Applied Aquatic Ecology for Sustainability

Gain a thorough understanding of the natural processes in aquatic ecosystems and be able to apply this knowledge to sustainable management for healthy ecosystems and good water quality in a multidisciplinary setting. 

  • D

    What is Delft based

    This programme will run entirely at UNESCO-IHE in Delft, the Netherlands

  • J
  • E

Delft based, IHE Delft, The Netherlands18 months, starts in October

Apply now for


For whom?

This specialization is designed for students and professionals who have a strong interest in water quality, sustainable management and conservation of wetland ecosystems, including rivers, swamps, lakes, and estuaries. Suitable academic backgrounds include natural sciences, environmental science, biology, fisheries and agriculture. 


Students who successfully complete this programme will receive a MSc degree in Environmental Science at IHE Delft.



Start: 15 October 2020
Application deadline: 01 August 2020

Learning objectives

After successfully completing this specialization, graduates will be able to:

  • Identify the water quality impacts of human activities on aquatic ecosystems, as well as alternative remedial actions, under different levels of environmental stress and in different socio-economic contexts;
  • Explain principles, concepts and instruments of the main national and international water and environmental laws, and common and desired institutional and management arrangements;
  • Successfully interpret, design and optimise water quality monitoring and assessment schemes in the watershed, for example, by using statistical and modelling tools;
  • Critically analyse and evaluate alternative water quality management programmes in the watershed under different socio-economic and legal contexts, in a flexible way and often under data-poor conditions;
  • Conduct - either independently or in a multidisciplinary team - appropriate research in the field of water quality management, including the formulation of research questions and hypotheses, the selection and application of adequate research methodologies and techniques, and the formulation of well-founded conclusions and recommendations.

Structure & contents

The programme starts with a foundation phase of 10 modules

  • October - April

    IHE Delft, The Netherlands
    • Introduction to Water for Development Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Reflect critically on water related interventions, formulate own standpoint and engage constructively in debates
      2. Place the specialized knowledge on own discipline into a broader understanding of water related issues, challenges, debates and developments
      3. Recognize and distinguish different ways of knowing and framing water questions and problems in order to appraise water challenges from an interdisciplinary perspective
      4. Familiarize with the educational environment and procedures of IHE Delft and collaborate in multidisciplinary and intercultural teams
    • Introduction to Environmental Science 1 Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Carry out fundamental chemical and ecological laboratory analyses
      2. Carry out fundamental chemical, hydrological and ecological field sampling
      3. Apply fundamental principles of data analysis, statistics and GIS
      4. Identify and describe fundamental chemical, hydrological and ecological processes in relation to the environment
      5. Apply the principles of the scientific method to design, develop and present a research project
    • Introduction to Environmental Science 2 Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Describe the current practice of wastewater treatment and resource recovery in the Netherlands, in terms of its governance, economics and technological aspects
      2. Apply fundamental principles of environmental modelling
      3. Identify and describe fundamental microbiological and socio-economic processes in relation to the environment
      4. Indicate interactions and relations between aspects of governance, economy, technology and microbiology, in relation to infrastructure for wastewater treatment
      5. Carry out fundamental microbiological laboratory analyses
    • Integrated Project Environmental Science Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Analyze, evaluate and present scientific data
      2. Formulate a scientific research question, compare and contrast scientific information relevant to the research question from a variety of sources and present the findings in a concise report
      3. Make an oral presentation of scientific information
      4. Gather information on an environmental problem from various sources and critically assess its quality and role in the debate about the problem
      5. Perform a basic multi-criteria analysis in the context of decision making for an environmental problem
      6. Describe the environmental policy process and the role and sources of data and information that play a role in formulating policy
    • Applied Ecology and Bioassessment Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of methods relative to a desired management outcome
      2. Describe how bioassessment tools are developed and the ecological principles behind them
      3. Report results from your own project, including the management application, the methods and data analysis, and provide conclusions and recommendations for future work
      4. Analyse data collected from your own bioassessment project and critically evaluate its quality and application
      5. Apply a bioassessment method appropriate to a geographical region and to a management objective
    • Environmental Systems Analysis Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Perform a problem analysis and stakeholder analysis for a given socio-environmental system
      2. Communicate effectively the methods, results and conclusions of a case study (presentation and written report)
      3. Perform an analysis of drivers of change and their effect on ecosystem functions and services
      4. Construct a simple dynamic simulation model of an environmental system
      5. Discuss critically the strengths, weaknesses, missing information, advantages and disadvantages of the modelling and stakeholder analyses
      6. List and describe environmental systems analysis (ESA) concepts and methods
      7. Identify how ESA can be applied to Ecosystem Services and applications of Environmental Technology
    • Water Quality Assessment and Monitoring Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Design and evaluate water quality monitoring networks for different types of surface water in relation to set objectives.
      2. Report the results of water quality assessment and monitoring programmes using appropriate statistical tools for interpretation and presentation of large data sets.
      3. Select and apply appropriate methods to assess water quality in natural waters in relation to their anticipated use.
    • River and Floodplain Rehabilitation Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Assess the needs for developing an effective river rehabilitation plan and identify and involve relevant stakeholders in this process
      2. Explain the importance and meaning of general concepts related to rehabilitation of rivers and floodplains, including integrated river basin management, the ecosystem approach, and ecosystem functions and services
      3. Translate understanding of the river ecosystem, technical principles and tools, stakeholder participation and river rehabilitation planning into objectives and integrated plan for river rehabilitation
      4. Explain ecosystem rehabilitation and restoration concepts, and link them to the physical, biological and ecological processes in rivers
      5. Determine the technical principles and enigneering tools needed for river and floodplain rehabilitation
    • International Fieldtrip and Fieldwork ES Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Relate their findings to the situation in their home countries and recognize the possibilities and limitations for application
      2. Describe how natural processes and anthropogenic activities interact in shaping river catchments
      3. Explain the value of ecosystem protection and rehabilitation for society
      4. Carry out basic eco-hydrological measurements and analyse and interpret the collected data
      5. Delineate streams and catchments using GIS and to prepare field maps with GPS locations
    • Elective module 10 ES Elective

