Photo: MagneSandnes/CMI
30 Mar 2021

PhD in Geography

Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) and the Department of Geography at the University of Bergen (UiB) are seeking a PhD candidate to conduct research related to the project “Prioritizing the Displacement-Environment Nexus: Refugee and IDP Settlements as Social- Ecological Systems”. The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway.

The successful candidate will be based out of CMI and apply to be enrolled in the PhD program at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Bergen, and shall be affiliated with the Department of Geography at UiB. The candidate will also be part of the Climate Change and Natural Resources research group at CMI. 

Start date is set to the 1st of August 2021. 

The project aims to understand the relationship between displaced people and the environment

This project pilots a novel approach, it conceptualises settlement areas as social-ecological systems.

  • Using this framework, it assesses the interlinkages between livelihoods, landscape change and environmental health.

Furthermore, the project responds to an important gap in the fields of humanitarian and refugee studies. While environment is often identified as a driver of involuntary displacement, there is little existing research considering how refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) interact with the environment in newly settled areas. Also, existing research falls largely within the social sciences, with little integration of natural science approaches. This gap is filled by coupling remote sensing-based assessments of landscape change with historical, ethnographic and participatory approaches. 

Research in Afghanistan and India: 

  • Research will be sited in long-term IDP settlements in Kabul, Afghanistan, and 60- year-old Tibetan refugee settlements in Karnataka, India.

The analysis will identify patterns in livelihoods, landscape change, and health over these multi-decade time-frames, building an interdisciplinary historical analysis.

To interpret these data, the project relies on the Theory of Adaptive Change which, informed by community concerns, will underpin scenario-building and assessment of future socio-ecological trajectories. 

 The key questions the project seeks to answer are:

  • How do long-term social-ecological processes associated with refugee settlements influence both Land Use Change and refugee/IDP wellbeing?
  • Over the lifetime of the settlements under study, what are the long-term land cover and land-use changes (LCLUC) associated with refugee settlements?
  • What major events (shocks) have occurred during the time-periods under study, and how have they influenced trajectories of LCLUC and refugee/IDP wellbeing?
  • How have institutions (e.g. government, markets, or civil society) acted to influence the relationships linking refugees and IDPs to surrounding landscapes, and with what effect?

Your role as a PhD candidate:

  • The PhD candidate will conduct inter-disciplinary and multi-methods research using a combination of qualitative, quantitative (survey) and spatial (GIS/remote sensing) methods. A social-ecological systems approach (broadly) is expected to be used to understand the relationship between displacement and ecological/landscape change. 
  • The fellowship is four years, including one year of work for CMI. This entails 25% work for CMI and 75% on the project each year. 
  • The PhD candidate must reside in Bergen during the fellowship, with periods of fieldwork in India.
  • Additionally, the candidate will closely collaborate with research partners at Northern Arizona University, and have the opportunity to work remotely with the research team in Afghanistan.

Qualifications and Personal skills

Given the highly inter-disciplinary nature of the project and competence of the team, we seek

  • A recognized master’s degree in a discipline (or specialization in) relevant to the project including, but not limited to, geography, environmental sciences, social ecology, conservation social sciences, environmental anthropology, forestry, development studies. We welcome candidates working on the interface of natural and social sciences or having the willingness to do so.
  • Experience of working with mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative).
  • Prior experience with spatial analysis (e.g. GIS and/or remote sensing).
  • Willingness to develop advanced skills in spatial dimensions of social-ecological systems is highly desirable.
  • Excellent writing and communication skills. Prior publication experience is desirable.
  • Previous work experience is desirable.
  • Ability to work both independently and in teams.
  • Ability to work in multi-national and multi-disciplinary teams. 
  • Commitment to CMI's values and mission. 
  • Proficiency in English (working language at CMI). Knowledge of other languages (e.g., Kannada/ Hindi/ Tibetan) is an advantage.

CMI can offer you: 

  • The opportunity to be part of a leading, multidisciplinary, development research institute in Scandinavia, while also being part of the academic environment at UiB.
  • A stimulating, multi-national work environment.
  • Salary according to CMI’s pay scale (starting at NOK 490 600,-). 
  • Excellent pension-, insurance- and welfare schemes.
  • A positive work-life balance, and great outdoor opportunities in Bergen. 

How to apply: 

Please submit the following:

  • A short (2-3 pages) letter of motivation, including a research statement underscoring your motivations for applying for this position and how your proposed project fits within the broader scope of this project. This includes an outline of a tentative proposal for a research project. The letter should also describe aspects of your educational background, expertise and experience that would be of value for the project.
  • CV including list of publications.
  • Names and contact details of two referees.
  • Copies of grade/degree certificates/transcripts.
  • An electronic copy of your MA thesis.
  • Please address your motivation for working at CMI. 

We only accept applications via

Deadline for application is 30th April 2021.

We would appreciate if you mentioned how you came across this call.

Candidates can get in touch with Anwesha Dutta ( with questions regarding the position or the research project.


Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) is an independent development research institute based in Bergen, Norway, with around 85 staff members. 

In cooperation with partners from all over the world, we address key development challenges in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.

We combine high quality research with an engagement to make knowledge accessible and used. The main disciplines are economics, political science, and social anthropology.