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Earth Sciences
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Study Programme

The Master’s Programme in Earth Sciences at the University of Amsterdam focuses on Earth system processes, and the interactions of humans and ecosystems within the Earth system. The Earth system is under unprecedented anthropogenic pressure, which is reflected in ongoing climate change, land degradation, water, soil and air contamination, and species extinctions, which are manifesting with varying severity in different places around the world, affecting different communities to varying degrees. In this program you will obtain fundamental knowledge on Earth system functioning and how these functions respond to human pressure, knowledge that is essential to move forward in an ever-changing world.

The curriculum and courses

The Master Earth Science consists of two tracks: Environmental Management (EM) and Earth System Science (ESS). For ESS track students, the course The Earth System is mandatory. After choosing a track, students choose at least 24 EC from the constrained elective modules. To reach 120 EC students can add additional courses from the open electives. All students can choose to do an internship, a minor, and a MSc thesis (“Research Project”). Our Master Earth Sciences has a common scientific core that all students will follow. The core includes a 12 EC Vulnerable Earth field course, which includes data collection and fieldwork during a 10-day trip to Tenerife (Spain), analyzing field samples in the laboratory and running spatial analyses to evaluate water scarcity, land abandonment, soil degradation and ecological responses on a volcanic island.

We further offer a rich portfolio of elective courses including Analysis and Modeling Lab, GIS/RS Science in Ecosystem Dynamics, Carbon, Nitrogen and Pollutants, Biochemical cycles in the Earth System, Climate Change, Metropole Ecology, Energy and Climate Change: Policy and Ethics, Environmental Chemistry, Environments through time and many others.

Our Tracks

The Master Earth Sciences has two tracks to choose from: Earth System Science (ESS) and Environmental Management (EM). The ESS is focused on fundamental processes of Earth system functioning and interactions with the biotic world, while the EM track focuses on heavily managed environments, in which diverse groups with sometimes conflicting needs and interests compete for space and ecosystem services. For both tracks, students will gain comprehensive knowledge and skill sets through the integration of course work and lectures, field- and laboratory work, and data analysis.

Track 1: Earth System Science (coordinator: Dr Kenneth Rijsdijk) 

Students in the Earth System Science track will deepen their understanding on the processes that determine the functioning of the Earth system and the role and impact of humans and climate change on this system. Students will study the landscape and climate dynamics at spatial scales, ranging from molecules to the Earth system as a whole, based on fieldwork, laboratory work and modelling studies. In this track you will develop further expertise in computational skills including Remote Sensing, LiDAR and GIS, landscape and biodiversity modelling and geostatistics, or analytical skills ranging from soil chemistry, microfossil analysis or geomorphic analysis. The track involves a good balance of computation skills, laboratory skills and field survey skills. 

Track 2: Environmental Management (coordinator: Dr Elisabeth Krueger) 

Students in the Environmental Management track will gain knowledge on the management of natural resources, landscapes and ecosystems using interdisciplinary approaches that include the Earth sciences, social sciences and the humanities. Students will learn about how the use and management of ecosystems is determined by the interactions between diverse human-interest groups, which is of particular relevance in understanding the constraints faced by environmental managers. Students also have the chance to apply their knowledge in practice through a hands-on internship with a private or governmental organization that is working to tackle environmental management problems for the benefit of society. 

Master's thesis project

The Master's thesis research project is literally your masterpiece. It is an independent research project supervised by an expert. The topic of your research is preferably closely linked to the research of the group but can also be chosen freely as long as an expert on the topic can be found to supervise you. During the period that you are working on your research project you will be a member of a research group to optimise communication with your peers and supervisors, to provide you with a broader perspective by being involved in other research as well, and to facilitate you in developing your professional network.

Majors and Minors

At the UvA you can choose to do your Master's programme with a major or minor (30 EC) that focuses broader research themes, or on other skills than doing research. In case of a major (60 EC) you will follow the programme of your chosen scientific discipline during the first year of your Master's, and the major during the second year. We offer two majors: Science in Society, and Science Communication and Education. In case of a minor (30 EC), you will follow a selection of courses required for that minor as part of your regular programme. We offer two minors: Science for Sustainability (SfS) and the Tesla minor. The SfS minor combines technological and agroecological solutions with policy and economic aspects, system innovation and transition management, and futures-thinking. The Tesla minor is designed for students interested in implementing disciplinary knowledge and in integrating elements of business, science and society.

Is Earth Science for you?

Our Programme benefits from scientific research and knowledge of experts in ecology and Earth sciences from the Departments of Ecology and Landscape Dynamics (ELD) and of Theoretical and Computational Ecology (TCE) at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED). In addition, teachers in the programme come from broad backgrounds in the Earth sciences and in the social sciences and humanities, including human geography and ethics. Moreover, our experts have relevant networks on both scientific and applied job providers that you may benefit from when doing internships and after finishing your thesis.

Accreditation and academic title

Both tracks are a specialisation of the UvA Master's programme Earth Sciences, which has been accredited by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). This means that upon successful completion of the programme (a total of 120 EC), you will receive a legally recognised Master's degree in Earth Sciences and the title Master of Science (MSc).

Related research institutes

Environmental Management works across disciplines and is firmly embedded in the interdisciplinary Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) which covers high quality research on earth surface science, ecology, environmental chemistry, (soil-)chemical analytics and modelling, but MSc thesis research can also be carried out at partner institutions.

Bring your own device

All students enrolled in Earth Sciences are requested to bring their own laptop, due to the nature of the programme. More information on specific system requirements can be found here.