Soil Biology

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 focus

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. 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
Compulsory unless advised otherwise
Environmental Quality and Governance ENP-35806 2AF, 5AF M1
Principles of Environmental Sciences ESA-20806 1AF, 4WD M1
Research Methods in Environmental Science YRM-20306 1MO, 2MO M1
Restricted optional: select one out of these three options**
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+ YMC-60300 1WD, 2WD, 3WD+4WD, 5WD,6WD M1
Thesis track-related subjects
Subject Code Period* Phase
Compulsory unless advised otherwise
Biological Interactions in Soils SBL-32806 2AF M1
Chemical Processes in Soil, Water, Atmosphere SOC-22306 2MO M1
MSc Internship Soil Quality SOC-70424 1,2,3,4,5,6 M2
MSc Thesis Soil Biology SBL-81836 1,2,3,4,5,6 M2
Restricted optional: select (at least) two
Soil Quality SBL-21806 5MO M1
The Carbon Dilemma SBL-35306 5MO M1
*MO = morning; AF= afternoon; WD = whole day
**The restricted optional subjects have to be selected in consultation and agreement with the study adviser.
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:

MSc Environmental Sciences - Soil Biology.jpg