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Soils, Sediment and Society




Admissions requirements

  • Global Challenges: Sustainability

  • Earth System Science;

  • ArcGIS or QGIS skills (i.e. Geographic Information Systems) may be helpful but are not required.


Soil is a distinct and genuine natural body of the Earth whose properties are essential to all terrestrial life. Still, soil is also the most overlooked environmental resource. Understanding the generic and spatial complexity of soil formation and soil diversity, therefore, is the fundament to develop concepts of adequate and sustained soil use.
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, therefore, is marked by drawing on information from many interdisciplinary fields like geology, geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology.

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 recognize and classify basic soil types based on own field observations (mapping)

  • Can sample soil material and perform simple analyses in the laboratory (particle size, pH)

  • Can interpret and represent soil information on maps by producing own soil maps

  • Can describe the formation, properties and the significance of soils in a variety of geospatial contexts

  • Can explain historic and current issues of land use and correlated impacts on soils

  • Appreciate soil functions and the importance of soil conservation.

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 chemical analyses

  • Graphically represent spatial, soil-related environmental information based on their own field sampling

  • Assess the sustainability of soil use for different historic and present cases of soil erosion through both critical evaluation of the literature and field data

  • 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 this course, students are expected to:

  • Detail what processes characterize the development of natural soils and how the legacy of landscape evolution, topographic setting, climate and biotic factors determine soil properties in various environmental settings

  • Place soil and land use issues in the context of both longer-term and current environmental change

  • Know how human activities modify rates, intensities and spatial occurrence of soil erosion, colluviation, and floodplain sedimentation

  • Place losses of the soil resource in its broader social, economic and institutional settings.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

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 mandatory off-campus activities such as

  • a longer field stay in the Eifel Mts. (about 4 to five days in a row),

  • two or three short off-campus field trips (surroundings of The Hague, Wageningen University; Wageningen: probably on a Wednesday).

During the field stay in the Eifel Ms., students will conduct self-dependent soil profile description, sampling, and mapping as a team. 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. Students are required to have read assigned readings to prepare class, and actively contribute to class during off-campus activities; 15%, individual

  • Quiz (fundamentals of soil description, week 3); 10%, individual

  • Quiz (lab activity at World Soils Museum, Wageningen); 5%, student pairs

  • Annotated bibliography (on a specific topic, e.g., macronutrient cycling, heavy metals in soils, ancient civilizations and soil erosion, etc.), 10%, individual

  • In-class presentation (related to ann. bib. topic); 15%, individual

  • Soil profile description lab; 20%, student working group; (based on independent field work, includes laboratory work)

  • Soil mapping report (student working group assignment); 20% to describe field stay content (questions, method, results, etc.) and independent soil mapping activities.


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

There will be no required textbook for the course because there is no single one that covered the material discussed in class. Relevant course material will be made available through Blackboard.
Nevertheless, to study fundamentals of soil formation, properties, and soil mapping we will use:

  • Schaetzl, R.J., Anderson, S., 2005. Soils: Genesis and Geomorphology. Cambridge (USA), Cambridge University Press, 817 p. (The more recent 3rd edition is equally eligible.)

  • Chesworth, W. (ed.), 2008. Encyclopedia of Soil Science. Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series, Springer, Dordrecht, 916 p.

It is not required to purchase these books (but the first is a great textbook though).


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



Important notes

The course includes a number of field teaching activities for which attendance is mandatory.

1. Short field trips
Two 4-6 hour long field trips head out to Meijendel (The Hague/Wassenaar) and the Haagse Bos, respectively. The dates are 11 April and 18 April 2019. Starting time is between 6:30 and 7:30 in the morning. (If weather conditions permit, otherwise new dates will be scheduled.) On these days you can expect to be back to LUC at around 12:45 or earlier.
It is recommended to take a bike to go to the Meijendel area.

2. A trip to the World Soil Museum in Wageningen
We will meet at the museum (University of Wageningen campus) on 17 April 2019 at 10:00 (week 2, Wednesday!). We will be there for 4-5 hours, i.e., the teaching ends at about 14:40 to 15:00. You could be back to LUC at some time between 16:00 and 17:00.
If you had to miss other classes, please inform the respective instructor immediately in week 1 or even before courses start.

**3. 3-day field stay in the Eifel Mountains (Rhenish Slate Mountains, Gerolstein) **
The recording and sampling of soil information will take place from 2 May 2019 (arrival day, afternoon) to 5 May 2019 (departure in the late afternoon).
The group will stay the first night in a pretty basic hut in the forest (no electricity, no running water, no beds, no internet, but two fire places, a shitter, tonnes of fuel wood, a BBQ/bonfire place). So bring a little bit of food (dinner, breakfast, 2 litres of water), sleeping mat, sleeping bag, and a torch.
For the two other nights we will stay in a youth hostel (having electricity, running water, warm showers, WLAN). The youth hostel provides full-board services, i.e., breakfast, a lunch package, and dinner.

4. Travel arrangements, costs
Note, LUC is committed to take on the accommodation costs for the youth hostel (Gerolstein). These costs are slightly higher than the maximum ticket fare for the trip to Gerolstein (and back).
Getting to the places of off-campus teaching is the student's responsibility, as well as covering associated travel costs.
Train rides: The town of Gerolstein in the Eifel Mts. can be reached by train (via Cologne). Ticket prices may amount to up to 60€ for a return ticket (or cheaper the earlier the booking is done). Note, some students are eligible to buy discount tickets which also allow fellow passengers to travel together with the ticket holder (for little more money).
In the past students mostly have teamed-up to use a parent's or rental car which might save costs.

5. To compensate for the time spent outdoors some of the regular class meetings will be cancelled. Details will be communicated in week 1.