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Field Methods for Environmental Sustainability: Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None required, but completion of Quantitative Research Methods and Environmental Science is recommended.


Ultimately, all human activities are embedded in, and constrained by, natural systems. To ensure sustained human well-being, we need a sound understanding of these systems, especially within the context of rapid environmental change. This, in turn requires the collection, analysis, interpretation and communication of field data.

This course will introduce students to a range of field methods to assess the health of forested, urban, aquatic and coastal ecosystems. The focus will be on the biotic parts of ecosystems: the organisms living in these systems. However, cross-links will be made to the abiotic environment (for example by measuring water quality), as well as social dimensions of ecosystem management.

Specifically, the course will revolve around three interrelated themes:

Biological diversity is fundamental for ecosystem function, the provision of essential services and human well-being. For this reason, we will start by collecting, analyzing and interpreting data related to different concepts and components of biodiversity.

Environmental health and monitoring
Building on the first theme, you will apply one or more of the field techniques to evaluate the condition of biotic biodiversity of aquatic or urban ecosystems.

Environmental management and conservation
The integration of natural and social sciences research is indispensable for sound natural resource management and urban planning. In this component we will incorporate semi-structured interviews to discuss and explore topics related to environmental change.

Work will be done around The Hague and we will organize a 4-day field trip to the Dutch Wadden Islands at the end of the course. The Islands represent an ideal case study of the coexistence between a diverse and dynamic natural environment and its human population. Located within in the Wadden Sea UNESCO World Heritage Site, the islands are directly affected by rapid environmental change, which requires the ongoing adaptation of its inhabitants and natural systems and poses unique challenges for their environmental, economic and social sustainability.

The field site offers a rich array of possible study topics and research questions, ranging from biology to ecosystem services, conservation strategies and natural resource management.

Course Objectives

After completion of this course students are able to:

  • Apply different common field techniques and understand how these techniques can be used to answer research questions about current environmental issues.

  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses associated with those field techniques

  • Set-up a small field study, collect data, analyse, interpret and communicate the results by sceintifc report writing and other means.

Examples for field techniques may include transect sampling, invertebrate sampling, camera traps, among others. Data analysis techniques include diversity indices, descriptive and inferential statistical methods, among others.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will be co-taught by two faculty members. Instruction methods will have a strong focus on field data collection and quantitative data analysis. This course will complement the existing field course “Field Methods in Water Resource Management", as it mainly lines up with the Ecosystem Health core track within EES and offers different study systems.

During the first seven-eight weeks of the course field methods will be discussed and practiced in the vicinity of The Hague. Directly following the exam week of block 4, from Sunday June 11 to Wednesday June 14, there will have a 4-day field trip to the Wadden Islands, which will combine field site visits, classes on the local context and field projects.

Assessment Method

  • Field exercises - written report: 40%

  • Independent project – presentation: 30%

  • Project proposal – presentation: 15%

  • Course participation: 15%

Reading list

Will be made available prior to the start of the class.


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,


Dr. Achim Häger,
Dr. Thijs Bosker,


Please, note that the field trip to the Wadden Island Schiermonnikoog will take place in the week after the exam week of block 4, from June 11 to June 14. Participation is mandatory (and fun!).

The field trip will involve costs for travel and accommodation. We will try to keep expenses to a minimum and expect that costs for students will not exceed a maximum of €200, and is likely €160 (depending on final student numbers), including the accommodation, bike rental, food, and ferry to the island.