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Soils, Sediment and Society




Admissions requirements

Required: Global Challenges: Sustainability; Earth System Science;
ArcGIS or QGIS skills may be helpful but not necessarily required.


Soil is a distinct and naturally genuine body of the living Earth whose functions are fundamental to Earth's grand cycles (C, N, P, S, Ca, water) and thus all terrestrial life, nutrient provisioning, water cycling, and climate. Nonetheless, soil is also the most overlooked of the three lifegiving resources fresh air, water, and: soil.
Understanding the generic functional and spatial diversity of soils, therefore, is the fundament to develop concepts of adequate and sustained use of healthy soils.

Soil forms due to a complex interplay of a range of abiotic and biotic environmental processes inasmuch as ongoing soil processes govern abiotic landscape processes (e.g., erosion, water cycling) and biotic ecosystem processes. The field of soil sciences, hence, is marked by drawing on information from many interdisciplinary fields like geology, geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology.

To appreciate the inherent complexity and fascination of soil this course spans from teaching basics to almost independent applications of the acquired knowledge in the field. This includes to conduct an independent evaluation of soil morphology and C storage functions in the context of agricultural land use legacies.

Course objectives

This course teaches students in basic methods employed to retrieve, process and evaluate spatial-distributed field data in order to describe and understand environmental processes of soil formation and soil-changing processes triggered by human use of the soil resource. Skills include:

  • Basic skills in field description and identification of soils

  • Conduct proper soil sampling and perform basic laboratory analyses

  • Graphically represent spatially coded, soil-related environmental information based on their own field sampling.

By the completion of course assignments students will be trained in skills, procedures, methods, and subjects that are eligible for Capstone research projects.

By the end of the course students:

  • Can tell how soils form by detailing important controls and processes and their influence on soil behaviour

  • Can sample, analyse, and classify soil following scientific standards

  • Can map and report on soil information

  • Can explain historic and current issues of land use, climate change, and impacts on the soil resource

  • Appreciate soil functions and the importance of soil conservation.


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

Mode of instruction

The course blends in-class teaching and field teaching. The emphasis is put on the latter with researching soils and their properties by comparing different soils to one another.

Thus, this course includes a number of mandatory off-campus activities such as

  • Up to two short (half-day) off-campus field trips (surroundings of The Hague)

  • A day trip to the World Soil Museum, Wageningen: probably on a Wednesday in week 2 or 3

  • A multiple-days field stay in the Eifel Mts.

During the field stay in the Eifel Mts., students will conduct self-dependent soil profile description, sampling, and mapping exercises as a team of 3 or 4 students. For this, basic field skills will be trained during antecedent short trips to the coast and the Haagse Bos of The Hague. We will also use select readings and discussion of textbook chapters to further the understanding of fundamentals of soil formation and soilscape change.


  • Participation; 15%

  • Systematic literature search and annotated bibliography; 30%

  • In-class presentation (includes providing a handout); 20%

  • Soil resource report; 35%


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

The required textbook for the course is:

Ashman, M.R., Puri, G., 2002. Essential Soil Science. Blackwell (ca. 42-45 €)


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


The course program most likely includes a longer field stay. The location is, if it can be organised, a rural town in the Rhenish Slate Mountains (Eifel Mts., Germany). Signing up with this course, therefore, means:

  • To participate in the mandatory field stay because its contents and own field data sampling are essential to understanding basic concepts of soil sciences (parent materials, formation, classification, geography) and completing assignments

  • That students in part have to cover costs of transportation, accommodation and food out of their own pocket.

  • To organize travel to and back from the field site themselves.

  • The field stay in the Eifel Mts. is scheduled to last from April 23 through April 27 2020.

Group accommodation: a local Youth Hostel. LUC may financially support the field stay by (at least) partially taking over costs for accommodation. Costs for travel are on students and depend on their choice of transportation. However, detailed information on costs can only be provided once the number of participants is known.
Furthermore, we will go on a one-day field trip to Wageningen, for which students have to take on the costs for transportation.

To compensate for the extra time spent on in the field, some class meetings scheduled for the regular timeslots will be cancelled (tbd). Nevertheless, students are advised use the official timeslots to see me to receive advice on the their assignments.

Again, this all is preliminary information and may be subject to change. Only sign up for the course if you can agree on these conditions.