Researcher Position in geo-hydrological disaster risk and the associated natural resource degradation in sub-Saharan Africa


This 10-year full-time (100%) researcher position is opened in the framework of the FED-tWIN programme to support sustainable cooperation between the ten Federal Scientific Institutions (FSI) which fall under Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO) and the eleven Belgian universities. The position will be jointly hosted at the Department of Earth Sciences of the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), a Federal Scientific Institution, and the Earth and Life Institute of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain): 

  • A part-time (50%) appointment as scientific researcher (SW2 – work leader) at RMCA, Department of Earth Sciences
  • A part-time (50%) appointment as postdoc researcher at UCLouvain, Earth and Life Institute. 

This vacancy seeks to fill in the FED-tWIN research profile “Geo-HydrolOgicaL dIsaster riSk and the associated naTural resource degradation in sub-Saharan AfrICa: a transdisciplinary approach in densely-populated changing environments (G-HOLISTIC#2)” (profile number Prf-2022R-022). 

Royal Museum for Central Africa 

The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) is a multidisciplinary federal scientific institution under the aegis of the State Secretary for Science Policy. Administratively speaking, RMCA is an independently managed public institution in the green outskirt of Brussels. 

RMCA has played a role for more than 100 years as a world centre in research and knowledge dissemination on past and present societies and natural environments of Africa, and in particular Central Africa, to foster – to the public at large and the scientific community – a better understanding and interest in this area and, through partnerships, to substantially contribute to its sustainable development. The core endeavours of this Africa-oriented institution consist of conducting scientific research, implementing the results of this research, acquiring and managing collections, disseminating knowledge, and mounting selected exhibitions of its collections.

With solid capacity in both human and natural sciences, the research is organized through three departments: Earth Sciences, Cultural Anthropology and History, and Biology. RMCA has field research activities in more than 20 African countries. 

Université catholique de Louvain 

The Université catholique de Louvain, founded in 1425, is a multidisciplinary  university in the heart of Europe, member of the Circle-U European university alliance.  Its 14 faculties and 23 doctoral schools offer degrees and research opportunities to more than 30,000 students in almost all fields of study. Its 22 research institutes, 40 technology platforms, 2 university hospitals, and 3 science parks, which include 2 incubators and host more than 280 companies and 84 spin-offs and start-ups, are a testament to UCLouvain’s dedication to conducting fundamental and applied research. They also, along with UCLouvain’s faculties and schools, exercise a cross-disciplinary research approach. 

UCLouvain is a diverse and open community. One-third of its professors are women and nearly the same proportion are internationals. One-fifth of its students are international, representing more than 120 nationalities. UCLouvain partners with higher education institutions throughout the world. Hence, it participates in several international initiatives that open doors to new teaching and research projects. Moreover, recognising that exploring major social issues demands a more comprehensive, cross-disciplinary approach, UCLouvain launched a new research initiative, the ‘Louvain4’ consortiums. These bring together researchers from all sectors of the university to study themes of societal interest. Nine key topics have so far been identified: nutrition, ageing, cities and community life, education, energy, water, evolution, space and migration.

The Earth and Life Institute (ELI) of  UCLouvain gathers more than 300 scientists, covering a wide range of disciplines in the Earth & Life sciences. The research objective is to understand the basic processes of the Earth & Life System at different scales and to design sustainable solutions to meet some of the major challenges for our societies. Thanks to its critical size, the role of the institute is to promote interdisciplinarity and to stimulate the interactions between scientists of complementary expertise.

Brief description of the FED-tWIN G-HOLISTIC#2 research profile

Geo-hydrological (GH) hazards (volcanic activity and emissions, floods, droughts, landslides, gully erosion and flash floods) and degradation of natural resources (soil, water, forest, ecosystems) are often interrelated. In sub-Saharan Africa, high population densities are often found, frequently on the rise and combined with high societal vulnerability. It is therefore no surprise that GH disaster risks and the associated natural resource degradation disproportionately hit these regions.

The FED-tWIN project proposes a unique long-term funding to undertake longitudinal, co-produced and transdisciplinary strategic research in urban and densely-populated rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. To have real in-the-field impact, the project aims to fill a clear research gap in bringing high resolution, disaggregated information about risk and resource degradation. The overall scientific objective is to assess the vulnerability, exposure and resilience to GH hazards in order to arrive at integrated and comprehensive disaster risk assessments at high spatial resolution and to contribute to the development of appropriate disaster risk prevention and management tools, relevant for stakeholders. In parallel with the focus on GH disaster risk, the project will also progressively start to collect spatially explicit data on natural resource degradation (soil and water degradation) associated with these GH disaster risks. The long-term scientific objective is to extend the transdisciplinary approaches that were developed on the GH disaster risks to more universal issues of natural resource degradation.



