PhD researcher in the field of Remote Sensing of Natural Hazards

(09-02-2021) RMCA / KUL is hiring a PhD researcher in the field of Remote Sensing of Natural Hazards. The main goal is to study the interaction between geohazards and urbanisation in mountainous African environment

The Science & Technology Group, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology, Division of Ecology, Evolution & Biodiversity Conservation at KU Leuven and the Section Vertebrates of the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) jointly offer a fulltime position (Prf-2020-035) (each with an appointment of 50 %) in the context of the BELSPO FED-tWIN research programme (Programme of sustainable research cooperation between the federal scientific institutes and the universities).

The 50% appointment at KU Leuven is a tenure track professor. The 50% appointment at the Royal Museum for Central Africa is a contract of indefinite duration as a work leader (salary scale SW2). We are looking for candidates with an excellent research record and educational competence in the field of biology at the intersection of taxonomy and evolution of aquatic vertebrate radiations. KU Leuven The Department of Biology is active in a wide range of research fields, from the cellular to the ecosystem level, across the Tree of Life and worldwide.

The Department is organised in three divisions, focussing on ecology and evolution (EECB), animal physiology and neurobiology, and molecular biotechnology of plants and micro-organisms. The staff of the Division of Ecology, Evolution& Biodiversity Conservation (EECB) includes eight full-time and seven part-time professors, 54 PhD students, 25 postdocs and 15 technicians.The research of the Division EECB focuses on ecological and evolutionary processes using freshwater and marine ecosystems as models.

Research areas range from community ecology to evolutionary ecology, behavioural ecology, genetics, and stress ecology. Our research has societal relevance in relation to the diversity crisis, nature conservation, sustainable development, water and wildlife management, and global change. The Division valorises its research with the assistance of KU Leuven Research and Development. Royal Museum for Central Africa Within the Department of Biology of the RMCA, the Vertebrates Section is specialised in the study of the biodiversity of Afrotropical vertebrate groups. The museum holds the world’s largest collection of African fresh and brackish water fishes and collection-based research is a stronghold of the section. The ichthyology unit is worldwide at the forefront of the study of African fresh and brackish water fishes. Mainly through the use of morphometrics, ecological and molecular techniques, scientists analyse and interpret the enormous diversity of African fishes and their evolutionary history. They are very much involved in conservation issues. The unit also harbours the FishBase-for-Africa team and is member of the international consortium of FishBase, the world’s largest and most successful encyclopaedia and public database on fishes. Furthermore, the unit is involved in the supervision of several MSc and PhD research programmes and has a large network of African scientists.

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You develop a research programme at an international level in the evolutionary history of African cichlid fish radiations using an integrative approach combining morphology, ecology and genomics, within the framework of a FED-tWIN collaboration between KU Leuven and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Project CichlidEcoEvo: Eco-evolutionary relationships in African cichlid radiations).

The focus of this research profile is on the study of the cichlids of the Great African lakes as a model group for evolutionary research in Vertebrates. The interpretation of the full genomic blueprint is crucial to bring our knowledge on the explosive speciation of the adaptive cichlid radiations to the next level, taking into account the eco-morphological expression in the phenotype.

In the first years, the research must tie in with the ongoing research programme that focuses on Lake Edward and its nearby systems of Lakes Kivu and Albert, taking advantage of the large collection of specimens (> 20,000) and tissues (2 760) available from the area. These lakes represent replicate radiations of specialized eco-phenotypes, the study of which offers opportunities to answer important research questions about common ancestry versus parallel evolution, and the influence of introgression. The Lake Edward/George system is also an ideal system to study intra-basin and intra-specific diversification at the morphological, ecological and genetic level.

On the mid and long term, you are expected to develop research avenues on the fish radiations of other African lakes and river systems, while strengthening existing and establishing new lines of collaboration, especially with African partners.

You develop a research group in line with the strategy outlined in the FED-tWIN research profile and in synergy with research groups at KU Leuven and the RMCA. This FED-tWIN research profile specifically aims at developing a strong scientific collaboration between KU Leuven and RMCA.

You publish at the highest scientific level in the domain, you are able to obtain competitive financing, you develop international cooperation and you supervise master and PhD students at an international level.


  • You provide high-quality education in the domain of vertebrate biology, phylogeny, evolution and genomics, within the bachelor and master of Biology at KU Leuven, with a clear commitment to the quality of the programme as a whole.
  • You also contribute to the pedagogical project of the faculty and university by supervising bachelor projects and master theses and as a promoter of PhD students.
  • You develop your educational project in accordance with the vision of KU Leuven on activating and researched-based education and make use of the opportunities for the educational professionalization offered by the faculty and the university.


