Postdoctoral Researcher - Soil Microbiology

Job description

The Wageningen University NWO-TTW Open Mind project Skin Care for Mother Earth is looking for a postdoctoral researcher in soil microbiology.  The project focuses on restoring the health of soils that have suffered from desertification using, among other things, appropriate soil microbes. Your work will focus on the proof of principle that microbes influence soil physical properties and improve soil wettability, water infiltration capacity and soil water retention. Your main tasks will be threefold: (1) find promising soil microbiological communities; (2) determine how microbiology affects soil physical properties; (3) investigate how indigenous microbiology and organic materials can be used to restore degraded topsoil in desertified areas. Your work will result in a peer-reviewed paper and provide input for further research proposals.
According to the UN, desertification ranks among the greatest environmental challenges of our time. One third of all land is currently threatened by desertification and more fertile soil is lost every year. Desertification affects   areas at all latitudes, on all continents, in at least 110 countries. It is estimated that 50 million people may be displaced in the next decade due to desertification. Solutions that truly restore fertile topsoil, the Earth’s living skin, in a short amount of time are urgently needed. One of the limitations to current approaches to soil restoration is the lack of life in the soil. The Skin Care for Mother Earth project is based on the view that soil microbiology may be the missing link to bringing the soil back to life. Soil microbes enable the colonization of land by plants, and throughout evolution microbes developed a wide array of functions in soils. Skin Care for Mother Earth  therefore aims to investigate 1) how microbiology can be used to improve soil hydrological properties and 2) how indigenous microbiology and organic materials can be used to restore degraded topsoil in desertified areas. The project will be carried out at the Soil Physics and Land Management Group and Soil Biology Group of Wageningen University by Dr. Martine van der Ploeg (Project leader) in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Gerlinde De Deyn of the Soil Biology Group.

Job requirements

  • You have a PhD in (soil) microbiology.

  • Preferably you have experience with the research of soil hydrology as well.

  • You are a skilled experimentalist and will be able to apply these abilities to the present subject.

  • You are an enthusiastic researcher interested in looking beyond the boundaries of your own discipline and joining efforts with the other members of the project team.

  • You are proficient in English, have excellent oral and written communication skills, and the ability to work efficiently as an individual as well as in a team.

  • Considering the short period of this proof of principle project, we ask for full-time commitment and will expect you to not work on other projects at the same time during working hours.


A full-time employment (38 hours per week) or part-time employment position as researcher within the Soil Physics and Land Management Group for 8 months, starting as soon as possible. Salary depends on skills and experience, with a maximum of € 3.389 per month. In addition we offer a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%.

Additional information

Additional information about this vacancy can be obtained from Dr. Martine van der Ploeg: Telephone: +31 (0) 317-483714.

How to apply 
Interested? Do not email directly to the people mentioned above. Please use the website to apply and upload your CV and a motivation letter before May 6, 2019.
Applications should include:

  • A motivation letter, stating why you want to do this research and how you fit the requirements (maximum one page);

  • A full academic CV.

Click here to learn more and to apply.