[CLOSED] Vacancy PhD student: Machine Learning and Image Processing to automate biodiversity management in grasslands.


The Internet Technology & Data Science Lab (IDLab) is an imec research group at Ghent University and the University of Antwerp. IDLab focuses its research on internet technologies and data science. Bringing together more than 300 internet experts, we develop technologies outperforming current solutions for communication subsystems, high speed and low power networking, distributed computing and multimedia processing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and web semantics. IDLab has a unique research infrastructure used in numerous national and international collaborations.

IDLab collaborates with many universities and research centers worldwide and jointly develops advanced technologies with industry (R&D centers from international companies, Flanders’ top innovating large companies and SMEs, as well as numerous ambitious start-ups).

Within IDLab, the IDLab-MEDIA research team is looking for a qualified and motivated candidate to develop machine learning methods and image processing techniques for the automated analysis and interpretation of aerial images of grasslands. One fully funded position as PhD student is available (4 years, with yearly progress evaluation).

Your Profile

  • You need to hold (or will obtain in the next months) a relevant master’s degree (e.g., Master of Science in Computer Science Engineering, Master of Science in Mathematics, Master of Science in Informatics, Master of Science in Computer Science, or similar) with demonstrated first-class performance (e.g., outstanding grades, thesis result, or publications).
  • You can demonstrate mastery of core aspects of machine learning and image processing:
    • Image representation/manipulation and color science
    • Fundamentals of probability and statistics
    • Algorithm design
    • Programming (in Python, C++/Java, JavaScript, …)
  • Your English is fluent, both speaking and writing.
  • You are a team player with good networking and reporting skills.
  • You are willing to do what is required to obtain a drone pilot license in order to operate a semi-professional drone to capture footage of several grasslands under study throughout the project.
  • Experience with machine learning algorithmic approaches or frameworks (e.g., PyTorch, Tensorflow…) is considered a significant plus.
  • Affinity with biodiversity is considered a plus.

Job Offer

We offer you the opportunity to do full-time research in a highly international and friendly working environment, with a competitive salary at Ghent University, in the context of an interdisciplinary research project. As researcher within the IDLab-MEDIA team, you will publish your research results at major international conferences and in scientific journal in order to pursue your PhD degree.

You will be assigned as researcher to the project “Computer vision and intelligent mowing patterns to automate biodiversity management in grasslands”, funded by Ghent University. This project is an interdisciplinary research project involving the research group “Agrozoology Lab” (Prof. Guy Smagghe) from the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering and the MEDIA research team of IDLab (Prof. Peter Lambert) from the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture.

The project aims to develop optimal mowing patterns to restore pollinator biodiversity, based on grassland features (on a local scale) and pollinator presence (on the broader scale) and to bring grassland mowing to the next level by developing and validating intelligent adaptive mowing patterns/strategies, which are optimized based on the grasslands’ individual characteristics. You will investigate and develop advanced computer vision and AI techniques to analyze visual footage of grasslands, as captured by drones, in order to enable large-scale deployments (e.g., identification of flower-rich areas, plant phenotype identification, automated mowing pattern design). Such an automated mowing approach is unique and the first ever in the context of biodiversity management.

The research environment

We offer you the opportunity to join an open, multicultural, and friendly working environment. You will become part of a highly motivated research team within IDLab. Your supervisors, Prof. Peter Lambert and Prof. Glenn Van Wallendael, will guide you on a day-to-day basis. Your research activities will be performed in close collaboration with Ghent University colleagues at the Agrozoology Lab (Prof. Guy Smagghe).


Great! Applications may be sent by email to laura.smekens@ugent.be. Please include cover letter, CV, and contact details of 1 to 3 referees. Do not include reference letters, these will be solicited by us. Suitable candidates will be invited for an interview and may get a small assignment. Application deadline is 12/07/2021, but applications remain welcome until the position is filled. We offer you a flexible starting date, with a preference to start as soon as possible. For more information about the topic of the PhD itself, please contact Prof. Peter Lambert (peter.lambert@ugent.be).