Service provision is an important aspect of this FED-tWIN profile. This includes science management, science outreach, accommodating interns and visiting scientists, organising and/or contributing to training programmes, and answering questions from the general public. Specifically for the RMCA it also comprises the supervision of students of partner institutes in Africa, scientific advice for the set-up of permanent and temporary exhibitions, the further development of the rich fish and tissue collections, and contributing to the management of the associated databases, including genomic data.


  • You have a PhD in biological or environmental sciences, obtained at the earliest 12 years before the submission date of the job application. The 12-year period is extended by one year for each maternity, parental and adoption leave, and for each long-term sick leave of yourself or your immediate family. You have at least four years of experience in evolutionary studies (morphology and genomics) after obtaining a PhD.
  • You have a strong research curriculum within the domain of biology, at the intersection of taxonomy and evolution of aquatic vertebrate radiations, that addresses fundamental research topics using a genomic, morphometric and phylogenetic toolbox. You have a strong knowledge in data analysis. Expertise in the study of the African cichlid fish diversity is a bonus. The quality of your research is apparent from publications in leading international journals in the field. International research experience is a plus. You should have experience with field work and collection-based research, preferably on African fishes, and prepared to organize and conduct field work in Africa.
  • You have demonstrable qualities for academic education; educational experience is a plus.
  • You have organizational skills and are collegial. You also have managerial capacities in an academic context.
  • Proficiency in English is required.
  • The official language used at KU Leuven is Dutch. If you do not speak Dutch (or do not speak it well) at the start of employment, KU Leuven will provide language training to enable you to take part in meetings. Before teaching courses in Dutch or English, you will be given the opportunity to learn Dutch, respectively English, to the required standard.


  • Within the FED-tWIN framework, KU Leuven offers a 50% appointment as a tenure track professor in combination with an appointment as a 50% contractual researcher (work leader salary scale SW2) (indefinite duration) offered by the Royal Museum for Central Africa.
  • KU Leuven is a research-intensive, internationally oriented university that carries out both fundamental and applied scientific research. She has a strong inter- and multidisciplinary focus and strives for international excellence. KU Leuven actively cooperates with its research partners in Belgium and abroad. She offers her students an academic education based on high-quality scientific research.
  • The Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren is a multidisciplinary federal scientific institute and a world centre in research and knowledge dissemination on past and present societies and natural environments of Africa, and in particular Central Africa. Its core activities consist of acquiring and managing collections, conducting scientific research, disseminating knowledge and organising exhibitions.
    In principle, junior researchers are appointed as assistant professor on the tenure track for a period of 5 years; after this period and a positive evaluation, they are permanently appointed (or tenured) as an associate professor. KU Leuven is well set to welcome foreign professors and their family and provides practical support with regard to immigration & administration, housing, childcare, learning Dutch, partner career coaching, …
    To accelerate research in the first phase, a starting grant of 100.000 euro is offered to new professors without substantial other funding, appointed for at least 50%.
  • Place of employment:
    KU Leuven, Department of Biology, Division of Ecology, Evolution & Biodiversity Conservation, Charles Deberiotstraat 32, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.
    Royal Museum for Central Africa, Department of Biology, Leuvensesteenweg 13, B-3080 Tervuren, Belgium.
  • The candidate will be required to work 50% at each institute and according to the regulations of each institute.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Filip Volckaert, tel.: +32 16 32 39 72, mail: or Prof. dr. Jos Snoeks, tel.: +32 16 37 36 40, mail: For problems with online applying, please contact

Add to your application following documents (more information is available on the KU Leuven job site):

  • your biosketch in which you indicate your added value as an academic for research, education and service to society of your past career and of your future activities (maximum 2 pages);
  • a file on your five most important publications or realizations;
  • an extensive cv including a full publication list;
  • your research plan with focus on the development of your research line and research team in relation with the colleague-researchers of the entity of employment (maximum 4 pages);
  • your vision on academic education and its organization (maximum 2 pages);
  • your contribution to society by outreach and public communication on science and technology, internal representation in boards and councils and service activities directly in relation to your developed expertise (maximum 1 page);
  • your vision on leadership (maximum 1 page).

KU Leuven places great importance on research integrity and ethical conduct and will therefore ask you to sign an integrity statement upon appointment.

You can apply for this job no later than February 11, 2021 via the online application tool

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