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. 

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    What is Delft based

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

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

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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: 18 October 2018
Application deadline: 01 August 2018

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 Environmental Science 1 Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Make a critical analysis of the global and national agendas and policies for "Water and Environment" in the context of sustainable development;
      2. Identify and describe the major global, regional and local environmental problems;
      3. Identify and describe the basic natural, chemical, hydrological and socio-economic processes in relation to the environment;
      4. Explain basic environmental concepts, such as ecological footprint, feedback mechanisms, ecosystem dynamics, carrying capacity and nutrient cycling.
      5. Apply basic principles of data analysis, statistics, environmental modelling and GIS
      6. Apply the principles of the scientific method to design, develop and communicate a research project
    • Introduction to Environmental Science 2 Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. See under module 1
    • Integrated Project Environmental Science Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Describe the environmental policy process and the role and sources of data and information that play a role in formulating policy
      2. Gather information on an environmental problem from various sources and critically assess its quality and role in the debate about the problem
      3. 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
      4. make an oral presentation of scientific information
      5. Analyze, evaluate and present scientific data
      6. Perform a basic multi-criteria analysis in the context of decision making for an environmental problem
    • Water and Environmental Law Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. demonstrate and apply knowledge in the fields of national and international water and environmental law and to perceive and discuss the main concepts, theories, discourses
      2. apply, compose and recreate legal instruments to operationalize integrated water resources management (water quantity and water quality)
      3. demonstrate and apply knowledge in the field of contract management for use in water projects.
      4. analyze and prepare a contract for a specific situation
      5. describe and apply concepts of water allocation, water rights and international benefit sharing
      6. discuss and explain complexity of decision making for water allocation in national and international rivers.
    • Water Quality Assessment Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Describe different water pollutant groups, their risks and fates, and ways of modelling these fates
      2. Describe and apply the different tools,criteria and assessment methods for succesful monitoring of surface waters in river basins
      3. Describe basic groundwater quality monitoring concepts
      4. Design sustainable water quality monitoring programmes for river basins
    • Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. assess the value of wetlands and explain the use of natural and constructed wetlands for the treatment of wastewater;
      2. describe the concept of wastewater treatment by wetlands;
      3. design and operate a wetland treatment system.
    • Environmental Planning and Implementation Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Explain the concept and importance of sustainable development into environmental planning and management
      2. demonstrate basic knowledge on the principles, processes and methods of environmental assessment (EIA-SEA) and be able to apply them in water related plans, programmes and projects
      3. Apply and discuss economic valuation methods and policy instruments for environmental policy
      4. Apply basic theories behind policy enforcement, monitoring and evaluation to master effective environmental policies
      5. Use environmental information systems to support planning and management
    • Foreign Fieldtrip and Fieldwork Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. The international fieldtrip is an exposure tour to interesting sites in Europe and is aimed to become familiar with environment-related organisations and companies in Western Europe.
      2. After completion of the fieldwork participants will be able to conduct experimental fieldwork.
    • Aquatic Ecosystems Processes and Applications Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Conduct laboratory techniques used for basic limnological studies. Specifically, you will be able to measure physical-chemical properties, chlorophyll a concentration in seston and periphyton; measure and calculate primary production and community respiration, measure nutrient concentration and turbidity, calculate and measure ash free dry mass, and perform zooplankton counts.
      2. Develop a research question based on the experimental design.
      3. Analyze data using either statistical or modeling techniques to answer your research question.
      4. Produce a report in the format of a scientific article that presents your research question, the data supporting it, and a discussion of your results, including a review of relevant literature.
      5. Critically analyze your colleagues' work in the form of a professional peer review.
    • Solid Waste Management Elective
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. suggest options for waste reduction at source so as to reduce quantities of waste generated;
      2. choose from an array of options to turn waste into economic goods;
      3. suggest treatment/disposal methods for waste from which the value has been taken out and to make basic calculations related to the conceptual design thereof;
      4. assess the impact of waste and waste management on other environmental compartments;
      5. roughly assess financial consequences of proposed management aspects in SWM;
      6. conceptually develop a solid waste management scheme for an urban area.
    • Watershed and River Basin Management Elective
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. describe the main natural and anthropogenic interactions at a watershed scale; and how they can be aggregated to rive basin scale
      2. describe the role of water in sustaining different land uses, including ecosystems
      3. understand the watershed planning and management approaches, specifically in terms of soil and water management
      4. explain temporal and spatial scales issues in hydrology
      5. characterize the fundamental economic issues in watersheds and river basins and the role of economic valuation of acquatic ecosystem services in watershed and river basin management
    • IWRM as a Tool for Adaptation to Climate Change Elective
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. describe the expected impacts of climate change on water resources and water use sectors in relation to (other) human activities
      2. identify the consequences of the predicted impacts of climate change and climate variability for integrated water resources management
      3. integrate climatic change conditions at different time and spatial scales into (risk) management in the water sector
      4. justify decisions on adaption to the impacts of climate change under uncertainty
    • Wetlands for Livelihoods and Conservation Elective
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. understand the concept of ecosystem functions and services, and means of assessing it;
      2. develop adaptive management for wetlands in response to climate change;
      3. analyse problems and formulate objectives according to the Objective Oriented Planning (OOP) method;
      4. analyse systematically the role that stakeholders have in wetland planning and management;
      5. develop and carry out stakeholder interviews and surveys;
      6. construct a wetland management plan based on the guidelines of the Ramsar Convention.
    • Summer Course - Research Methodology for ES Elective
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Discuss the latest insights, context and concepts of a contemporary issue of choice
      2. Able to justify his or her research in the context of IHE Delft research lines, personal professional interests and preferably in local, national and regional contemporary issues.
    • Groupwork ES Elective
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Solve complex environmental problems by integrating the content of the preceding modules;
      2. Make decisions on the basis of a limited amount of information;
      3. Work in a team to solve complex environmental problems
    • MSc Preparatory Course and Thesis Research Proposal for ES Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. concisely define the intended research topic, state precise aims and objectives, describe the research methodology, argue expected relevance and justification, and identify boundary conditions and self- or externally imposed limitations;
      2. list available literature and replicate main arguments expounded in the literature on the specified research topic;
      3. demonstrate analytical problem-analysis skills and the ability to distil the strategic issues to be addressed in the research phase;
      4. plan the research process in weekly time-steps and indicate essential milestones, targets and indicators, required human, financial and other resources, deliverables and perceived threats and constraints at each stage of the research project;
      5. develop and formulate the research proposal in a clearly written, well argued and convincing report, submitted within a set deadline;
      6. develop and formulate the research proposal in a clearly written, well argued and convincing report, submitted within a set deadline; successfully present and defend individual work, cross-reference it to and critically evaluate it in light of contemporary thinking in a specific field of study.

