Doctoral (PhD) researcher positions: Balancing secondary forests and agroforests to reduce livelihood vulnerability in the labor-constrained middle hills of Nepal: Background:

Nepal has a highly rural agrarian population. In the middle hill region, the rural areas are experiencing depopulation and feminization as men migrate overseas for work, leaving women, children and elderly behind. As a result, agriculture is abandoned or reduced and land returns to forest.

In this project we will investigate the dynamics of forest regeneration, explore the dependency of rural households on regenerating forest as well as the risks posed by these forests for rural households, and use modern modelling techniques to analyze the potential benefits of forest management versus agroforestry across the middle hills.

The project is exploring the potential for tree and cash crop species to generate income across varying contexts. We seek to hire two exceptional researchers to conduct this research as University of Helsinki doctoral (PhD) students under the supervision of the PI and collaborating scientists at Kathmandu Forestry College, Freiburg University, National University of Singapore, and University of Bristol.

The two doctoral researchers will have distinct but complementary expertise and experience. PhD researcher 1: quantitative forest science Expertise in quantitative forest science and experience with forest surveys in the Middle Hill region. Field research will consist of forest inventories as well as key informant interviews, focus group discussions and household interviews related to forest regeneration and use by residents. Experience and interest in the following themes are necessary:

vegetation science, botany (plant identification), ecology, ecosystem services (especially provisioning), and environmental niche modeling (species distribution modeling). Experience with agroforestry, land use and social science (to complement Researcher 2) would be highly beneficial. Competency with computational modeling in R and other platforms (Google Earth Engine, QGIS, etc), or strong willingness to learn, is essential.

PhD researcher 2: livelihood vulnerability Expertise in social science, in particular a livelihood approach to evaluate vulnerability and adaptability and future options in changing human-(agro)forest interfaces. Field research will be largely interview-based, and the researcher must have experience with agroforestry and framework approaches to livelihoods such as Sustainable Livelihoods Approach, Resilience Framework, Forest Dependence Index, Livelihood Vulnerability Index.

The candidate will be expected to demonstrate sensitivity, respect and tactfulness in the interview process and adhere to all ethical guidelines (FPIC, anonymity, etc). Experience with forestry (to complement Researcher 1) would be essential. A capacity to conduct multivariate modeling would be highly beneficial.

Employment conditions

  • The location of the employment is the University of Helsinki. However, seasonal field trips will be taken for data collection to Nepal as part of the PhD research (see “PhD Studies”)
  • Starting date is 1 January 2024 with an initial probationary period of six months;
  • The researchers will be employed by the University of Helsinki for a 3-year period with an extension depending on the funding available;
  • Salary will follow the guidelines of the University of Helsinki, with a starting salary of approximately 2300 euros / month;
  • The researcher will design, plan and execute the research under the supervision of a supervisory committee;
  • Contribution of 5% of time to teaching at the BSc/MSc level;
  • Funding for field work will be provided but the researcher is expected to actively seek additional external funds


  • Fluency (at the level of mother tongue) in the Nepali language, including written, oral and reading;
  • Knowledge and experience with ethnic diversity, farming systems, land use, and ecology of Nepal’s middle hills is necessary;
  • Extensive experience with, and the capacity to conduct, field research in rural Nepal;
  • The researcher must hold a MSc degree in forestry, social science, geography, botany, or other relevant disciplines from an accredited university;
  • Sufficient proficiency in the English language to demonstrate this capacity to both the researchers and the university in its application process (e.g. adequate IELTS score);
  • Experience with appropriate research and analytical tools, such as GIS, R, environmental niche modeling,
  • Knowledge of and experience with sensitivity, respect and ethical guidelines for social surveys

Desired attributes and competencies

  • The applicant should be able to demonstrate leadership, independence, and initiative;
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills and experience in a multicultural and multidisciplinary setting;
  • Motivation for academic research, capacity building, environmental science and poverty alleviation;

PhD studies The appointee should either already have the right to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki by the start of the appointment or apply for the right and obtain it within the probationary period of six months of their appointment.

To apply Submit your application using the University of Helsinki electronic application form. In one PDF document, please supply the following documents in English: 1. A cover letter that clearly indicates which PhD researcher position you wish to be considered (PhD researcher 1: quantitative forest science or PhD researcher 2: livelihood vulnerability).

The cover letter should include a brief relevant history along with an overview of your professional experience, expertise and interest relevant to the researcher position you wish to fill. In your cover letter and statement, you should provide context and information not contained in your cv (i.e. please do not reiterate what is in your cv). All language skills should be noted in the application, as should your level of experience with research in Nepal; 2. A complete cv that includes your educational history, professional employment history, thesis title(s), publications, the names of three referees (with contact details), and other relevant information (e.g. internships, etc).

We will contact your named referees if you are shortlisted for consideration. Please ensure the cv includes your updated contact information. 3. Copies of any of your publications that are relevant to the specific position for which you want to be considered. If the language of publication is not English, there is no need to translate to English. Zoom interviews of shortlisted candidates will take place in September. Application deadline: 10 September 2023, 23:59 EEST

For further information Principal investigator: Professor Edward Webb, Recruitment system: HR Specialist Mirkka Juntunen,


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: