Vacancy for a master thesis student on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Published on
June 3, 2014

The chair group Environmental Systems Analysis is looking for a Master thesis student to support the work of CREM and Royal HaskoningDHV by linking structured data with a Quick Scan of Companies interaction with Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.


Platform Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Economy (BEE) has asked CREM and Royal HaskoningDHV to develop a pragmatic, appealing Quick Scan (QS) that enables companies to meaningfully identify their main interaction with biodiversity and ecosystem services. The result aimed for with the QS is an overview of:

  • Significant potential impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES)
  • Significant dependencies on BES
  • Significant risks resulting from impacts and dependencies
  • Opportunities to counteract the main risks

Relevant methodological points of departure and choices

  1. The QS addresses not only a company's operations, but also key parts of the value chain of which a company is part.
  2. The QS will not cover all aspects of possible interactions a company and its value chain have with BES. The objective is not to be complete, but to motivate companies to pay (more) attention to key impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services delivery, and associated risks in their business processes and value chain.
  3. The QS focuses on potential rather than actual impacts, dependencies, risks and opportunities.
  4. The QS will not be able to address cumulative impacts of other stakeholders in a specific region, except for situations where cumulative impacts have already been translated in area-specific features, e.g. a water scarcity map reflects realities that may be related to water use by multiple stakeholders in an area.
  5. The use of questions with predefined answer categories will be used to allow for automatically generated results (for example, ticking the boxes of high-risk raw materials leads to follow-up questions and potentially to red flags).

What is needed?

A key element of the QS is the provision of data to give companies insights in their potential impacts and dependencies on BES, either for their own operations or those of their supply chain partners. CREM and Royal HaskoningDHV intend to incorporate databases in the QS that give information on locations of protected areas, sites known for water scarcity and areas of soil erosion. These databases are largely available but not structured, combined and available in an easily accessible and attractive way. Ideally, a company enters the location of a site (anywhere in the world) and is provided with applicable open source data on protected areas in the region, potential water scarcity issues and the soil status. A Wageningen University and Research student could support the development of the Quick Scan by:

  • Providing definitions for ‘protected areas’, ‘water scarcity areas’ and ‘degraded soils’ that are clear to and practical for non-expert businesses of any type;
  • Creating a combined database with open source international reference data and maps on protected areas, water scarcity and soil status – the database should enable a company to receive applicable reference data by entering the location of a site;
  • Processing ideas, supported by data/ maps, of other ecological business impacts that could be captured by the database described (for example, nitrogen deposition data/ maps related to industrial emissions) – choices to be made on business relevance and availability of data.

The output of the Master thesis should be usable in a stand-alone business tool that gives the user information on its impacts and dependencies on BES.