PhD position: “Unlocking the climate change mitigation and adaptation potential of domestic gardens”

A 4-year PhD position (advisor: Prof. Ben Somers, KU Leuven) focused on “Unlocking the climate change mitigation and adaptation potential of domestic gardens” is open at the division Forest, Nature & Landscape, department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (KU Leuven, Belgium). A close collaboration with the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium is envisaged to obtain the most complete meteorological coverage of the study domain, using classical (station, radar, satellite) and novel (crowdsourced) data sources.


Gardens are an integral part of the urban green and blue network. In Flanders we have roughly 2.5 million private gardens, together they cover > 12% of the territory (as compared to 10% for forests and <5% for nature conservation areas). Despite their numbers and extent, the potential of gardens for climate change mitigation and adaptation remains underutilised. The main objective of this PhD is to help in realising this potential through: (i) obtaining timely and reliable data on garden composition, configuration, use and management through an integrated use of novel data acquisition and analysis approaches like remote sensing, deep learning, and citizen science; (ii) strengthening the empirical knowledge base on the link between these garden characteristics and urban climate, by combining remote sensing and autonomous sensor networks; (iii) modelling and analysing the actual and potential climate mitigation and adaptation impact of the Flemish garden complex; and (iv) based on your analysis provide recommendations to the Flemish government and other stakeholders on climate proof gardening practices and initiatives. 


Within the frame of this project you will have the opportunity to closely collaborate with researchers from the Department Earth & Environmental Sciences, Department of Electrical Engineering (ESAT), the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute and the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium. Next to that, you will get the opportunity to discuss your results with representatives of public organisations and policy agencies. 


  • You hold a master degree (or about to finish) in a relevant discipline (e.g., bio-science engineering, environmental sciences, biology, geography, geo-ICT).
  • You have experience with GIS and remote sensing data processing and related software packages.
  • Knowledge of, or interest in, citizen science, sensor technology, urban ecology, and statistics, as well as programming skills, are a plus.
  • You have obtained good study results and have good written and oral communication skills in English. 
  • You are responsible, can work both independently and in a team, show initiative and seize opportunities.
  • You can get things done.


We offer a 4 year full time PhD scholarship, consisting of a 1st year and, following a positive evaluation, the 3 other years. The salary is competitive and the starting date negotiable (but not later than autumn 2021). 
The University of Leuven is among the oldest universities in Western Europe, and today it is the largest university in Belgium. Situated at the heart of Europe, KU Leuven offers a vibrant and international setting, supported by fast connections to several European cities such as Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam.

For further information please contact

Prof. dr. ir. Ben Somers
Division Forest, Nature & Landscape, KU Leuven
Celestijnenlaan 200e - bus 2411 
B-3001 Leuven 

Application procedure

Please send a motivation letter and curriculum vitae to Ben Somers before September 15th, 2021. 

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