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Field Methods for Environmental Sustainability


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Global Challenges: Sustainability

  • Successful completion of at least one 100-level course that is part of the Earth, Energy & Sustainability Major


The 2021 version of Field Methods will utilize our local natural and urban environments in The Hague area as our course field setting. You’ll become intimately 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. For some modules field data collection will be complemented with training in basic laboratory procedures in LUC’s science lab.
Ideally the course will include a multi-day camping trip to Eifel Mountains National Park in Germany (~3 hrs away) for training in the methods of “environmental flows” for sustainable river management (subject to Covid protocols).

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 planning. Such techniques are also commonly employed within international development, agricultural sciences, natural resource management, and 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 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 for river management by collecting hydrologic field data using surveying equipment to measure stream gradient, river bed geometry, flow velocity, and sediment transport as applied to stream dynamics and aquatic habitat (note: dependent on possibility of Eifel camping field trip).

Depending on prior knowledge or interest in working with GIS, students may;

  • 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 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course utilizes a hybrid teaching model in compliance with Leiden University protocols. This includes the instructor meeting with small groups in classes and outdoors, as well as some online content distribution. Teaching activities range from lecturing to leading practical exercises for field data recording, data evaluation, and report writing. Students will complete individual tasks and assignments within a broader framework of collaboration and cooperation in small teams in the field.

Assessment Method

  • Participation, 15%

  • Field lab write-ups (50%, 4 @ 12.5% each) related to discreet field techniques, including data collection, evaluation, and presentation

  • Final report (35%) developed from independently collected field data compiled into a collective report (multiple small working groups)

Reading list

A list of readings will be made available through various channels in due time. Readings refer to book chapters, journal articles, technical documents, and detailed assignment 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,


Paul F. Hudson, PhD:


The environmental flows field trip (pending) in 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, and may incur some minor cost for transportation to/from Germany (specific details provided in advance).