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Earth System Science




Admissions requirements



Understanding the processes involved in creating, maintaining and degrading Earth’s physical environment is fundamental to a comprehensive knowledge of sustainability. The primary goal of this course is to examine the major Earth cycles including those that drive Earth’s surface processes modifying physical landscapes. The course follows a guiding principle to investigate why (drivers), how (processes), when and where (spatio-temporal interdependencies) Earth materials, landforms, and thus resources are created, degraded, and changed by the action of water, gravity, winds, and waves, etc. The topics addressed involve tectonics, rocks, soils, climate, river systems and coastal processes. The course features systems approaches organized within a source-to-sink framework. Fundamental knowledge and concepts from established Earth science disciplines (geology, geomorphology, climatology, hydrology) are integrated, thus providing a foundation for advanced courses in EES.

Because humanity impacts Earth's physical systems across all spatial scales, a secondary course goal is to examine how humans modify Earth’s surface processes along the conceptualized mountain-to-sea-transect. A systems-based understanding of human-environment interactions is key to decide on sustainable concepts for managing environmental change.

The course includes two or more compulsory half-day field trips to the environs of The Hague to observe and experience a variety of features and concepts reviewed in class. Because of the lack of public transport in the target areas, bicycles will be used to access the field sites. Students, therefore, are required to have basic cycling skills to go on bike up to 30 km in total.

Course objectives

Students will gain foundational knowledge and demonstrate competences in explaining physical processes which drive environmental change with respect to basic concepts applied in Earth sciences. At the end of the course the student should be able to or can;

  • Describe and explain the major processes driving changes to our physical environment;

  • Characterize the Earth as a complex system, that includes interactions and feedbacks between different physical phenomena;

  • Identify and characterize fundamental ways in which humans impact the Earth;

  • Apply basic technical skills required to analyze an environmental issue;

  • Identify and characterize ways in which Earth sciences is important to environmental management and sustainability.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course format is dynamic lecture style, with questions and discussion which engage the instructor and students. The educational approach of the course is to introduce and review fundamental processes and then link these to broader environmental problems and sustainable management. Class discussion requires that students have read prior to coming to class so that they can constructively participate in structured and ad-hoc discussion. Learning activities include practical exercises in retrieving and analyzing environmental data.

The field trip combines in-class course content and hands-on field learning activities.


  • In-class participation (15%)

  • Four earth-system science labs worth 10% each (e.g., map reading and evaluation, rock determination, earthquakes (magnitude & frequency and probability analysis), Gaia Hypothesis lab)

  • One earth-system science lab worth 5% (e.g., geological cross-section, groundwater aquifers lab, or laboratory test report

  • Field trip report (16%; FT and lab results synthesis)

  • Final exam (24%)


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Pidwirny, M., Jones, S., 2010. Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd ed. (free online text book, selected sections).

Further online readings will be distributed via LUC Blackboard (technical materials and resources not available in text), including a variety of outlets (newspaper, magazine, Internet, etc…) that pertain to Earth Science in the mainstream media and popular culture.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact



Students will be notified of the reading required to arrive prepared to the first class via Blackboard in the week before the course starts (if applicable).