Vulnerability to rural and agrarian change in Spain - PhD opportunity

Vulnerability to rural and agrarian change in Spain - PhD opportunity

By Esteve Corbera
on 2019-07-24
  • Research
  • Project
  • Environmental governance
  • Climate change
  • Vulnerability
  • Adaptation
  • Rural and urban land-use

Vulnerability to climate and agrarian change in rural Spain. PhD position at ICTA-UAB, 2020-2023.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) is offering a PhD scholarship to candidates who would like to pursue their Ph.D. studies at the Institute within the Strategic Research Programme ICTA-UAB, Units of Excellence ‘María de Maeztu’ Programme (MDM-2015-0552)

The position is related to the PhD call “Ayudas para contratos predoctorales para la formación de doctores 2019” of the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MICIU). Deadline for pre-applications  at  ICTA-UAB is 1st September 2019 (details below).

The successful candidate will be hosted at ICTA-UAB (Campus Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain) and will develop her/his PhD training in the project ‘‘Vulnerability to climate and agrarian change in rural Spain”, supervised by Prof. Sergio Villamayor and Prof. Esteve Corbera.

About the project

Rural areas in Spain are experiencing unprecedented environmental and social changes. Climate change and biodiversity loss are occurring alongside socio-demographic and economic changes, including depopulation and both the abandonment and intensification of rural landscapes. Understanding the interaction of environmental and social change, and how such interaction impinges upon rural vulnerability is paramount to devise policies that can enhance the wellbeing of rural populations whilst promoting sustainable land uses.

The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of rural vulnerability patterns in Spain, and to empower rural populations by allowing them to identify their sources of vulnerability and to discuss risk vulnerability solutions. Specifically, the project will ask: How do climate change, depopulation and other socio-environmental stressors affect the vulnerability of Spain’s rural regions? Which regions are experiencing the highest and lowest levels of rural vulnerability and how have these levels evolved over time? And which regional-specific and national activities and policies to reduce measured and experienced levels of vulnerability are desirable and feasible?

About the PhD supervisors

Dr. Sergio Villamayor-Tomas is a Ramon y Cajal fellow at ICTA. Previously, he held a Marie Curie fellowship and worked as assistant professor at Humbold University Berlin. Sergio is a political scientist interested in the study of natural resource management and climate change adaptation from an institutional perspective. He is co-editor-in-chief of the International Journal of the Commons.

Esteve Corbera is a Research Professor at ICTA, where he co-directs the Laboratory for the Analysis of Social Ecological Systems ( Esteve is an international development specialist interested on the study of biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation programs, specifically their effects on local environments, institutions, livelihoods and human behaviour. Esteve has been a lead author of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (2014) and he now serves as an editor of the journal Geoforum.

About ICTA-UAB María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence

ICTA-UAB is implementing a Strategic Research Programme intended to consolidate its scientific capabilities, contribute to the leadership of Spanish research and act as an international pole of attraction for talent. The plan addresses major global environmental and sustainability challenges related to anthropogenic climate change, focusing on establishing the current state of knowledge on climate change and its socio-economic impacts, and on putting forward transformative solutions at the local and regional levels.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants should meet the requirements for the Spanish government’s PhD call “Ayudas para contratos predoctorales para la formación de doctores 2019” by the MICIU. As the call has not been published yet (expected September-October 2019), you may read the 2018 call to get detailed information about it.

At the time of submission, the candidate:

  • Should have not received funding from the Spanish Programme for Research with the aim to pursue his/her PhD studies.
  • Should hold a degree which would formally entitle him/her to embark on a doctorate for the academic course 2018-2019 (MSc Degree). It is preferable to have a master’s degree in political ecology, ecological economics, environmental studies, rural development or development studies.
  • Should have not been granted any other PhD scholarship with a duration of 12 months or more, and she/he should not have a PhD degree.
  • Should be in the position to be legally accepted in the UAB’s Environmental Science and Technology PhD Programme:
  • Advanced Spanish and English speaking and writing levels required, with additional languages being an asset.
  • Basic statistical analysis skills also required, and experience working in rural environments desirable.


The selected candidate would register in the Environmental Sciences and Technology PhD Programme of the UAB and she/he should be ready to start the fellowship in 2020, ideally as soon as she/he receives the Spanish government’s grant (probably in the spring of 2020). She/he will be responsible for collecting data for the project and develop her/his PhD independently, with the support of the project’s supervisors and the Laseg’s research group.

She/he will also be expected to participate in the activities organized in the framework of María de Maeztu Research Programme and will have to present intermediate and final research results at ICTA-UAB seminars/workshops and at international conferences.

Hiring conditions

Hiring conditions are set by the Spanich MICIU, and they will be detailed in the Call for “Contratos predoctorales 2019”. Here are the main features for the previous call (note that quantities may slightly change):

  • 4-year PhD fellowship with an annual evaluation. The gross salary will be approximately 16.422€ (excluding social security). In the case the PhD is completed and defended in 3 years, the fellowship will be renewed and converted into a postdoctoral fellowship (gross salary 19.000€, excluding social security).
  • The programme also includes a travel package to undertake research visits to other research centres during the duration of the fellowship.

Application procedure

Interested candidates should send the application to the ICTA María de Maeztu Management Unit ( by 1st September 2019, 5 pm CEST, to receive full consideration. The application should include:

  • A letter of interest (maximum 1000 characters).
  • An updated Curriculum Vitae, including relevant jobs, activities, trainings, publications, etc. (if any).
  • A statement declaring that the applicant has not benefited from a grant previous to August 2019 to pursue her/his PhD studies of a duration of more than 12 months.
  • Proof of her/his MSc Degree.
  • The names, email addresses and telephone numbers of two confidential referees whom we might contact.

Please send your application to as an attachment (in one single pdf-file) with “PhD Resource Management” as subject. There will be a pre-selection of candidates, including an interview phase in early September. The three most suitable candidates will be invited to apply to the Spanish government fellowship call, which as noted above will open in September-October. The best among the three pre-selected candidates will be chosen by the MICIU and the project supervisors, and they will be informed about their application’s outcome by the end of 2019.

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