Gilles Erkens


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Dr. Gilles Erkens is a quaternary geologist working as a researcher on delta and river systems. He is a specialist on Holocene delta and river system development, peat classification and subsidence. His 15 years’ experience is derived from research both in The Netherlands and abroad. He has worked as a field-geologist on the impact of humans on lowlands, ranging from prehistoric deforestations to subsidence resulting from groundwater extraction. His work has a strong scientific basis and he works mainly on projects that bridge the gap between basic and applied research. The uptake of research results in policy or decision making is of particular importance to him.

At Deltares Research Institute, he specializes further on the subject of subsidence, foremost on the contribution of oxidation and compaction of peat on land level lowering. On the latter topic, he wrote, among other things, a new classification scheme for peat and organic clays and improved the national subsidence maps of The Netherlands. Dr. Erkens is now the chair of the subsidence team at Deltares Research Institute. In this team he is continuing his work on measuring, modeling and understanding different components of land subsidence. Specific attention has gone into improving the subsidence algorithms and measuring soil mechanical properties in the lab. Addressing finance and governance related issues associated with subsidence are one of the main goals of the team. The ultimate ambition of the team is to be able to provide policy makers and decision-makers with the evidence-based information they need to make (difficult) decisions regarding subsidence.

Outreach is particularly important for Dr. Erkens, as he enjoys telling the subsidence story to non-experts. He has contributed to over 250 news items, ranging from TV and radio interviews, to contributions to web-content. These include contributions to news organizations such as the BBC, The Economist, National Geographic, TRT, The Guardian, Lloyd’s, The Huffington Post, The Strait Times, and Der Spiegel.

Working experience

2014 - present Deltares Senior geologist and subsidence expert
2014- present Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University part-time assistant professor (adjunct) subsidence and delta systems
2011 - 2014 Deltares Geologist and subsidence researcher
2010 - 2014 Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University Guest researcher Delta stratigraphy and subsidence Netherlands
2010 - 2011 TNO - Geological Survey of the Netherlands Deltares Researcher peat dynamics and classifications Netherlands
2008 - 2010 Utrecht University and Deltares Post-doctoral researcher long-term carbon dynamics and subsidence Netherlands
2003 - 2007 Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University PhD-candidate Holocene sediment dynamics in the Rhine catchment Netherlands
2002 - 2002 Department of Quaternary Geology & Geomorphology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Research assistant
2002 - 2002 Amsterdam municipal company for water supply Field assistant Netherlands