The FED-tWIN researcher is aimed at becoming a world-class expert in applied and transdisciplinary geo-hydrological disaster risk and associated natural resource degradation. S/he will develop her/his own research group through designing new research projects, acquiring competitive research funds, coordinating projects and supervising junior (PhD) researchers. S/he will develop collaborations with national and international partners. Key will be to develop and implement transdisciplinary approaches with African partners around new and existing strong collaborations between RMCA, UCLouvain and African institutions. S/he will actively contribute to the dissemination of research results within the international academic community (publications, conferences) as well as among stakeholders and academic institutions in Africa. It is expected that the archives and collections of the RMCA will be exploited as an important input of the FED-tWIN research, therefore contributing to make them more visible and more accessible to the public. 

The FED-tWIN researcher will develop his/her research at the interface, and in collaboration with colleagues, of the RMCA Natural Hazards Service, and UCLouvain, Earth and Life Institute. S/he will contribute to strengthen the existing collaborations between these two institutions.


The FED-tWIN researcher will strengthen UCLouvain teaching in geosciences in general, and offer new opportunities for master and PhD research projects in ELI, and more specifically the Earth and Climate and Environmental Sciences research poles. The researcher will also establish strong interactions with key academic partners in the targeted countries and will contribute to capacity building through training courses and individual supervision of African students in a similar way to what is already done by both FED-tWIN partners. Guest lectures and short trainings on research-related topics will be requested at the host institutions and at collaborating African academic institutions. The FED-tWIN researcher is also expected to supervise master students and/or research internships. The candidate needs to be able to work in a multicultural and multilingual environment, with students, researchers, professors and technical/administrative co-workers.


The candidate will be a member of the Department of Earth Sciences at the Royal Museum for Central Africa and the Earth and Life Institute at the Université catholique de Louvain. S/he will be expected to participate in the operational and administrative aspects of these departments, in particular in the fundraising of projects directly related to the research profile. This includes to embed her/his research activities within the broader research and outreach strategies of the institutions and through the valorization of the RMCA collections. This may also be as a member of (various) faculty/department boards. With a 50% appointment in each institution, the FED-tWIN would however have limited administrative responsibilities at the department or faculty level.


  • The candidate holds a PhD degree in Geography, Bio-engineering or Environmental Sciences (or related disciplines)
  • The candidate has obtained a PhD at most 12 years prior to the submission date of the job application. The 12-year period is extended by one year for each maternity, parental & adoption leave of the candidate & for each long-term sick leave of the candidate or immediate family members
  • The candidate has a minimum of two years of experience as postdoc researcher
  • We are looking for a researcher with a strong background in vulnerability and risk assessment to disaster and/or environmental degradation with an excellent track record of ISI publications in his/her field of research
  • He/she has expertise in developing and implementing approaches and methods that are field-oriented and adapted to local contexts 
  • He/she has expertise with interdisciplinary research combining natural (geography, environmental engineering) and social science approaches
  • Experience with field work in countries in the Global South is a strong advantage, as well as a former participation  in multi-partner projects and networks 
  • A track record in gaining research grant funding and in project management is an asset
  • The candidate has experience in academic teaching and (co-)supervising students in research projects at MSc or PhD level
  • Excellent communication skills in English – both orally and written are needed. Knowledge of French and/or Dutch is an advantage

We offer

We offer a full time researcher position that will take place as two 50% contracts at the RMCA and UCLouvain.

RMCA offers

  • A part-time (50%) appointment  as SW2 (senior researcher) with the salary scale SW21 for a contractual appointment
  • A contract of indeterminate duration
  • Minimum salary (gross amounts adjusted to the current salary index, regulatory supplements not included: 63.728,12 euro (for 100% appointment)
  • A part-time (50 %) appointment as postdoctoral research for the first five years. The initial 5-year contract will be a contract of undetermined duration with no intention to terminate

UCLouvain offers

  • An evaluation will be established after 5-year evaluation
  • Finally, after the first 10 years, for which we have a firm commitment, the continuation of the contract will depend on the candidate and the availability of appropriate funding or of an academic position for which we cannot make any commitment at the present time
  • You will do 50% of your work at the RMCA in Tervuren and 50% at UCLouvain at the campus of Louvain-la-Neuve, in a dynamic and stimulating working environment
  • Full reimbursement for commuting by public transport, and/or a bicycle allowance
  • The planned start date: second half of 2023, by mutual agreement with the candidate

How to apply

To submit your application, please send by email a single PDF file containing (i) a brief statement of motivation for the candidature, including an explanation about the development of your future research (max 2 A4, written in English); (ii) your curriculum vitae together with a publication list; (iii) the academic dossier with all relevant elements (copies of degrees and diplomas with the grades, etc.). The application should be sent to  (subject of email: “S/FED-tWIN G-HOLISTIC#2”) before May 10th,2023, 6 pm (CET). 

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

The selection committee will review all of the applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure. 

For further information regarding the job itself, please contact Dr. Olivier Dewitte ( ) and Prof. Marnik Vanclooster ( For more information about the terms and conditions of employment: and .

Université Catholique de Louvain
around Brussels
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