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. Next to these thesis specific courses, you will follow courses from the common part and electives as summarized in the programme outline. For more information visit the study handbook or contact the study adviser.

Thesis track-related subjects
Subject Code
Environmental Systems Analysis: Methods and Applications ESA22806
MSc Internship Environmental Systems Analysis ESA70224
MSc Thesis Environmental Systems Analysis ESA80436
Restricted optional: Select at least one
Nutrient and Pollution Management ESA31806
Engaging & Modelling with Stakeholders ESA32306
Regional Environmental Management ESA31306

In order to prepare well for your thesis track, you can additionally choose supporting courses. These courses focus, for example, on quantitative and data sciences or laboratory skills. You can find the exact list in the study handbook at the section “Restricted Optionals (2) in Common part”.

This course overview is based on the Wageningen University study handbook, where you can find a more detailed course and programme description. The study handbook is guiding in case of any discrepancy.

Below you can see how your schedule might look like for your whole study programme:

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