In the 21st century, Earth and Environment scientists are facing the societal challenge of providing information about the causes and characteristics of Earth changes and its effects on the functioning of ecosystems on a human time scale: centuries, decades, or less. This challenge demands an excellent educational programme for students, to provide them with state-of-the-art skills, sound knowledge of system functioning, and an attitude that allows them to work in multi-disciplinary teams.
The focus of this programme is on the earth's 'Critical Zone' -including the atmospheric boundary layer- where flows of energy and matter determine the conditions for sustaining life. There is growing recognition within science and society of the complex dependencies and relationships existing within this zone. Major global themes like climate change, food security, the provision of water and biodiversity require input from graduates with strong disciplinary backgrounds who, at the same time, have the skills to work together with scientists from other disciplines. The programme embodies the vision that disciplinary elements can and should be brought together within one study programme, with opportunities for students to become strong in their discipline (the fundamental columns of soil, water & atmosphere) but also to provide them with opportunities to connect with other disciplines.
Students develop advanced skills in measurements, modelling and analysis, and pay due attention to methods for up- and downscaling and scenario analysis. They learn to think in ranges of temporal and spatial scales and are introduced to modern concepts such as spatial and temporal statistics, C and N cycling, and hydrological connectivity.
The programme not only focuses on the core disciplines of soil science, hydrology and meteorology but also on ecological aspects and, especially, integration. Using tools and concepts from physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and geography, a quantitative understanding is built of the composition, structures and processes of the upper Earth's zone and its atmosphere. Given the profound impacts of contemporary human activities on the environment at multiple spatial and temporal scales, emphasis is especially paid to the influences of human activity on earth surface patterns and processes.
Students are able, following two common starter courses, to design their study based on their own preferences. They specialize by selecting a specialization, a thesis subject, its preparatory courses and several elective courses. In this way students can focus on: (a) Hydrology and Water Resources; (b) Meteorology and Air Quality; (c) Biology and Chemistry of Soil and Water; (d) Soil Geography and Earth Surface Dynamics. The second year is entirely dedicated to students' individual development. This involves a research thesis and an academic internship.
After successful completion of this MSc programme graduates are expected to be able to:
- demonstrate state-of-art knowledge and understanding of the features, functions and processes characterizing the earth system, its constituent spheres, and the interactions among the spheres;
- demonstrate understanding of the cycling of matter and the flows of energy into, within and between the pedosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere;
- convert knowledge and understanding of complex physical, chemical and biological processes into useful modelling concepts and apply these to real-world situations;
- forecast the further progress of Earth processes, inclusive of the interferences therein by humankind, and its implications for sound and sustainable use and management of the Earth;
- interpret academic literature, recognise different ways of reasoning and demonstrate a critical and constructive attitude with regard to the analysis of complex problems in their field of specialisation; and formulate creative and innovative approaches to the solution of these problems;
- independently formulate and execute research in accordance with academic standards within their field of specialization, thus contributing to the development of the body of knowledge in this field;
- link theory, observations, experiments, and modelling across different time and space scales;
- communicate clearly -both orally and in writing- the outcomes of their research and discuss these results with specialists and non-specialists;
- function effectively in multidisciplinary teams and, using their expertise, towards multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary issues;
- show awareness of the need to keep in touch with relevant developments within their discipline and recognise, understand and apply new concepts as they emerge;
- demonstrate understanding of the moral and ethical dimensions of scientific research and its applications, and the importance of intellectual integrity;
- critically reflect on their performance and results, as well as on those of colleagues.
Dr G.F. Epema
- Ir M. Gorska
- Ir A.M. Leemans
Chair: Prof. dr ir R. Uijlenhoet
Secretary: M.T. Jaartsveld