Vacancy: PhD Candidate, Socio-Economic Resilience and Post-Disaster Recovery Assessment Using Remote Sensing and Spatial Economic Modelling, University of Twente

The department of Earth Systems Analysis (ESA) combines earth science knowledge with spatial modelling and advanced remote sensing to understand earth processes in space and time. Our education and research contribute to a sustainable use of energy and earth resources, and help reduce disaster risk and the impact of natural hazards on society. We have a strong track record in research and capacity development projects all over the world, with emphasis on East Africa, South East Asia and the Central America/Caribbean.


Resilience of socio-economic systems to various shocks is a critical issue in science and policy-making, especially with respect to natural or man-made disasters. Depending on the strength of a shock, available resources and stability of a political system, recovery after an event can range from long-term non-existent (abandonment of the area) to quick and complete.

Recovery situations are often spatially extensive and last years or decades, hence remote sensing imagery provides efficient and detailed data for analysis. Nevertheless, research to date has largely been limited to the assessment of physical reconstruction, focusing on whether destroyed building stock and physical infrastructure have been rebuilt, disregarding the relevant socio-economic processes and services that characterize an urban space.

Robust methods for assessing socio-economic recovery and understanding its drivers are missing.

Mapping and understanding resilience of socio-economic systems following a disaster require a comprehensive analysis of remote sensing data and of drivers behind a time series of observed spatial patterns. Remote sensing offers frequent synoptic and objective views at just about any spatial and temporal resolution needed. With the help of tools such as spatial metrics physical changes over time can be described and characterised, while physical proxies can effectively expose social and economic characteristics.

With recovery being a result of choices and constraints, the research will make use of socio-economic modelling approaches to explain the observed recovery, and to develop forecast scenarios on likely recovery pathways across a disaster area.

Specifically, the PhD project will address the following:

  • Development of a comprehensive conceptual framework of socio-economic resilience in the context of a post-disaster recovery;
  • Creation of remote sensing image analysis methods and tools, as well as spatial resilience metrics, suitable to detect and describe the relevant properties of physical and functional socio-economic recovery in both urban and rural areas;
  • Understand socio-economic drivers behind the recovery patterns using the state-of-the-art spatial economic modelling and agent-based modelling techniques;
  • Development of scenarios for future recovery stages that increase resilience of societies;
  • Carrying out fieldwork in the Philippines, which may also include engaging with different stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, government, insurance and construction

The study will focus on the recovery situation following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November 2013 that resulted in approximately 6000 fatalities, wide-spread physical destruction in both urban areas (centred on Tacloban, Leyte) and rural parts of the island, and extensive disruption of all relevant socio-economic processes and ecosystem services. Some lessons were learnt from this event, as shown by limited damage and fatality rates during comparable typhoon Ruby in December 2014 that crossed the same area. Nevertheless, recovery has been slow and, given progress to date, will take many years.


You should have:

  • An MSc degree in geo informatics or equivalent (obtained no more than 5 years ago)
  • strong expertise in remote sensing and spatial data analysis,
  • interest / experience in socio-economic analysis;
  • ability to program is an advantage;
  • prior knowledge on disaster risk management is an asset;
  • fluent written and spoken English;
  • independent research and publication skills.

Information and application

The PhD project will be based within the Earth Systems Analysis department at ITC Faculty and will primarily be supervised by Dr. Norman Kerle. It will be co-supervised by Dr. Tatiana Filatova (CSTM Department, BMS Faculty) who specializes in economic modelling (spatial economics and agent-based modelling) and resilience with respect to natural disasters.

For more information you can contact dr. Norman Kerle (e-mail: or dr. Tatiana Filatova (e-mail:

For general information about the department you can contact the Chairman (Prof. Victor Jetten, e-mail:

A detailed proposal can be found on this page.

Please submit your application through the form before 1 January 2016 (choose “apply here” below).

See also our other 3 vacancies for PhD Candidate (Promovendus) at the Department of ESA.


We offer you an inspiring and challenging international and academic environment. You will employed for a period of 4 years. Salary and conditions will be in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) of the Dutch Universities. Gross monthly salary ranges from € 2,125.- in the first year to € 2,717.- in the last year, exclusive of allowances, in accordance with the job profile Promovendus, under the University System for Job Classification (UJC). Costs for moving to Enschede may be reimbursed.


The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which drives change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university in the Netherlands; divided over six faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. The University ofTwente has a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out pioneering research.

The Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente provides international postgraduate education, research and project services in the field of geo-information science and earth observation using remote sensing and GIS. The aim of ITC’s activities is the international exchange of knowledge, focusing on capacity building and institutional development in developing countries and emerging economies.

For more information please visit:!/vacature/563659

Apply now