MSc track Earth System Science

February 17, 2023

At the University of Amsterdam the MSc Earth Science is split into two tracks, one of these is entitled: “Earth System Science”. Earth System Science is a research intensive track focused on understanding the fundamentals of abiotic and biotic interactions across the globe and through time. During this degree you will spend around 6 months studying to pick up specialist knowledge and skills, and around 18 months actively developing yourself – in your key areas of interest – through project work.

The taught part of the Earth System Science track includes courses such as:

  • The Earth System: Learn how to analyse Earth system function across space and through time.
  • Analysis & Modelling Lab: Develop skills in data handeling, analysis and modeling relevant to Earth science.
  • Biogeochemical Cycles in the Earth System: Study how the dynamics of carbon and nitrogen link to societal challenges.
  • Climate Change: Explore the scientific basis for climate change an its implications for the environment and society.
  • Environments Through Time: Consider and analyse environmental change on timescale relevant to landscapes, societies and climates.
  • GIS and Remote Sensing in Ecosystem Dynamics: Learn how to use large remotely sensed datasets to gain insights into geological, geomorphological and soil systems.
  • Click here for further details and a full list of courses.
Clare Lee (on one leg, left) during field course in Peru successfully published her literature review which she conducted as part of her MSc in Earth Sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

In addition, free elective courses are possible from across the University of Amsterdam, or at other approved organizations or universities, i.e. it is possible to pick up skills in other specialisms (for example in languages, AI, or programming), or study a course at a university abroad, and have this included within your University of Amsterdam MSc Earth Science degree.

The project part of the Earth System Science track includes two research projects, or one research project and one internship with an external organization (such as a company or NGO). MSc research projects are often closely linked to active research within the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics. Some projects and literature reviews conducted by our MSc researchers reach a high enough level to be published in international scientific journals, either on there own or as part of a wider collaboration. Examples of recent papers including MSc researchers (highlighted in bold) are:

  • Lee, C.M., van Geel, B. & Gosling, W.D. (2022) On the use of spores of coprophilous fungi preserved in sediments to indicate past herbivore presence. Quaternary 5, 30. DOI: 10.3390/quat5030030
  • de Nijs, E.A. & Cammeraat, E.L. (2020) The stability and fate of Soil Organic Carbon during the transport phase of soil erosion. Earth-Science Reviews 201, 103067. DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2019.103067

New Look MSc Earth Sciences (University of Amsterdam)

February 8, 2023

The MSc Earth Sciences at the University of Amsterdam has a new look for the start of the next academic year (starting September 2023). Drawing on the international research expertise of our staff it is now possible to tailor your studies within two complementary tracks:

  • Earth System Science: Focused on fundamental aspects of Earth science, such as biogeochemical cycles, climate dynamics, and past environmental change. Our education follows our research in exploring how abiotic and biotic elements of the Earths system interact through time and across the globe.
  • Environmental Management: Focused on the interface between Earth science and society, key topics include: management of coastal systems, ecosystem dynamics in urban environments, and the relationship between science policy and ethics. During your internship you will have the opportunity to engage with societal partners to develop skills and projects.
Judith Kirschner completed a MSc Earth Science project on past fire activity, and now is a PhD researcher in fire dynamics at the European University of Cyprus.
Mo Adam examining sediments in the high Andes during the MSc Earth Science Geo-ecosystem Dynamics field course in Peru (2022).

For both tracks education is delivered through lectures, field courses, laboratory practical’s, and data analysis. Furthermore, you will get the chance to develop your own research agenda by conducting a project with one of our scientists, or at an external partner or university. In addition to expert knowledge our graduates have transferable skills in data handeling, numerical analysis, and science communication.

To find out more about our program visit click here to visit the MSc Earth Sciences pages on the University of Amsterdam web site.