      Choose one of the following modules:

      • Aquatic ecosystems: processes and applications
      • Environmental assessment for water-related policies and developments
      • Ecotechnologies
    • Elective module 11 ES Elective

      Choose one of the following modules:

      • Experimental methods in wastewater treatment
      • Water sensitive cities
      • Decentralised water supply and sanitation
      • Remote sensing for agricultural water management
      • Water resources planning under changing climate and environment
      • Wetlands for livelihoods and conservation
      • Sustainability and resilience of water organisations
      • Solid waste management
      • Advanced water transport and distribution
      • Strategic planning for river basins and deltas
      • Decision support systems in the water domain
    • Summer course Required

      Choose between eight one week summer courses. Topics include water diplomacy, water science communication, leadership, entrepreneurship, and serious gaming for the water sector.

    • Applied Environmental Management Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Work in a team to solve complex environmental problems
      2. Make decisions on the basis of a limited amount of information
      3. Solve complex environmental problems by integrating the content of the preceding modules
    • Thesis Research Proposal Development for ES Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Develop a research proposal in a clearly written, well-argued and convincing document, submitting and successfully defending it within specific deadlines.
    • MSc research, thesis and defence Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Demonstrate academic attitude and learning skills (incl thinking in multidisciplinary dimensions & distinguishing main issues from minor ones), to enhance & keep up-to-date the acquired knowledge and application skills in a largely independent manner.
      2. Formulate well-founded conclusions and recommendations based on a comprehensive discussion of the results.
      3. Conduct research, independently or in a multidisciplinary team by selecting and applying appropriate research methodologies and techniques, collecting and analysing data.
      4. Communicate, debate and defend, clearly and systematically, findings and generated insights, and provide rational underpinning of these in oral and written presentations to a variety of audiences.
      5. Formulate research questions and hypotheses
      6. Explore the background of the research problem by critically reviewing scientific literature; Evaluate relevant theories and applying these theories to a relevant scientific problem; Assure adequate delineation and definition of the research topic

