Environmental Systems Analysis (ESA)

Students who major in Environmental Systems Analysis will learn to further develop the methodology and scientific tools of systems analysis and to apply these in strategic research topics, which are mainly society-driven. The applications aim at describing and analysing the causes, mechanisms, and effects of specific environmental problems in order to find potential solutions.

More about this thesis track

Integrated approach

The main characteristic of Environmental Systems Analysis is its integrated approach. Knowledge from natural and social sciences as well as technology are combined. This integrated approach of ESA research, which usually includes the experiences and views of different stakeholders as well, is necessary to address complex environmental problems and to make an important contribution to sustainable planning and management.

Research focus

Students of the MSc programme Environmental Sciences can choose to do a thesis in a topic that is closely related to ongoing research projects within the ESA group or focus on applying systems analysis concepts and methods to an environmental issue of their own choice.

Ongoing research projects within the ESA group are in the domains of:

  • Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity (e.g. quantification and valuation of ecosystem functions and services)

  • Pollution & nutrients management (e.g. causes and impacts of pollution, nitrogen fluxes, uncertainty analysis and scale issues in modelling);

  • Environmental modelling;

  • (Participatory) integrated assessment;

  • Integrated cost-benefit analysis of multifunctional land use;

  • Decision support systems and ecological-economic modelling;

  • Adaptation to climate change induced ecological impacts and its related socio-economic impacts.

Students can learn more about the education and research related to this discipline by visiting the website of the Environmental Systems Analysis group.


The following courses are part of the MSc programme Environmental Sciences when selecting the thesis track Environmental Systems Analysis. Besides these courses, for the common part of the programme several supporting courses are available which have to be taken if your study adviser deems it necessary (these are not listed in the table below, but summarized in the programme outline). Also, there is room for optional subjects which you may use to broaden your scope or to deepen your knowledge on a topic in your specialisation. For more information visit the study handbook or contact the study adviser.

The common part
Subject Code Period* Phase
Environmental Quality and Governance ENP-35806 2AF, 5AF M1
General Safety ** ZSS06000 M1
Fieldwork Safety ** ZSS06200 M1
Compulsory unless your study advisor advises otherwise:
Principles of Environmental Sciences ESA-20806 1AF, 4WD M1
Research Methodology in Environmental Science YRM-20306 1MO, 2MO M1
Restricted optional: select one out of these four options ***
Research Master Cluster: Proposal Writing YWU60312
European Workshop Environmental Sciences and Management ESA-60312 1WD, 6WD M1
Environmental Education and Learning for Sustainability and Teaching, Learning and Capacity Building for Sustainable Development ELS-31806+ ELS-32806 6WD M1
Academic Consultancy Training and Modular Skills Training (MOS) **** YMC-60809 1WD, 2WD, 3WD+4WD, 5WD,6WD M1
Minors (optional)
Environmental Education
Environmental Communication

Thesis track-related subject
Subject Code Period Phase
Environmental Systems Analysis: Methods and Applications ESA-22806 2AF, 6WD M1
MSc Internship Environmental Systems Analysis ESA-70424 1,2,3,4,5,6 M2
MSc Thesis Environmental Systems Analysis ESA-80436 1,2,3,4,5,6 M2
Restricted optional: select (at least) one
Nutrient and Pollution Management ESA-31806 3WD M1
Engaging & Modeling with Stakeholders ESA-32306 4WD M1
Regional Environmental Management ESA-31306 5MO M1
* MO = morning; AF= afternoon; WD = whole day
** e-learning
*** The restricted optional subjects have to be selected in consultation and agreement with the study adviser.
**** To get the list of the skills courses, go to Osiris Course Catalogue, select “courses’ in the green menu bar. On the left side (grey area) click “Modular Skills Training Course (MOS)” and check the box “Yes, this is a Modular Skills Training courses”
This course overview is based on the Wageningen University study handbook. The study handbook is guiding in case of any discrepancy.

Below you can see how your schedule might look like:

A schedule of the thesis track as seen in the text above