PhD position in Hydrological modeling of wetland hydrology

This research will be conducted at the Department of Civil Engineering, in the research group of prof. Patrick Willems (, in close cooperation with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (dr. Michel Bechtold, prof. Gabrielle De Lannoy ( The research group of prof. Patrick Willems focuses on the hydrology and hydraulics of water systems, including the numerical modelling and impact analysis of catchment hydrology, statistical methods, the impacts of climate change and climate adaptation solutions. The research group of dr. Michel Bechtold and prof. Gabrielle De Lannoy focuses on the combined use of land surface modeling and earth observation data to improve land surface estimates of water and carbon cycle processes, e.g. in peatlands.


The PhD position is embedded into the 5-year project “EO4PEAT” funded by the Belgian Earth Observation programme. In EO4PEAT, an international team of four Belgian research groups and two international partners will develop novel techniques for the monitoring and modeling of peatlands, in particular over the tropics, by exploiting the information from available Earth Observation (EO) data. The conducted research is of high societal interest since peatlands are the most carbon-dense ecosystems on Earth and pose the risk of becoming global hotspots of carbon dioxide emissions after climate change or direct human disturbance. In this regard, EO4PEAT focuses on two key tropical regions of major global concerns: The Southeast Asian peatlands due to the huge extent of Land Use and Land Cover Change (LULCC) over the last decades and the Congo basin peatlands in the Cuvette Centrale wetland complex due to their high vulnerability to climate change and the anticipated immense increase of land use pressures and human disturbances. In both areas, there is an urgent need for action to preserve and/or restore the peatland ecosystem functions and unique biodiversity. The information from high-quality satellite-based monitoring products can significantly support ongoing climate change mitigation activities. EO4PEAT will publish developed products and underlying algorithms as part of peer-reviewed publications in highly-ranked journal. 

The PhD position of this announcement has two main objectives:

  1. Characterizing the peatland-river interaction in the Cuvette Centrale wetland complex by using emerging Earth Observation (EO) datasets of the dynamics of wetland inundation and river stage
  2. Implementing the observed two-way river-peatland interaction in a physics-based hydrological modeling framework ( and calibration of the model for the Cuvette Centrale. The model development will be accompanied by the Congo Basin Water Resources Research and Capacity Building Center ( that operates a regional water management tool

The PhD student will closely collaborate with the EO4PEAT project team composed of professors, senior scientists, and PhD and MSc students, in Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Singapore. The PhD student will obtain a PhD degree from KU Leuven. The duration of the position spans 4 years, subject to a positive evaluation at the 9-month mark, with contracts renewed annually. 

The successful PhD candidate will be expected to effectively communicate their work through papers and presentations, both internally and externally. Additionally, training will be provided to enhance these communication skills. Beyond the research responsibilities, the selected candidate will also take on supplementary roles, including teaching and conducting seminars for students (partial requirements accounted for receiving PhD degree).