Tuition & fellowships

Tuition fee is the general tuition fee for Delft Based programmes, available here


The following fellowships are recommended for prospective students who wish to study Applied Aquatic Ecology for Sustainability

  • Joint Japan Worldbank Graduate Scholarship Programme (JJ/WBGSP)

    We expect to have more information on the availability of JJ/WBGSP scholarships for MSc programmes at IHE Delft in the beginning of 2020.

    more info:

  • MENA-CD Fellowships

    IHE Delft will provide water professionals from seven MENA countries (Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen) and Sudan with MSc level education in Delft on relevant topics for MENA region water scarcity.

    To be considered for the MENA-CD fellowship for the October 2020 intake, you must apply for admission to an MSc programme before 15 June 2020.

    more info:

  • National Fellowships in Latin America

    These fellowships are for nationals from the mentioned Latin American country. As IHE Delft is a UNESCO affiliated Institute and not a regular university, it may not appear in their website listings of eligible institutions. It is worth applying for funding once you have been academically accepted by IHE Delft, as these organisations will most likely consider your fellowship application. The name UNESCO-IHE (former name of IHE Delft) may appear in some application systems.

    Your country might also offer individual fellowships for studies abroad, contact your national Ministry of Education or a similar organisation/agency for more information.

  • Orange Knowledge Programme

    The Orange Knowledge Programme is a €195-m Dutch global development programme, available in 53 developing countries and managed by Nuffic, a Dutch non-profit organisation for internationalisation in education. Launched mid-2017, it aims to have provided tens of thousands with the possibility to change their future through education and training by mid-2022.

    More info:

    Orange Knowledge Scholarships for MSc Programmes

    Orange Knowledge Scholarships for Short Courses

  • SIDS Fellowships

    The SIDS programme is aimed at water professionals from small island developing states. To be considered for the SIDS fellowship for the October 2020 intake, you must apply for admission to an MSc programme before 15 June 2020.

    more info:

Application & Admission

Admission requirements

Academic admission to IHE Delft MSc Programmes may be granted to applicants who provide evidence of having:

  • A university level Bachelor’s degree in an appropriate field, which has been awarded by a university of recognised standing, comparable in level with a Bachelor degree from a research university in the Netherlands.
  • A good command of the English language, if this is not the first language. All non-native English-speaking applicants must satisfy the English language requirements for IHE Delft's educational programmes.
  • A strong motivation to successfully complete the programme.

Several years of professional experience in an area of work related to the specialisation is an asset.

Application procedure

For admission to the programme please complete the online application, the link to the application section of our website is available at the top of this page.

You need to submit the following documents:

  • Certified copies of degrees/diplomas.
  • Certified copies of academic transcripts. Authenticated or certified copies are copies with an official stamp to verify that the copies are true copies of original documents. This official stamp may be from one of the following: a solicitor/notary, the educational institution from where the student gained the diplomas or the local council/local authority/local government office.
  • Two Recommendation letters which must be printed on official letterhead paper and need to be signed and dated. We do not accept recommendation letters which are older than 1 year nor which have copied and pasted signatures and/or letterheads. If you are employed, one of the recommendation letters should be from your current employer and not older than 3 months.
  • Motivation letter; explain in maximum 500 words why you wish to be admitted to the chosen programme and how it will benefit you in the future. The letter must show that you understand what the chosen programme is about.
  • Copy of passport.
  • Copy of results of English language test score (if required, see English language requirements).

If any of the original documents is not in English we additionally need an official English translation by a sworn translator.

Multiple MSc applications (for the same academic year) are not allowed, unless there is a period of at least 3 months between the starting dates of the programmes of interest. If a student applies for an Erasmus Mundus programme for which Erasmus Mundus scholar ships are available, he/she can also apply for another programme. If the other programme is also an Erasmus Mundus programme, the applicant can submit up to 3 applications.

More information

Further questions about the application procedure can be found at our FAQ page, or can be addressed to:

Ms Marlies Baburek
Admission and Fellowship Officer


Connect with us

Never miss a thing!