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)

    ATTENTION: The call for applications for a JJ/WBGSP (Preferred Partner) Scholarship will open on 22 February 2018. The deadline to submit your admission letter to the Worldbank is 12 April 2018, so make sure you have send your application for admission to IHE Delft before 21 March 2018.

    The Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program (JJ/WBGSP) is open to women and men from developing countries with relevant professional experience and a history of supporting their countries’ development efforts who are applying to a master degree program in a development-related topic. View the complete list of JJ/WBGSP preferred Master Degrees currently offered here (IHE Delft programmes are listed under UNESCO-IHE).

    more info:

  • Orange Knowledge Programme

    The Orange Knowledge Programme merges the Netherlands Fellowship Programmes (NFP) and NICHE into a single integrated approach. The Orange Knowledge Programme aims to advance the development of the capacity, knowledge and quality of both individuals and institutions in higher and vocational education. 

    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.

Work experience in an environment related to the programme is an asset. At least two years work experience is in general preferred.

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 reference letters, preferably one from a person that can judge students' professional abilities and one from a person that can judge his/her academic abilities. One recommendation letter has to come from the current employer (if available) and another one from the university the student graduated from. Letters have to have an official letterhead and need to be signed.
  • Motivation letter (maximum 500 words explanation why he/she applies for admission to the choosen programme).
  • Copy of passport.
  • Copy of results of English language test score (if required, see English language requirements).

Please note all documents are required to be in English, or officially translated into English.

It is not allowed to apply for admission to more than one master programme per academic year, unless there are 3 months or more between the start dates of the programmes. Academic admission to the programmes will be granted on the basis of a decision taken to that effect by the academic registrar, upon advice of the programme coordinator.

More information

Further questions about the application procedure can be addressed to:

Ms Marlies Baburek
Admission and Fellowship Officer