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Field Methods for Environmental Sustainability: Land and Water Resource Management


Admission requirements

Required course(s):


Recommended course(s):



Field Methods will utilize our local natural and urban environments in The Hague area as our course field setting, in addition to going further afield to southern Netherlands and Germany. You’ll become intricately 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.

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 use planning. Additionally, a key field method emphasized is geospatial data collection, including topographic surveying (leveling). Such procedures will be utilized across several lab modules, and are also reinforce spatial data concepts essential to the practice of GIS.

The course will include a multi-day camping trip to Limburg, NL and the Eifel Mountains National Park in Germany (~3 hrs away) for training in the methods of “environmental flows” for sustainable river management. The field site along the Geul River in Limburg is situated within the largest Natura-2000 corridor in the Netherlands, providing a management and policy framework that we will exploit as we conduct our environmental flows analysis.

The techniques are commonly employed within international development, agricultural sciences, natural resource management, and civil and environmental 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 surveying 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 related to endangered species habitat by collecting hydrologic field data using surveying equipment to measure stream gradient, channel bed geometry, flow velocity, and sediment transport as applied to stream dynamics and aquatic habitat,

  • Situate research design and field data sampling in the context of management and policy at local, national, and international scales of governance.

Depending on prior knowledge or interest in working with GIS, students may also (but are not required to);

  • 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 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course primarily meets in the field, with some supporting classroom teaching to review content and data analysis procedures, and some online content distribution for data and assignments. Some field activities are purely done in the field whilst others require installation of equipment and downloading field data from data loggers to be analyzed in spreadsheets. Students will conduct individual and paired tasks and assignments within a broader framework of collaboration and cooperation in small teams in the field.

Assessment Method

Participation, 10%

Field lab write-ups (90%, 5 @ 18% each) related to discreet field techniques, including data collection, evaluation, and presentation (pairs and small 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:


Local transportation requires a bike.

The environmental flows field trip in Limburg, NL and the Eiffel Mountains National Park Germany will involve camping. Students can check out a tent from LUC (no cost). Students will incur costs for food.