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Area Study Sustainability Portugal


Admission requirements

This course is part of the Minor Sustainable Development. To take part in the course Area Study Sustainability, students must have followed the previous courses Big Issues New Answers and Sustainability in Practice.


The Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) of Leiden University has developed a new collaboration with the CERES International Project, an organisation located in Portugal specialising in training interdisciplinary groups of students in the field of sustainability and conservation. This new collaboration will host the Area Studies course. Within this course, students will be made acquainted with local sustainability issues in relation to the conservation of its biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides.’

In teams students from Leiden University will work on projects to investigate human threats and opportunities for sustainable use and preservation of the natural environment. CERES is situated within the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, the largest stretch of the Portuguese coastline that is subject to special protection. The Natural Park is the least urbanised coastal area of Portugal and covers over 74,000 hectares of rolling hills, marshland, imposing cliffs, rocky coves and broad beaches. The park itself, classified in the Natura 2000 Network and IBA (Important Bird Area), offers opportunities for work experience and research in protected areas and sustainable land management.
Students will work in small interdisciplinary groups and develop their own research questions, sampling design and data analysis under supervision of staff from CERES and CML. Students will spend 14 days at the CERES location in Portugal to collect and analyse data as well as learn important field skills and communicate their findings to local stakeholders. They will return to the Netherlands to attend further training and classes to help them produce a consultancy report. Within each of the projects, the research will have a clear transdisciplinary component to exchange views on sustainable use of natural resources with local stakeholder. In addition, each project is expected to combine measurements on impacts on biodiversity and/or ecosystem services with social science research, e.g. through interviews. In combination, these activities will provide the students will an integral view on sustainable use of natural resources. The projects will be presented at CERES and upon return to the Netherlands, students finalise the data analyses and present their work through a written report.
To support the project work, lectures on local biodiversity, cultural and political backgrounds will be provided both by teachers and by peer-to-peer teaching. These activities are intermingled with excursions and social activities.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students

  • Understand the mechanisms through which human society affects biodiversity.

  • Understand how societal contexts affect our sustainable use of natural resources

  • Further their understanding on how the interaction between society and biodiversity can be investigated.

  • Learn how to develop and execute a research project to investigate biodiversity and sustainability issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.

  • Know how to quantitatively analyse data collected by field research
    Final qualifications:
    The student has an overview of the basic scientific concepts to understand the interactions between society, sustainability and biodiversity and to formulate their founded opinion on these matters.


From ca. 8 January - 2 February 2024. Exact timing of the course, and programme details will be announced via Brightspace. Dates might change.

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login).

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and excursions introducing the concepts including the societal setting

  • Project research (research proposal, field research, data analysis and report)

Assessment method

The grade for the course is based on a number of components:

  • Research proposal and execution of their research

  • Oral presentation(s) on the research done including an outreach event in Portugal as well as a final presentation back on campus

  • Written report and data file

Detailed instructions on each of these components will be provided on Brightspace
Brightspace will be used for communication.

Reading List

The reading list is made available on Brightspace.


There are a maximum of 15 available places. Scholarships to cover the corsts of the excursion are only available for students of Leiden University. Students are advised to join the information session about this course in October during the programme of the Minor Sustainable Development. Here, you will be informed of the registration procedure, and the draft programme and practical matters of the course. In order to have an interdisciplinary group of motivated students participate in this course, a selection will be made of students who register for this course on the basis of their motivation letter and their major studies disciplines. The results of the selection will be announced mid-October.

For students of Leiden University registration is possible from May 8th until July 15.
From 2023 onwards, registration for minors will be done via eduXchange. In March 2023 you will find an instruction video on this page demonstrating how to use eduXchange.
Should you have any questions regarding the registration, please reach out to


Coordinator: Dr. E.F. Strange and P.M. van Bodegom


This course has some additional costs involved:

  • The contribution per student for the local transport costs, accommodation and food will be between 200 and 400 Euros (this amount is still under consideration and will be definitively announced at the information meeting).

  • In addition, students have to arrange and pay for their travel to Portugal, their visa (if required – non EU students) and insurances (universal health insurance with World coverage, Third part liability, travel insurance).

Please note student safety is our top priority and as such field courses may be subject to alteration/cancellation due to potential continuation of Covid19 travel restrictions.