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Field Methods for Environmental Sustainability: Land and Water Resource Management


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

A 100-level course from the Earth, Energy & Sustainability Major. Students should have a passion for sustainability and a love for the field!


Field Methods will utilize our local natural and urban environments in The Hague area as our course field setting, in addition to going further afield to southern Netherlands and Germany. You’ll become intricately familiar with our forests, canals, polders, and dynamic coastal landscapes to explore a range of field techniques aimed towards understanding human environmental impacts and resource management for sustainability.

The course introduces students to techniques commonly used across a range of fields within environmental sciences, such as hydrology, ecology, geomorphology, soil science, and land use planning. Additionally, a key field method emphasized is geospatial data collection, including topographic surveying (leveling) and field-based GIS data. Such procedures will be utilized across several lab modules, and are also reinforce spatial data concepts essential to the practice of GIS.

The course will include a multi-day camping trip to Limburg, NL and the Eifel Mountains National Park in Germany (~3 hrs away) for training in the methods of “environmental flows” for sustainable river management. The field site along the Geul River in Limburg is situated within the largest Natura-2000 corridor in the Netherlands, providing a management and policy framework that we will exploit as we conduct our environmental flows analysis.

The techniques are commonly employed within international development, agricultural sciences, natural resource management, and civil and environmental engineering.

A goal of the course is to impart students with methods, subjects, and procedures that prepares them for independent research-oriented Capstone/BSc thesis projects.

Course Objectives


By completion of the LUC Field Methods course students can:

  • Utilize standard field data collection techniques (e.g., topographic surveying measurements, water quality sampling, surface and atmospheric hydrologic measurements, soil sampling, vegetation indices, field mapping, working with digital field data loggers) to address a range of sustainability topics within environmental sciences,

  • Analyze field data and scientifically contextualize the findings,

  • Relate independent field data collected during the course to larger digital environmental monitoring datasets available from government agencies,

  • Conduct an “environmental flows” analysis related to endangered species habitat by collecting hydrologic field data using surveying equipment to measure stream gradient, channel bed geometry, flow velocity, and sediment transport as applied to stream dynamics and aquatic habitat,

  • Situate research design and field data sampling in the context of management and policy at local, national, and international scales of governance.

Depending on prior knowledge or interest in working with GIS, students may also (but not required to):

  • Retrieve, validate, and calibrate remotely sensed imagery with systematic field observations and samples,

  • Generate and evaluate geospatial data from field data collection techniques.


By completion of the LUC Field Methods course students are able to:

  • Design and complete a field-based study in environmental sciences, including independent data collection, evaluation, interpretation and completion of a final report,

  • Evaluate the sensitivity of study results and interpretations to methodological issues of field data sampling strategy and data processing,

  • Identify the interconnectedness of environmental problems in relation to the broader subject of sustainability, climate change, land use management and planning,

  • Adopt practical problem-solving skills not accessible in typical classroom settings.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course primarily meets in the field, with some supporting classroom teaching to review content and data analysis procedures, and some online content distribution for data and assignments. Some field activities are purely done in the field whilst others require installation of equipment and downloading field data from data loggers to be analyzed in spreadsheets. Students will conduct individual and paired tasks and assignments within a broader framework of collaboration and cooperation in small teams in the field.

It is essential that students apply independent thinking as it relates to field work, and are able to problem solve to complete assignments. That is, adapt, be creative, and get the job done!

Assessment Method

  • Participation, 10% (includes attendance, engagement, student field notes)

  • Field lab reports (90%, 5 @ 18% each) related to discreet field techniques, including data collection, evaluation, and presentation and write-up (small groups)

NOTE: field notes will be checked per each student and are expected to be up to date.

NOTE: Field lab reports: The five labs in autumn 2022 include:

  1. Field mapping and geospatial data collection,
  2. Beach/coastal zone management,
  3. Soils and environmental change,
  4. Environmental flows (camping field trip), and
  5. Water quality in the Hague canal system.

Please note that each pair/group of students must submit a brief report for each lab, including field book notes, interpretation, plots, etc. In addition to developing proficiency in writing up the field procedures for each lab you are required to consider management implications and/or policy recommendations.

Reading list

A list of readings will be made available. Readings refer to book chapters, journal articles, technical documents, and/or online materials, and detailed lab instructions.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Paul F. Hudson;

Regular office hours (office or online): Thursday 3:15 to 4:15, and also by appointment.


Remarks and comments (take note!):

An important reality of this course – especially in autumn 2022 - is flexibility; by the instructor and students.

Because of our limited time to meet in the field it is very important that students are on time to field lab locations, and have reviewed preparatory materials and field lab instructions.

Local transportation to complete field assignments requires a bike, walking, and trams, possibly lugging bulky and/or heavy equipment and field samples. If you do not have a bike, please prepare to borrow.

Cooperation, coordination, and collaboration: It is important that communication is timely so that shared information, such as field data, is efficiently distributed to team members so that data sets can be pooled for analysis. Students will be expected to utilize shared network drives and/or other media, such as WhatsApp. To complete field assignments will require working outside of class, which is part of the reason we do not meet every class period. To effectively obtain the necessary field data will require students to plan and coordinate with their partner, and smaller groups. Some of this is due to the importance in collecting field data during weather-dependent conditions, such as aeolian sand transport sampling during large wind bursts (windy days), consulting tide tables before conducting low-tide survey profiles, and the importance of obtaining measurements of maximum precipitation during the peak of a rainfall event. Stay nimble and positive, but be persistent!

Hope for sunny days, but be prepared for cold, windy, and wet conditions, and you’ll likely get muddy. Dress appropriately.

Required materials:

  • field book. ‘Rite in the Rain’ field book is ideal, or generic equivalent. The “universal” 64 pg. spiral bound format is ideal (model no. 373) and only the medium size (~12 cm x ~19 cm) with center binding (not the flip top). Be sure it is bright yellow or orange, and absolutely not tan or green.

  • smart phone with a compass, clinometer and GPS. Set GPS coordinates in iPhone to UTM format (you may need to download a free app for UTM readout). The clinometer is referred to a “level” on iPhone, which is under the “measure” tool app. These apps are free to download, also for Samsung model smart phones.

  • pocket protractor (with angles), small ruler (for sale in LUC vending machine for 1€).

  • pencil (mechanical is ideal, but not required) or ink pen, but not a water soluble marker.

The environmental flows field trip in Limburg, NL and the Eiffel Mountains National Park, Germany, will involve camping. Students can check out a tent from LUC (no cost). Students will incur cost for food, some minor cost for transportation to/from field sites (specific details provided in advance).