Do you want to contribute to better understand how nature areas in The Netherlands are exposed to nitrogen components?  Would you like to obtain a PhD at a special institute where science, modelling and application come together? Then make this vacancy your new job and apply immediately. The Faculty of Science Leiden and Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) are looking for a PhD candidate

The Institute of Environmental Sciences of Leiden University is looking for a PhD student on the topic of “development of nitrogen atmosphere – biosphere exchange models“. This project is carried out in close cooperation with the Meteorology and Air Quality Group of Wageningen University.  The project is part of the National Reactive Nitrogen Knowledge Programme (NKS). This programme aims to improve estimates of the deposition of nitrogen on nature areas in the Netherlands.

What will you be doing as a PhD student of atmosphere – biosphere exchange modelling?

The deposition of reactive nitrogen in Dutch nature areas is a societal problem that causes a great deal of concern. The reliability of the official deposition estimates is questioned by (some) politicians, economic stakeholders and part of the public. In order to strengthen the scientific basis of Dutch nitrogen policy, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) has set up a National Knowledge Programme (NKS) on the theme of reactive nitrogen. This NKS focuses on improving the measuring and modelling tools used in the Netherlands to map nitrogen deposition in nature areas.

You will make use of existing and new (inter)national surface exchange measurements to improve the quantification of the atmosphere – biosphere exchange of nitrogen components in dispersion models. In the first phase of the project, observations and numerical models of surface exchange are systematically compared for the nitrogen components: reduced and oxidised nitrogen and aerosols. This includes data analysis and further development of parameterisations of the surface exchange process.

The second step focuses on further developing modelling of the atmosphere-biosphere exchange with all aspects involved, such as surface characteristics, weather conditions and vegetation characteristics. A substantial improvement of the deposition models makes it possible to estimate the nitrogen deposition on nature areas more accurately with dispersion models. The PhD student’s activities thus contribute to an improvement of the current policy instruments.

You will work with atmosphere – biosphere exchange measurements and models to improve the current models that quantify the nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands. You will cooperate closely with the Meteorology and Air Quality group of Wageningen University and the other knowledge institutions within NKS (RIVM, TNO, KMNI). You are part of a team that will work on different aspects of quantifying the nitrogen cycle using satellite observations and dispersion modelling at different scales.

Key responsibilities
The position has a variety of tasks like:

  • The collection of measurement data and existing numerical models of the surface exchange of nitrogen components;
  • Analysing the data and interpretation of the different parameters affecting surface exchange;
  • Developing and further development of surface exchange models using physical, chemical and biological parameterisation;
  • Working together in a team of scientists to improve the scientific knowledge on nitrogen in the Netherlands;
  • Publishing your results in peer reviewed journals and in a thesis.

Selection criteria
The ideal candidate is a team player and has experience in statistical modelling and programming, affinity with mathematics, ecological knowledge with an interest in ecology. Specifically:

  • A MSc in Atmospheric Sciences, Physics, Environmental Sciences, Chemistry, or a related discipline
  • a background in modelling, data analysis, and programming,
  • enthusiasm, motivation and creativity,
  • fluency in English, both spoken and written.

You will be part of an ambitious team of researchers studying atmospheric composition, emissions and deposition of air pollutants at both the Institute of Environmental Sciences and the Meteorology and Air Quality chair group at WUR. In addition, you will work closely with the other knowledge institutions within the NKS, in particular RIVM and TNO. You will participate in scientific discussions and actively contribute to scientific publications of the research team.

We offer
The position starts by 1st November 2022. We offer a position for four years. You will be appointed in accordance  with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.  Salary ranges from € 2.514.- gross per month in the first year to € 3.247 gross per month in the fourth year based on a full-time position.

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information,

Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden
The Faculty of Science in Leiden University is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. The Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) is positioned in the Faculty of Sciences. The core focus of CML is to perform research and education in the interdisciplinary field of Environmental Sciences. Our people are driven by curiosity to expand fundamental knowledge and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to contribute to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.

CML focuses on the sustainable use of natural resources and preservation of natural capital and biodiversity. CML has a culture of mutual support and collaboration between researchers both within and between institutes. Presently, about 140 fte (including postdocs and PhDs) are employed at CML. The CML has facilities to work with soil, water, microbes, and plants including growth chambers, large field experiments and molecular labs. For more information about CML.

The  Meteorology and Air Quality Group
The Meteorology and Air Quality Group studies the atmosphere in all its beauty and variety of phenomena and its relevance for weather, climate and air quality. In particular we deal with the atmosphere above land and how it relates to life and the environment.

Diversity and inclusion are core values of Leiden University. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High quality teaching and research is inclusive.

Leiden University is one of Europe’s leading international research universities.

Thanks to its committed and inspired employees, the university enjoys a leading role in academic research and education. Leiden also scores very well every year in prominent rankings. This means that, to maintain our position, the bar is set very high. Regardless of the work you do at our university, you are always encouraged to broaden your horizons, develop your talents and reach your full potential. Will you become our newest colleague?

Do you have questions about this position? Please contact Jan Willem Erisman, or  Margreet van Zanten,

Are you enthusiastic about this vacancy? We are looking forward to get to know you. Please send an e-mail to The closing date is September 15, 2022. Please  ensure that you include the following additional documents quoting the vacancy number:

  • A short Motivation letter;
  • Full curriculum vitae, including a list of publications;
  • Contact details of at least two persons who can be contacted for reference.

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