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Earth System Science




Admissions requirements

This course is appropriate for anyone considering a major in Earth, Energy & Sustainability (EES) and/or a basic interest Earth science dimensions of human-environment interactions.


Understanding the processes involved in creating, maintaining and degrading Earth’s physical environment is fundamental to a comprehensive knowledge of sustainable Earth's resource uses. The primary goal of this course is to understand Earth’s geologic and surface processes with respect to landscape formation, functioning, land degradation, and human impacts to the environment. The course features an integrative systems approach while introducing fundamental concepts from Earth science disciplines (physical geography, geology, geomorphology, hydrology). A guiding principle is to investigate why (drivers), how (processes of mass and energy transfers), when and where (spatio-temporal interdependencies) materials, landforms, and natural resources are created, degraded, and changed by the action of tectonics, gravity, water, winds, and waves, etc. from high-mountain settings to the coastal zone. Introduced concepts are reviewed in the context of a range of potential topics, such as plate tectonics, volcanism, rocks and minerals, soils, climate, mass wasting, karst, water resources, river systems, coastal processes, and associated natural hazards.

Course content is selected to provide a foundation for advanced courses in the EES major to understanding concepts for sustainably managing environmental resources entwined in the Earth's grand geological and geomorphological cycling.
The course includes compulsory field trips to the environs of The Hague to learn how concepts reviewed in class apply to what is commonly perceived as "the abiotic environment". Field activities include the training of observational and sampling skills. Basic laboratory analysis of soil and/or sediment samples will introduce students to testing methods and reporting on self-produced environmental information.
Important note: Because of the lack of public transport in the target areas, bicycles will be used to access field sites.
Field trips may occur during a weekday, weekend, or public holiday.

Course objectives

Students will gain foundational knowledge and demonstrate competences in explaining physical processes that drive environmental change applied to Earth sciences. At the end of the course the student can;

  • Describe and explain major processes driving environmental change in selected physical settings;

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

  • Identify fundamental ways in which humans impact the Earth;

  • Appreciate how Earth sciences are important to environmental management and sustainability.


  • Basic technical skills required to analyze an environmental issue, such as coring, field sampling, making informed field observations and field notes;

  • Employ a standard scientific format to report writing;

  • Basic laboratory techniques to prepare and conduct analyses on environmental samples;

  • Field and laboratory data evaluation and representation (statistical analyses, plotting, interpretation), understanding the representation of spatial data (topographic map reading, cross-sectional diagrams).


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course format is marked by a combination of preparatory readings, labs, dynamic lecture style with questions and discussion, as well as field and laboratory activities which engage the instructor and students. Class discussion requires that students have read prior to coming to class so that they can constructively participate in structured and ad-hoc discussion.


Students will work individually, in pairs, and/or in groups.

*In-class participation (10%)
*Landscape analysis lab (35%)
*Laboratory practical (15%)
*Two Quizzes (2x12.5%)
*Final exam (15%)


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

Course textbook:
Skinner, B.J., Murck, B., 2011. The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth System Science. 3rd ed., Wiley.

A used version of the textbook can be purchased at a reduced cost (45EUR) from the LUC Information Desk. Please contact the LUC Information Desk ( Otherwise the textbook can be purchased from an online vender.

Further online readings or course materials may be distributed via LUC Blackboard or in class.


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


Dr. Peter Houben:
Dr. Paul Hudson:


Students will be notified of the textbook lending procedure before class starts. The reading required to arrive prepared to the first class will be announced via Blackboard in the week before the course starts.
The dates of field trip will be communicated prior to the start of class.