Imaging and Assessing Landscapes


Course Objective

The landscape is the visible result of human interaction with its
physical surroundings and this course explores various ways to map the
results of this process and discusses its impact on the way people value
their surroundings. The course aims to introduce methods, techniques and
new developments in imaging (mapping) and assessing (evaluating) the

The course starts with an overview of GIS-based methods to map the
surface of the earth. It introduces classic and novel approaches to
collect spatially explicit data that help describe landscape forms and
capture the way humans interact with their physical surroundings.
Specific attention is paid to new ways to map human activity. This
introductory part of the course enables you to understand the quality
issues involved in collecting and using spatial data from a variety of
traditional and novel sources. In addition you are able set up and
execute a mapping exercise while applying relevant visualisation

The second part of the course elaborates on the concept of landscape and
discusses various approaches to classify and value landscapes. The
analysis of landscape values relates to issues such as openness,
cultural history, ecology, physical geography and perception. Such
valuation efforts will be applied in impact assessments of various types
of spatial plans. This part of the course provides you with knowledge on
different valuation methods and allows you to independently form and
underpin an opinion on the value of landscapes.

Course Content

The following topics are included in this course:
• Geodata capture (methods, data sources, classic cartography and novel
approaches using volunteered geographical information, twitter data,
mobile phone records etc.).
• Data quality (error, accuracy and consistency, quality aspects of
novel data sources).
• Visualisation (cartographic principles, aggregation, scale,
• Practical applications of novel data sources in imaging the landscape.
• Introduction to the landscape concept: differences between landscape,
land use and land cover; examples of well-known landscapes;
classification attempts in the Netherlands and abroad; recalling the
Dutch historic-geographic landscapes.
• Describing the main landscape components (openness, cultural history,
ecology and physical geography) and showing how these can be implemented
in spatial analysis;
• Valuing landscapes: indicating differences in perspectives between,
for example, experts and general public.
• Economic valuation of landscape values: introducing stated and
revealed preference methods and applying these to find the value of open
• Impact assessments: what threatens landscapes and how can we assess
impacts of, for example, road infrastructure, land consolidation and
urbanisation? Showing examples of existing GIS-based applications.
• Landscape and planning: how are landscapes protected in the
Netherlands and abroad?

Teaching Methods

The course consists of eight lectures (of two hours) and several
non-supervised practical assignments. To finalise the assignments
students will have to spend time in addition to the scheduled lectures
and practicals. All assignments will be evaluated as part of the final
assessment. In addition a one-day field trip is organised to a location
near Amsterdam to show a landscape threatened by development, discuss
its values and evaluate the role of policy in protecting it. Active
participation to the excursion is required.

Method of Assessment

The assessment will be based on a written final examination (40%) and
the average mark for the practical assignments (60%). For each of these
components students should obtain a mark of 5.5 or higher.

Entry Requirements

This course assumes that students have a working knowledge of GIS basics
as is, for example, obtained in the Digital spatial data course offered
as part of the Earth Sciences and Earth Sciences and Economics Bachelor
programmes of VU. A catch-up opportunity based on distance learning can
be provided for students lacking this knowledge. Please consult teaching
staff prior to the course when this applies to you. You have to ensure
that your GIS-knowledge is up to date before the course starts.


The relevant literature will contain scientific papers in English that
will be listed on Canvas at start of the course. These papers will
be provided through (links on) Canvas.

Target Audience

The course is an elective module in the Earth Sciences Master programme,
but it is open to all others with an interest in the mapping and
valuation of landscapes provided they possess the required knowledge
listed in this course description. Note that the course is only taught
with sufficient attendance (see registration procedure).

Custom Course Registration

The course will only be taught when at least seven students are willing to actively participate. So make sure you register and show up! For smaller groups an alternative educational form may be considered.

Recommended background knowledge

Basic knowledge about the processes that shape landscapes is expected,
as is some familiarity with the peculiarities of the origin of Dutch
landscapes. For those lacking this, reference is made to the following
• Lambert, A.M. (1985) The making of the Dutch landscape: an historical
geography of the Netherlands, 2nd edition, Seminar Press Ltd, London/New
York; or (in Dutch)
• Barends, S. et al. (2005) Het Nederlandse landschap. Een
historisch-geografische benadering. 9e druk, Matrijs, Utrecht.

General Information

Course Code AM_1183
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. E. Koomen
Examiner dr. E. Koomen
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture, Computer lab, Excursion
Target audiences

This course is also available as: