary Area (Romania and Ukraine) and Ancares-Courel (Spain), areas that are known to sustain a rich diversity of bird, plant and mammal species, among which bears, wolves and lynxes.

We ask

  • An MSc. degree in ecology, environmental science, nature conservation, social-ecological systems analysis or related field
  • If you hold an MSc. degree in data science or GIS and can demonstrate a basic understanding of ecology and nature conservation, you are also encouraged to apply
  • A strong quantitative background
  • Programming and data analysis skills with e.g., Python or R
  • Experience with GIS and/or remote sensing is a pre
  • Scientific writing skills
  • An ability to closely collaborate with various partners in an international and interdisciplinary setting
  • For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognized Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our  Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • study leave and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.443,- per month rising to € 3.122,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

More information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr.Ir. Koen de Koning, Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University,

For more information about the procedure, please contact Edgar Tijhuis, corporate recruiter,

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly by uploading your CV (including the names of 2 references) and short motivation letter, using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval
This vacancy will be listed up to and including August 1st 2022. The preferred starting date for this position is September 1st 2022.

We are

Wageningen University and Research
The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 7.200 employees and 13.200 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named the best university of the Netherlands by students for the 17th time in a row.

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