An integrated approach toward understanding our planet

In studying the system Earth and other planets, the Earth Sciences contribute to answers on social and economic questions that concern: 

  • the natural means of existence (water, energy, raw materials),
  • the terrestrial environment (including remediation of pollutions),
  • natural hazards (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods),
  • and the use of terrestrial space (specifically near surface and underground space).

The Earth Sciences integrate the principles and methods of physics, chemistry, geology, biology, mathematics, and computational sciences. We specifically develop new scientific hypotheses, methods of data analyses, and experimental and observational techniques that enable us to reconstruct and predict the interactive behaviour of the solid Earth, the biosphere, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere, on scales ranging from seconds to billions of years, and from nanometers to the entire globe. We honour James Hutton’s early insight that "from what has actually been, we have data for concluding with regard to that which is to happen thereafter".

International center of excellence

The Department of Earth Sciences is the largest academic Earth Sciences institute in the Netherlands, and among the larger ones in Europe. Over recent decades, its staff of 175 to 200 researchers and Ph.D students has created an international centre of excellence in scientific research and research training that actively contributes  to addressing the challenges we face in developing a modern, sustainable society.

The national focal point of Earth Sciences

Utrecht is the national focal point of Earth Sciences in The Netherlands. At Utrecht University research groups from the Faculty of Geosciences and the Faculty of Sciences study a large spectrum of topics concerning the solid Earth, its hydrosphere, its biosphere and its atmosphere. Key national applied research institutes, including the Geological Survey of the  Netherlands (TNO) and the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI) are located on campus or in the nearby area, which stimulates collaboration and strengthens the quality of research and education.


Nathan Marshall veldwerk
21 June 2016
The Coral Triangle reached the current high-biodiversity millions of years earlier than what was once thought, writes Nathan Marshall of Utrecht University.
24 May 2016
Because of his international position in earth sciences, Wim Spakman has been appointed as foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters.
Atomic force microscope image of a slipping zone
4 May 2016
Earth scientists from Utrecht University have started a new project to study nanoparticles in fault rocks.
30 March 2016
Civil Architect Francine Houben and Marine Biologist Sybil Seitzinger were awarded an honorary doctorate.