Soil Biology (SBL)

The Soil Biology Group studies the role of the soil biota in ecosystem processes at a range of scales; from the life in a soil ped to the role of soil biota in climate change at a global scale. Our mission is to use soil processes driven by soil biota to develop and maintain sustainable agro-ecosystems.

More about this thesis track

Research at the Soil Biology Group is classified in four main research lines that are interconnected. The four main areas of research are:

  • Fertile soils,
    deals with the functioning and management of soil biota in agricultural systems. We study the role of soil life in the cycles of nutrient elements (N, P, micronutrients) to enhance soil ecosystem services and warrant a more efficient agriculture that is more sustainable with the environment.

    • Soils in a changing climate,relates to what may be the most pertinent environmental threat facing humanity: climate change as a result of man-made greenhouse gas. We study both the effects of climate change on soil life and the controls that soil life exerts on greenhouse gas emissions from the soil.

  • Functional Soil Biodiversity, comprises research that aims to understand how the richness and community composition of soil biota is coupled to ecosystem functioning in (agro)ecosystems. We study these dynamic interactions in the context of plant-soil feedbacks, trait-based ecology of soil fauna and soil microbes.

  • Soil Biology and Land Management,
    deals with the impacts of agricultural management on soil biota and soil quality. We propose that through the correct soil management practices, we can optimise multi-functionality of our soils, including soil functions such as primary productivity, carbon management, nutrient cycling, water regulation and habitat for biodiversity. Soil biota has a lead role to play in promoting these functions through the mineralisation of nutrients or decomposition of organic matter in soils.

Students can learn more about the education and research related to this discipline by visiting the website of the Soil Biology.


The following courses are part of the MSc programme Environmental Sciences when selecting the thesis track Soil Biology. 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
One e-learning is compulsory in order to work safely at Wageningen University (0 ECTS): Laboratory safety ZSS06100
MSc Internship Soil Biology SBL70224
MSc Thesis Soil Biology SBL81836
Choose one course in consultation with your study adviser:
Chemical Processes in Soil, Water, Atmosphere SOC22306
Soil Quality SBL21806
Restricted optional: Select at least one
Biological Interactions in Soils SBL32806
Research Methods in Soil Biology SBL35806
Restricted optional: Select at least one
The Carbon Dilemma - a soil perspective SBL35306
Nutrients in a Circular Agriculture SBL40306

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:

MSc Environmental Sciences - Soil Biology