at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Published November 1, 2022
Location Amsterdam, Netherlands
Category Machine Learning  
Job Type Scholarship  


Are you interested in how natural hazards (flooding, droughts) and climate change will affect human vulnerability? Then we would like to get to know you. Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

FTE: 0.8 - 1


Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of hazard extremes in Europe such as floods and droughts. The risk from natural hazard will also increase due to the trends in population and assets in vulnerable areas (e.g. urbanisation in risky areas such as flood plains). However, risk is not only determined by dynamics in hazards and exposure, but also by the vulnerability of communities and how vulnerability changes over time and space. The CLIMAAX project will focus on this aspect, and aims to assess the dynamics of human vulnerability in Europe.

A key aspect of the project will be to unravel the driving factors of vulnerability to natural hazards. Using surveys, research has shown that socio-economic factors such as education level, wealth or income may determine the capacity of households to prepare and cope with extreme flood and droughts. Furthermore, demographic factors may play a role as, for example, elderly are less well prepared for evacuation to forecasted events. In addition, psychological factors may play a role such as risk perception, and communities who have recently experienced floods are mostly better prepared than those without such experience. A challenge, however, for the CLIMAAX project will be to upscale these local survey data to the European level, and develop a vulnerability model that enables to simulate vulnerability of communities to natural hazards over time (historic and into the future) for the whole continent, at a more aggregated resolution.

Such ambition requires a quantitative data-driven approach where local survey data and global data on vulnerability factors for Europe will be integrated and analysed to calibrate improved vulnerability metrics. Historic vulnerability data will be compared to data on flood and drought events, in order to see if these events have had an influence on vulnerability and risk. An important data processing approach is machine learning (e.g. Bayesian statistics) which can be used to sample data from different sources with the aim of merging these into a new vulnerability database. As the data will be often spatially explicit, GIS analyses can be important as well, as well as statistical data driven techniques to analyse time series of vulnerability factors into the future (for example using scenarios on demography and economy).

You will explore these data-driven methods to unravel the different factors of human vulnerability to natural hazards and to merge different data sources into vulnerability projections (2050 and perhaps 2100) for Europe. While this comes with uncertainty, multiple scenarios will be explored. You will work closely with Deltares and other organisations (e.g. IIASA) to derive data and to develop (future-) projections. You will work in a team of a postdoc, an assistant professor, and two professors at IVM. In the CLMIAAX project more than 25 researchers are involved, including multiple PhDs. Visits to other institutes in Europe is a possibility, dependent on the link to the proposed research.

Your duties

  • collect data on vulnerability factors at local and global/European scales
  • integrate data from surveys and global databases on the drivers of vulnerability with statistical / machine learning methods such as Bayesian networks.
  • develop historic and future scenarios of vulnerability for Europe and compare them with historic hazards events
  • communicate modelling results with EU partners such as JRC and ECMWF


  • a Master’s degree in Spatial Geography, hydrology/Earth Sciences, Econometrics, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Computational science, or a related field.
  • strong quantitative skills in statistics, data-assessment and programming (preferably in Python, or willing to learn Python)
  • strong collaboration and communication skills to work in a larger team of researchers from other disciplines involved in international research projects


A challenging position in a socially involved organisation. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,541 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 3 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP), contribution to commuting expenses
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalised benefits package


The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to more than 11,000 students.
About the institute and department
Established in 1971, IVM is a leading environmental research institute that is internationally recognised for its high quality research output in a range of environmental disciplines, as well as for its interdisciplinary work. The mission of the institute is to contribute to sustainable development and care for the environment through scientific research and teaching. IVM aims to do excellent problem-oriented research that is useful to a wide range of stakeholders in the Netherlands and internationally. A unique strength of our research is to understand sustainability problems in their social and economic context. IVM’s research community works within four departments: Environmental Economics; Environmental Policy Analysis; Environmental Geography; and Water and Climate Risk. Since 2001 IVM is part of the Faculty of Science at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

The department of Water and Climate Risk studies hydrological and climate processes, and how these processes lead to risks and opportunities for society, the economy, and the environment. A defining characteristic of the department is a multi-disciplinary approach that combines expertise from natural sciences with knowledge from the fields of economics, e-Science and geography. This approach has led to a unique research portfolio of water and climate risk projects, and the department is a global leading institute in flood and drought risk assessment, and risk management research.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your motivation letter, curriculum vitae, and the names and contact details of two references (we will only contact these for candidates selected for an interview) by 6 November 2022.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Dr Maurizio Mazzoleni or Prof. Jeroen Aerts
E-mail: or

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