Vacancy for a PhD Scholarship in the field of Urban Greening and Environmental Justice

05/10/2021 - 14:30

Description of the research project and function


The implementation of nature-based solutions (NBS) and green and blue infrastructure (GBI) in urban areas is gaining momentum as a strategy to mitigate climate risk, enhance public health, and ultimately, create more livable cities. However, NBS and GBI (spatial) assessment and planning instruments have been criticized for its poor consideration of environmental justice and social vulnerability, hence its implementation in cities bares the risk of (re-)producing social inequalities. To date, the majority of studies analyzing (unequal) exposure or access to urban green and blue spaces in vulnerable social groups (e.g., children, older persons, people with disabilities) focuses on residential metrics. Yet, in order to make NBS, GBI and its related benefits (more) available/accessible to these groups, it is important to assess their accessibility from the perspective of social amenities that represent an essential place in their daily urban experience (e.g., schools, senior centers, healthcare facilities). Approaches based on foundational social amenities are still scarce, clearly dominated by US case studies and rarely looking at the equity implications of the observed (spatial) distributional patterns. In response to the above-mentioned knowledge gaps, GREENEQUITIES aims to set the ground for the development of an interdisciplinary research line at VUB on the geospatial analysis of access to urban NBS and GBI, with a focus on vulnerable social groups living in the Brussels Capital Region (BCR). In this research use will be made of novel mixed-method approaches combining both quantitative and qualitative techniques, including GIS analyses, map-based surveys, and semi-structured interviews. More specifically, as PhD researcher, your responsibilities will be:


Geospatial analysis of the distributional patterns of GBI and related benefits within and around foundational social amenities in the BCR.
Assessment of potential inequities in the access/exposure to GBI benefits from the sampled social amenities considering socio-demographic differences across the BCR urban fabric and other relevant equity dimensions.
Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the preferences, perceived (health) benefits and enabling factors and barriers related to access and actual use of GBI within and around social amenities in the BCR.
Participate in training activities necessary to accomplish the research objectives, including training on transferable skills (e.g., scientific writing).
Occasionally contribute to teaching and supervising activities organized at the VUB in the field of urban ecology.
Communication and dissemination of project outcomes to research peers and other stakeholders, at scientific conferences, seminars and through peer-reviewed journal publications.




You hold a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in environmental science, sustainability, sociology, geography, urban planning, or a related field, and graduated with a degree of at least distinction;
You have experience in spatial data management (Geographic Information Systems) and a good background in statistical data analysis; Experience in (urban) remote sensing is an asset;
You are familiar with social research methods, both quantitative (e.g., surveys) and qualitative (e.g., in-depth interviews) or you are eager to learn them;
You are a loyal team player, ready to actively contribute to collaborative research, but you are also able to work independently;
You are fluent in written/spoken English. Good knowledge of French and/or Dutch is an asset;
You are responsible, you show initiative and strong communication skills, and you can get things done.
IMPORTANT: the successful candidate will be expected to be eligible and to apply for an FWO PhD fellowship and/or an Innoviris Applied PhD during the first year of his/her appointment.




You’ll be offered a full-time PhD-scholarship, for 12 months extendable up to max. 4 years, on condition of the successful evaluation of the PhD application abovementioned (FWO or Innoviris), with planned starting date December 15th, 2021.


IMPORTANT: The effective result of the doctorate scholarship is subject to the condition precedent of your enrolment as a doctorate student at the university.


At the VUB, you’re guaranteed an open, involved and diverse workplace where you are offered opportunities to (further) build on your career. As well as this, you’ll enjoy various benefits:


Full reimbursement for your home-work commute with public transport according to VUB-policy, or compensation if you come by bike;
The space to form your job content and continuously learn via VUB LRN;
Excellent facilities for sport and exercise;
Meals at attractive prices in our campus restaurants;
An open, family-friendly work environment where attention is paid to work-life balance, and exceptional holiday arrangements with 35 days of leave (based on a fulltime contract).




Interested candidates are invited to send by email a single PDF file containing: (1) a one-page motivation letter (in English), stating your general motivation for entering a doctoral program and this PhD project; (2) your updated 2-page CV (in English); (3) transcripts of your bachelor’s and master’s degrees with grades (in English if possible); and (4) the names and contact details (telephone, e-mail address) of at least two referees. The application should be sent to Prof. Francesc Baró ( no later than October 31st, 2021. Please indicate “PhD GREENEQUITIES application” as subject of the email.


Do you have questions about the job content? Contact Francesc Baró (


Only applications that correspond to the profile and are sent within the prescribed deadline will be accepted and responded to.


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