Biology and Chemistry of Soil and Water

This specialisation will allow you to learn and apply current research methods (measurements, models and literature research) to gain an in-depth understanding of the chemical and biological processes that control the functioning of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

About the specialisation

You are fascinated by the crucial role of soils and surface water in harbouring biodiversity, buffering pollutants, providing food and regulating the climate. In this specialisation you will study the chemical and biological processes in soils and surface water that control all these important functions. This knowledge helps you to understand how to restore and maintain soil and water quality, increase biodiversity and preserve natural ecosystems.

Focal points in this specialisation are cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus; greenhouse gas emissions; contaminants; and ecological interactions in soil and water. You will study these processes in the field and in the laboratory and use analytical measurements as well as mathematical models.

Students who focus on aquatic systems learn to understand and use water quality measurement techniques and mathematical models for the restoration and management of freshwater ecosystems, with particular attention to the interactions and feedbacks between biota, physical dynamics, micropollutants, and nutrients. Students who delve into the soil system, learn how the soils’ chemical and biological components interact and control the (bio)availability of carbon, nutrients, and contaminants, and thereby affect climate change, soil fertility, biodiversity and/or ecology. Finally, students focusing on terrestrial ecology learn how vegetation, soil and water are intricately coupled in ecosystems ranging from tropical forest - savannah transitions, European peatlands (under restoration), and Arctic tundra.

Suggested learning paths

The schematic overview (on the right) shows the overall structure of the specialisation. All specialisations consists of courses, an academic master cluster, a thesis and an internship.

Within the specialisation you can choose between suggested learning paths focussing on:

  • Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality
  • Terrestrial Ecosystems Ecology
  • Soil Biology
  • Soil Chemistry (multiple subpaths)

You are also welcome to develop your own programme, by combining elements from these tracks or choosing courses from other MEE specialisations or other programmes.

Examples of the work-field

About half of the graduates of Specialisation C starts with a job as specialist or consultant/advisor, being one of the experts on soil quality, water quality, or ecology within a firm. This can for example be at companies such as Vitens or Liander, but also for engineering firms such as Arcadis or Tauw, or governmental organizations like Waterboards or Ministries. About one fourth of the graduates continues as a researcher, either as a PhD-candidate at a university or at a research institute such as Deltares, or NIOO-KNAW. Others first jobs include trainees, lecturers, research assistants, and analysts.