The Faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University invites applications for a PhD position on climate change and the WEF nexus in South Africa.

South Africa is one of the most unevenly developed countries in the world. About 33% of South Africa’s population lives in rural areas with limited access to basic services such as clean and safe water, affordable and clean energy, and balanced and nutritious diets. This is exacerbated by climate change and has direct and indirect impacts on public health and wellbeing. This project will assess spatial inequality in water‐energy‐food (WEF) security and the implications for public health in rural South Africa and how this will be affected by climate change, and will identify future‐proof interventions to enhance the resilience of vulnerable rural communities to health crises.
This PhD project will map the spatial variability in the WEF security factors and the relations between these for the whole of rural South Africa, and will model how these factors will be affected by climate change. This PhD project will include:

  • Spatially explicit mechanistic modelling of the WEF nexus system in South Africa
  • Evaluating the impact of climate change on WEF security
  • Identifying local and national interventions to improve WEF security across rural South Africa

The PhD candidate will work closely with another PhD candidate in the same project working on the relations between WEF security and Health and will work in a highly interdisciplinary and international research project consortium from both the Netherlands and South Africa.


We are seeking an outstanding and a highly motivated candidate with a deep interest in the WEF nexus, sustainable development and climate change. We are especially interested in interdisciplinary scholars with strong modelling and programming skills.
We gladly receive applications from candidates who:

  • Have an MSc in Physical Geography, Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Hydrology, or in a related geoscience domain.
  • Have experience with spatial and temporal numerical modelling, preferably of components of the WEF nexus.
  • Have strong affinity with the Water Energy Food nexus and climate change.
  • Have excellent intercultural communication skills.
  • Have proficiency in English.
  • Enjoy working in an interdisciplinary and international environment.
  • Are keen to travel to South Africa and collaborate with local experts.


You will be offered a temporary position (0.8 – 1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,770 in the first year and €3,539 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions 

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, including an attractive retirement scheme, professional development 

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About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University 

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, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes 

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The Faculty of Geosciences 

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 studies the Earth: from the Earth’s core to its surface, including man’s spatial and material utilisation of the Earth – always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised into four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The research will be carried out within three departments of the Geosciences Faculty: the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development 

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Human Geography and Spatial Planning 

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Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Floor van der Hilst 

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 (associate professor) at 

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Everyone deserves to feel at home 

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 at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button below.

First round of interviews are planned to take place 22 and 23 January 2024; second round of interviews is scheduled 1 February. 

The application deadline is 7 January 2024.


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