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Education University of Groningen Summer Schools

Welcome to the Anthropocene!

Exploring the borders of human impact and the limits of academic definitions

Should the Anthropocene be recognised as an official subdivision of geological time? The proposition of this term has raised much discussion during the past decade. Is our species’ imprint visible geologically? What was the tipping point towards anthropogenic impact to such a degree that it defines a geological epoch?

The nature of this debate necessitates crossing disciplinary boundaries, and while the term has not been officially accepted by the geological community it is already in use by a broad academic society. To truly understand this debate, one must get to its essence and critically examine the validness of definitions and arguments used.

In this summer school you will learn how to participate in an academic debate, how to formulate your own arguments and present these to an academic audience. Experts in different fields will present their case for the Anthropocene and share relevant insights. By exploring human imprints observed in various relevant research domains, this school will try to elucidate the essence of the debate and discuss how it relates to our current perception of human impact on the environment.

globe with footprint

The school will be structured around four themes discussed during the first four days:

  1. Shifts in subsistence and environmental impact (history, archaeology, economy)
  2. Are we friendly neighbours? Interspecies relationships (biology, ecology, paleoecology)
  3. Will Homo sapiens leave a geological mark? (geology, earth system science)
  4. How anthropocentric is the Anthropocene? (philosophy, anthropology)

The fifth day will conclude the school. Students will present their stance on the Anthropocene based on arguments debated during the previous days. We aim to procude an academic output as a group following the school.

Practical information

Dates 3 - 8 July 2022
Location Groningen, the Netherlands

PhD, Master, and advanced Bachelor students


€ 275, including welcome tour and drinks, lunch, coffee and tea, and closing dinner with speakers
€ 200 for University of Groningen students (limited availability, on the basis of first come, first served)

Academic coordinators

Daniella Vos, University of Groningen, Faculty of Spatial Sciences
Kees Klein Goldewijk, University of Utrecht
Martine Maan, University of Groningen, Faculty of Science & Engineering



As the nature of this course is cross-disciplinary, no domain specific prior knowledge is required. The focus will be on participating in a scientific debate. This type of activity usually relates to a postgraduate (master / PhD) level, but highly motivated undergraduate students may apply.

It is expected that the participants have a sufficient command of the English language to actively participate in the discussions and to present their own work in English.

Course schedule

Sunday 3 July

15.00-18.00 Guided tour of Groningen and drinks

Monday 4 July

Shifts in subsistence and environmental impact

10.00-12.30 Welcome and introduction of the school
12.30-13.30 Lunch break
13.30-14.30 Lecture by Professor Will Roebroeks / Dr. Katherine MacDonald
14.30-15.00 Coffee break
15.00-17.00 Guest lecturers and discussion

Tuesday 5 July

Are we friendly neighbors? Interspecies relationships

10.00-12.30 Reflection and group work
12.30-13.30 Lunch break
13.30-14.30 Lecture by Professor Liesbeth Bakker
14.30-15.00 Coffee break
15.00-16.00 Lecture by Professor Barbara Gravendeel
16.00-17.00 Discussion

Wednesday 6 July

Will Homo sapiens leave a geological mark?

10.00-11.30 Reflection and group work
11.30-12.30 Lecture by Professor Erle Ellis
12.30-13.30 Lunch break
13.30-14.30 Lecture by Professor Will Steffen
14.30-15.00 Coffee break
15.00-16.00 Lecture by Professor Jan Zalasiewicz
16.00-17.00 Discussion
18.00-21.00 Dinner

Thursday 7 July

How anthropocentric is the Anthropocene?

10.00-12.30 Reflection and group work
12.30-13.30 Lunch break
13.30-14.30 Lecture by Professor Raymond Corbey, “Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos”
14.30-15.00 Coffee break
15.00-17.00 Discussion session lead by Professor Raymond Corbey

Friday 8 July

09.00-12.30 Preparation of presentations
12.30-13.30 Lunch break
13.30-16.00 Presentation session
16.00-17.00 Reflection and rounding up the week

Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to:

  • Become familiar with the main arguments and definitions in the ongoing discussion about the Anthropocene
  • Deconstruct a scientific argument made by others and consider it from an epistemological perspective
  • Formulate and present scientific arguments contributing to a scientific discussion


  • Preparatory work: 10 hours
  • Preparation of final presentation during summer school: 11 hours
  • Lectures, symposium and presentation sessions: 35 hours

Upon successful completion of the programme, the Summer School offers a Certificate of Attendance that mentions the workload of 56 hours (28 hours corresponds to 1 ECTS). Students can apply for recognition of these credits to the relevant authorities in their home institutions, therefore the final decision on awarding credits is at the discretion of their home institutions. We will be happy to provide any necessary information that might be requested in addition to the certificate of attendance.

Application procedure

To apply, kindly fill out the online application form. Please note that you will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • CV (max 2 pages)
  • Letter of motivation (max 1 page)

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis (first come, first served). The final deadline for application is 1 June 2022.

Last modified:03 May 2022 2.47 p.m.