Past environmental change on Samoa

February 16, 2016

Zoe and William just after the graduation ceremony (UvA)

Zoe and William just after the graduation ceremony (UvA)

Two students (Zoe van Kemenade and Tessa Driessen) have recently completed projects looking at past environmental change on Samoa working in the Research Group of Palaeoecology & Landscape Ecology at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Zoe’s project, part of her BSc Future Planet Studies (major Earth Sciences) at UvA, was entitled “A multi‐proxy analysis on the effect of climate and human activity on the environment of Samoa during the Holocene” and investigated charcoal, macro-fossils, and algae. Tessa’s project, “Biodiversity, fire and human dynamics on Samoa over the last 9200 years”, was completed as an internship during her MSc in Environmental Biology at Utrecht University (UU) that was co-supervised by Rike Wagner-Cremer. Tessa focused on the fossil pollen record to reconstruct past vegetation change. Both projects were conducted in cooperation with Jon Hassel and David Sear (both University of Southampton) who provided access to the Samoan sediments; for more on the Southampton Pacific Islands projects check out their blog Palaeoenvironmental Laboratory at the University of Southampton.

The results from both projects, and work by the University of Southampton team, will be presented at this years GTO conference (European conference of tropical ecology) in Gottingen next week.

William giving his personal view on the work of Tessa at her gradation ceremony (Utrecht University)

William giving his personal view on the work of Tessa at her gradation ceremony (UU)


Introducing Corine Driessen

July 7, 2015

DriessenCHi Everyone,

It’s very nice to be invited to write something for this blog, let me introduce myself a little bit.

I am a MSc Earth Sciences student at the University of Amsterdam. Currently I am working on my master thesis at Naturalis Biodiversity Center, under supervision of Niels Raes, Willem Renema and William Gosling. We are looking at species migration between Australia and Asia during the Miocene, and we compare it to migration between N and S America at the dawn of the Great American Biotic Interchange. To do so I’m analysing data on fossil occurrences in Australia and Southeast Asia. Hopefully this research will lead to interesting new insights.

Before starting my MSc Earth Sciences I did a bachelor in Biology at Leiden University. I decided to do a master’s in Earth Sciences because it offered a broader perspective of the natural world and its processes.

I like analysing and sorting out data like I’m currently doing for my thesis with fossil occurrence data. It also played a major role in my internship at TNO – Caribbean Branche Office, where I was involved in starting a database containing information on Aruba’s subsurface. During my internship I also experienced the “Green Aruba” conference and was involved in organising a geological excursion for some of the attendants. I am very interested in environmental issues and solutions, such as the transition to renewable energy. New technologies spike my interest a lot and I like being aware of innovations in a whole lot of fields.

Hopefully I will have my thesis ready within a couple of months, and can give an update about some of the findings.


Introducing Tessa Driessen

February 16, 2015

Tessa DriessenHi I’m Tessa and really excited to introduce myself here!

I’m an Environmental Biology Master student from Utrecht University (UU) doing a research internship in Amsterdam with William Gosling and Rike Wagner of the UU. Most people would describe me as a typical biologist because I like identifying plants and know some birds by their name. Personally I disagree because I lack the beard and hardly wear woollen socks. Besides looking at birds and plants I’m also interested in biodiversity and palaeoecology, and I will try to combine these interests in my research project on a sediment core from Samoa. I will be working on lake sediment cores from Samoa and hope fossil record can give me an overview of the natural history of the island (past c. 10,000 years); and an insight into what impact human colonisation had on the biodiversity. To explore the islands natural history I will be looking at pollen, charcoal and non pollen palynomorphs.

The sediment core on which I will be working has already been recovered and currently resides in beautiful Southampton (UK). So I’m spared of a 30 hour trip to tropical Samoa and the opportunity to return with some Samoan tattoo’s and a tan… So thanks to David Sear and his team at the University of Southampton with whom I will be collaborating for this project.

I have a long standing interest in tropical islands. Before commencing this research internship I did my first masters internship at WWF Indonesia. For my WWF internship I spent three months in the tropics collecting baseline ecological data on timber companies located in a new reserve in Sumatra. Furthermore, during my bachelor degree, I did a research internship at Naturalis Biodiversity Center investigating the “Correlation between higher altitudes and endemic plant species” in the Malayan archipelago. Our results turned out much better then we hoped for and fingers crossed our article will be accepted soon!

In three weeks I will be starting in the lab in Amsterdam and hopefully in a few months will be able to post an update about my results here.


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