Earth Surface – track Earth Sciences

The study of natural processes shaping the Earth’s surface

System Earth

This minor focuses on the study of natural processes shaping the Earth’s surface. Several aspects will be treated in detail, such as the influence of climate, tectonics and vegetation on the evolution and dynamics of the landscape. In addition, the interaction of the different components of System Earth will be considered, including the oceans, atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere. The role of humans is also an important topic in this minor.

Climate Science: The land, oceans and atmosphere form a coupled system that interact to give a certain climate and type of weather. This course focuses on the interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans.

Geobotany: Lectures on evolution of the plant Kingdom, the application of biological proxies that are being employed for palaeoenvironmental and climate reconstructions and the excursion aims at integration of the world of the plants and vegetation communities with the abiotic components in the landscape’

Sedimentary Environments: The goal of this course is to characterize, classify and interpret a selected number of terrestrial and marine sedimentary environments in terms of their processes, facies distribution, morphology and stratigraphy.


Concepts and Solutions in Sustainability Science studies the interactions between human actions and the abiotic environment. How do human actions influence land, water and biodiversity? Which actions can we take to moderate these effects? How accepted and effective are such measures? How does this affect our well-being? Lectures and tutorials provide a background on drivers, pressures, state changes, impacts and responses to environmental change by taking stock of different disciplines, including economy, ecology, geography, and environmental policy. 

Land Use Change: Studies of land-use change incorporate concepts and knowledge from a wide range of disciplines. Geography, as a spatial science, contributes significantly to the understanding of land-use change whilst demography and economics help explain underlying trends. Model building relies heavily on mathematics and (geographical) information science, but also includes many elements from the softer sciences, such as management studies and environmental science. This course offers a cross-sectional overview of methods, tools and current research progress in the analysis of land-use change.

Which other course you take, is your own choice. You can choose between: Watermanagement in The Netherlands, Introduction to Biogeosciences and Sociale Geografie I or Introduction to Planetary Science .

For specific details about the courses, please check the study guide

Admission and registration

Admission for VU students
This minor is suitable for undergraduate students Earth Sciences. Students from other studies please send a brief CV with grade list to the course coordinator Dr. Kay  Beets +31205987357. Admission will be decided based on previous education and achieved grades.

Admission for students from other universities
1 Students from other universities please register as VU student, see admission-and-registration 
2 Please send a brief CV with grade list to the course coordinator Dr. Kay Beets +31205987357. Admission will be decided based on previous education and achieved grades. If your admission is approved and the minor coordinator informed the Education Office, you will be enrolled for the courses in August.

Please see the application procedure for more information.

Questions about the programme

For specific questions regarding contect, please contact Dr. Kay Beets via or +31205987357.

Related master's programmes

Samenvatting Earth Surface – track Earth Sciences




1 semester (30 EC)


1 september


Gedrag en Maatschappij