Full time 4-year PhD position studying 5000 years of landscape evolution of the Flemish Middle Coast


Join the MARI team (Maritime Cultures Research Institute) at VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) for the ‘TESTEREP’ project (The Evolution of the Flemish Seascape (5000 BP – present). Testerep Reconstructed for Policy making and Public engagement), which aims to better understand the spatio-temporal evolution of Flanders’ coastal landscape over the past 5000 years by studying the former Testerep peninsula.

TESTEREP is a 4-year Strategic Basic Research project, led by the VUB, in close collaboration with the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), KU Leuven – Department of Hydraulics and Geotechnics, and HoWest – Digital Arts & Entertainment (DAE). This consortium brings together archaeologists, marine geoscientists, hydraulic engineers and specialists in computer graphics and VR design. Together they will study the evolution and eventual demise of the Testerep peninsula over the past 5000 years from an archaeological, geological and hydrodynamical viewpoint. By reconstructing past environmental conditions and the strategies people developed to live in this coastal landscape, the project aims to gain detailed insight into the relative impact of natural changes (e.g. sea level rise) versus anthropogenic interventions (e.g. constructing embankments) on the morphological dynamics of the coast. Resulting products will include palaeogeographic maps, state-of- the-art 3D reconstructions and interactive 3D simulations of past coastal landscape change. These will be used to raise public awareness on coastal dynamics and current threats, to stimulate blue tourism, to support heritage management, and to inspire sustainable coastal management strategies for the future. As such, the project will have a large stakeholder engagement and outreach component to it, aimed at both the public at large as well as Flemish and provincial government agencies, coastal communities, tourism agencies, and dredging and consultancy companies.

Within the TESTEREP project, the MARI team at VUB will focus on the onshore part of the research area. As such, the PhD candidate is expected to assist with the collection and inventorying of existing archaeological, historical, topographical, geomorphological and geological datasets, as well as the gathering and interpretation of new data collected through LiDAR and EMI surveys, sediment coring, small-scale excavations, and sampling for pollen, radiocarbon and OSL analyses. This should result in the development of a GIS database of dated natural and manmade landscape features within the Testerep region and the creation of palaeogeographic reconstruction maps as well as palaeo-DTMs of the area at relevant time slices. These will serve as input for the hydrodynamic modelling, 3D visualisations and simulations of the evolution of the coastal landscape, created by the other project partners, with whom a close collaboration will be essential for the success of the project. Besides carrying out scientific research, the PhD candidate is therefore expected to also actively participate in project meetings with consortium members and stakeholders, and to communicate research findings through presentations and publications.