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Earth System Science




Admissions requirements



Understanding the processes involved in creating, maintaining and degrading Earth’s physical environment is fundamental to a comprehensive knowledge of sustainability. The primary goal of this course is to trace the 'geophysicochemical Earth cycles that drive Earth’s surface processes with respect to physical landscape formation, resource provision and degradation, and modern human impacts. The course features integrative systems approaches while introducing fundamental concepts from Earth science disciplines (geology, geomorphology, hydrology) including human-environment interactions. A guiding principle is to investigate why (drivers), how (processes), when and where (spatio-temporal interdependencies) materials, landforms, and thus natural resources are created, degraded, and changed by the action of water, gravity, winds, and waves, etc. from high-mountain through coastal settings. The topics addressed involve tectonics, rocks, soils, climate, water resources, river systems and coastal processes.

The course content provides a foundation for advanced courses in EES, including the sustainable management of environmental resources.
The course includes at least two compulsory field trips to the environs of The Hague to learn how concepts reviewed in class apply to what is commonly perceived as "the natural environment". Field activities encompass the training of observational and sampling skills. Additionally, field samples will be analyzed in the laboratory to provide students with some experience in formal examination of a relevant environmental issue. Class and field trip content, as well as laboratory results, are designed to be utilized in a concluding student report that places emphasis on a holistic view of landscape formation, resource utilization, and the environmental hazards of the coastal setting around The Hague.

Important note: Because of the lack of public transport in the target areas, bicycles will be used to access field sites. The dates of field trips may occur on a weekend or public holiday.

Course objectives


  • Systems thinking;

  • Apply basic technical skills required to analyze an environmental issue like coring, sampling, field observation;

  • Writing skills: report writing along with the scientific standard format (introductory level);

  • Laboratory skills: preparation and conduct of basic laboratory analyses on environmental samples (introductory level);

  • Data evaluation and representation (statistical analyses, plotting, interpretation).

Students will gain foundational knowledge and demonstrate competences in explaining physical processes which drive environmental change with respect to basic concepts applied in Earth sciences. At the end of the course the student should be able to or can;

  • Describe and explain the major processes driving changes to in selected physical environments;

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

  • Identify and characterize fundamental ways in which humans impact the Earth.

  • Apply basic technical skills required to analyze an environmental issue;

  • Identify and characterize ways in which Earth sciences are important to environmental management and sustainability.

  • Identify and characterize ways in which Earth sciences are important to environmental management and sustainability.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course format is marked by a mix 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.


  • In-class participation (15%)

  • Topographic maps lab (10%)

  • Quiz (10%)

  • Landscape analysis lab (30%)

  • Laboratory practical (20%)

  • 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 copy of the textbook can be borrowed for the duration of the course as a service provided by LUC.

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


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



Earth System Science (EES mj, 100 level, bl. 3)
Important notes

1. Field trips
1.1 The course includes field teaching activities which will take place on Saturday, 9 February, and Sunday, 10 February 2019, from 08:00 to 15:00 (on both days). Students are required to participate in two field trips to the environs of The Hague, i.e., participation is mandatory.
1.2. The general weather conditions could be relatively harsh in February. The field trips will take place regardless of what the weather condition is, and only be cancelled in the case of persistently high rainfall intensities (>2mm/hr) and/or strong winds (or gusts) posing a threat to student's safety.
In the case weather conditions would not allow for longer outdoor stays classes will take place indoors featuring project-style learning activities.
1.3. The trips are arranged as bike field trips because the target areas and places are not accessible by public transport. Students, therefore, must have a fully functional bicycle. Also, students must be able to ride and steer a bicycle safely.

2. Class meetings
To compensate for the time spent in the field some of the regular in-class meetings will be cancelled. Details will be communicated in week 1.