PhD position in Floodplain geomorphology

100%, fixed-term

We seek a PhD student for a multidisciplinary project across three groups:

  • The Georges Lemaître Center for Earth and Climate Research, (TECLIM, UCLouvain, Belgium), is driven to understand how landscapes evolve and how this impacts the humans living on these landscapes.
  • The Surface Earth Evolution (SEE) group in the Department of Earth Sciences at ETHZ is committed to investigate the processes that drive global climate change over human to geologic timescales.
  • The Sustainable Agroecosystems (SAE) group in the Department of Environmental Systems Sciences at ETHZ is dedicated to bring healthy food from fields to tables around the world for generations to come.

Combined, our work intersects traditional Earth- and environmental-science fields to holistically study the drivers and impacts of changing climate and land use. We effectively integrate field-based sample collection and monitoring with lab-based geochemical measurements and numerical models.

Project background

This position is part of the SNSF-funded project “TropSEDs (Tropical Soil Erosion Dynamics): Unraveling the roles of climate and land-use on the erosional transfer of carbon from source to sink through time in the Kasaìˆ Basin”. The project aims to resolve the controls on—and predict future changes in—the movement and fate of tropical soil carbon in the Kasaï Basin, DR Congo. Specifically, we will sample sediments in rivers, floodplains, ancient lake bottoms, and soils along the Kasaï River. We will assess the amount, age, and source of organic carbon and how this relates to geologic factors such as clay sediment type or environmental factors like land use and climate, both today and over the past ~6,000 years. We will use these measurements to refine computer simulations of Earth’s surface processes to explore the life-cycle of carbon as it is transported from soils (“source”) to its final destination in sediment deposits (“sink”).

Job description

You will be responsible for the floodplain geomorphology aspects, with the specific duties: 

  • Participate in two 800 km boat cruises on the Kasaï River and a field campaign in the Mbuji-Mayi region to collect water, sediment, and soil samples
  • Use fallout radionuclides (137Cs and 210Pb) to construct the sediment depositional history
  • Use remote sensing to study the spatial and temporal dynamics of floodplain deposition along the lowland Kasaìˆ
  • Elucidate how climate and land-use regulate floodplain carbon storage versus oxidation within the Kasaï Basin
  • Communicate findings, write scientific papers, and participate in international conferences and workshops

This position is integral to the research team, which includes 4 PhD students and 3 postdoctoral researchers across three groups. You will therefore lead these tasks, but will be supported by all involved PIs and postdocs. This multidisciplinary team offers the opportunity to learn, develop, and apply scientific skills beyond traditional fluvial geomorphology!

This student will be primarily based in the TECLIM group (UCLouvain, Belgium). We offer excellent, inclusive working conditions and a competitive salary. Our laboratories are located in Louvain-la-Neuve (Brussels) and the working language is English. Start date will ideally be 1 March 2022 (and the latest 1 June 2022). Additional information regarding UCLouvain can be found at

Your profile

Required experience, skills, and characteristics:

  • MSc degree
  • Geosciences (geography, geology, soil science, agronomy) background
  • Experience with field sampling and chemical laboratory analyses
  • Proficiency in English
  • Excellent team work and communication in a cross-cultural environment
  • Ability to work independently with flexibility, critical thinking, and a willingness to learn new skills!

Desirable criteria:

  • Proficiency in French
  • Familiarity with the rural African context of DR Congo
  • Experience working in tropical environments
  • Experience working on long, demanding field campaigns


Your workplace

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application until 30.01.2022 with the documents:

  • Curriculum Vitae including educational history, any publications, awards, etc.
  • BSc and MSc transcripts (in English)
  • Motivation letter (~2 pages) describing your interests, goals, and how they relate to this project
  • Names and contact details of three references

Applications should be sent to, the above-mentioned documents should be collated into one single pdf file). Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview by 15.02.2022.

For more information, please contact Prof. Kristof Van Oost (, TECLIM, UCLouvain.