College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2021-2022

School of Earth and Sustainability

Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Doctor of Philosophy

Learning Outcomes

Purpose Statement

The Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability (ESES) brings together students and faculty from across the University. Many ESES topics address questions that can inform decisions and solutions related to environmental issues made by governments, business and society.
ESES students produce discipline-specific science and engineering of the highest quality. They strive to integrate different disciplines from the natural sciences, social sciences and engineering to build, connect and communicate knowledge to increase the broader impacts of their research.
ESES students study how planet Earth is changing due to natural phenomena and human activities over spatial and temporal scales. They observe, explain, understand, and project trends in earth, environmental, and societal systems, and investigate the drivers and processes that shape natural and social worlds and the interactions between them.
Student Learning Outcomes

ESES students will select one of the following three emphasis areas, based upon their background and the work they will complete toward their dissertation:
Earth Systems

This emphasis will prepare you to pursue research and educational opportunities that:

  • Advance cutting-edge research in the Earth sciences.
  • Increase knowledge in the critical areas for society of energy, natural resources, water, and natural hazards.
  • Apply this knowledge in areas that bridge the geosciences with physics, chemistry, engineering, and biology.
This emphasis area will train and educate leaders in rapidly growing industries and academic fields such as natural resources and energy, and in government agencies that require PhD-level researchers to inform policy decisions on some of the greatest problems facing society.

Climate and Environmental Change
This emphasis is designed to develop research and educational skills that:
  • Advance new understandings of natural climate variability,
  • Improve projections of climate change and its impacts on ecosystems and their hydrological and geological underpinnings
  • Inform policy decisions about how best to manage natural resources under changing climate and related environmental stresses.
This emphasis often combines the long-term perspective from geological archives with process-oriented investigations of today, with the goal of integrating a field-based understanding of natural systems into predictive models to support sustainable resource management in the face of climate change.
Engineering Sustainable Systems
The goals of this emphasis are to develop research and educational skills that:
  • Advance engineering analysis and applications relevant to sustainable development,
  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of engineering processes, products, and education
  • Understand and apply their knowledge in the sustainability contexts of economic viability, environmental compatibility and sustainability, societal impacts and policy development and implications.
This emphasis is designed for engineers who are interested in understanding the economic, societal and environmental implications of engineering systems. It provides a strong background in engineering enhanced by understanding future sustainability of our environment, and will prepare you for careers in academia, industry, and governmental organizations.

Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology

This emphasis is designed to develop research and educational skills that:
  • Advance the frontiers of understanding of ecological and evolutionary processes.
  • Synthesize applied, empirical, or experimental work from multiple disciplines to confront
  • Integrative challenges at the cutting edge of applied and basic research.
  • Apply ecological, evolutionary, and conservation theory to conservation challenges, incorporating the human dimensions of sustainable management and policy.
This emphasis will train and educate leaders in areas of research and application at the cutting edge of conservation and sustainability professions, including basic research, management
decision-making, sustainable policy development, and applied conservation.
Environment and Society

This emphasis is designed to develop research and educational skills that:
  • Advance knowledge in social theory and environmental policy related to sustainability.
  • Conduct cutting-edge interdisciplinary research at the nexus of the natural and social sciences.
  • Apply this knowledge in decision making for sustainable resource management and socio-economic policies.
This emphasis will prepare leaders in the areas of natural resources management, community engagement, the non-profit/NGO sector, academia, and in government agencies that require PhD-level researchers to inform management and policy decisions that address some of the greatest environmental problems facing society today.

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