PhD fellowship focused on understanding linkages between deforestation and dietary changes in low-income countries, with a primary focus on Tanzania and Malawi

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Organisation: University of Copenhagen

Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD fellowship as part of the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant project FORESTDIET led by assistant professor Laura Vang Rasmussen. The scholarship will commence 1 March 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.
Description of the scientific environment

The selected individual will be based within the Section for Geography at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management (IGN), University of Copenhagen, Denmark and be part of Rasmussen’s ERC project group as well as the research group ‘Environment and Society in Developing countries’. IGN conducts research and education on the past, present and future physical, chemical and biological environments of the Earth and their interactions with societal and human systems to provide graduates and research in support of sustainable future solutions for society. Further information on the Department can be found at

Project description

The selected candidate will work on the project FORESTDIET: Two billion people across the planet suffer from nutrient deficiencies. Dietary diversification is key to solving this problem, yet food security policy, especially in low-income countries, still focuses on increasing agricultural production and access to sufficient calories as the main solution. But calories are not all equal. Indeed, this approach has created a blind spot with respect to the role of forests, which are often overlooked but may be important for dietary diversification for the rural poor by providing wild foods, high-value products which can be sold and thereby enable food purchases, and fodder for livestock which then provide meat, milk and eggs as well as manure to improve agricultural production. This project will identify how forest loss and fragmentation affect people’s dietary quality in low-income countries, thereby laying the ground for a shift in how we think about pathways to food security – that is, to move from conceptualizing food security as driven by agriculture alone to seeing it as dependent on socio-ecological interactions at the forest-agriculture nexus.

The selected candidate will be expected to co-develop research with Rasmussen within this project and is expected to leverage existing datasets on food consumption, land cover change, including agricultural expansion or contraction, and deforestation and reforestation as well as plan and carry out local-level data collection across multiple settings in Tanzania or Malawi. The candidate is also expected to assimilate or collect additional data on socio-economic characteristics, biophysical conditions, and agricultural strategies in the region of interest.

Supervisor is Asst. Professor Laura Vang Rasmussen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management.

Job description

The position is available for a 3-year period and your key tasks as a PhD student at SCIENCE are:

  • To manage and carry through your research project
  • Attend PhD courses
  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis
  • Teach and disseminate your research
  • To stay at an external research institution for a few months, preferably abroad
Formal requirements

Applicants should hold an MSc degree in in environmental sciences, geography, agricultural economics, land change science, nutrition or a related field. Geo-spatial and statistical expertise, some programming abilities (e.g., R), experience doing independent research, and excellent communication, writing, and organizational skills are required. Experience in tropical regions/low-income countries, as well as ability to interact with different people ranging from rural smallholders to high-level decision-makers will be crucial. As criteria for the assessment of your qualifications emphasis will also be laid on previous publications (if any) and relevant work experience.