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Student Spotlight

About the Program


Both the global environment and our understanding of that environment are changing at rates that are unprecedented in the history of the Earth. Predicting and preparing for our future in this different world requires that we train a generation of scientists with a foundation in traditional disciplines and an ability to understand the challenge of interfacing among them.

The Ph.D. Program in Natural Resources and Earth System Science (NRESS) was designed to meet this challenge and to encourage interdisciplinary research among faculty studying the environment in the broadest sense. Solutions to environmental problems require knowledge of the interaction among physical, biological, environmental, and socioeconomic factors, while ethical considerations underlie both the identification of environmental problems and choice of action. Consequently, it is essential that future environmental leaders understand how information and approaches in different disciplines might be used innovatively to address environmental and natural resource management problems. Students in the Ph.D. Program in Natural Resources and Earth System Science pursue research in this context in a challenging and supportive research environment.

The NRESS Program draws on the University's strengths in environmental and earth sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and ethical and policy studies, and has the following objectives:

  1. To increase our understanding of environmental and natural resource problems and solutions at local, regional, and global scales;
  2. To provide graduate students with the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research on the environment;
  3. To stimulate excellence in research and teaching through increased contact between students and faculty in different departments and colleges.

Two degrees are offered under the NRESS Program:

Students within the program will choose the degree that best suits their area of study. Formal requirements for the two degrees are identical. Areas of study include, but are not limited to ecosystem science, biogeochemical cycling from local to global scales, geochemical systems, atmospheric science, geologic science including hydrology and oceanography, marine science, social science, ethical and policy issues, and multidisciplinary natural resources management. The breadth of research within the program is evident in the dissertation topics of NRESS program graduates and current students.

Course offerings in several departments and colleges are available to NRESS students. The content of each student's program is decided upon by the guidance committee, with review and approval by the Executive Committee of the program. Written and oral comprehensive and proposal exams are required of all students as well as an oral dissertation defense.

Faculty participate in the program by serving on guidance committees and by mentoring students. An Executive Committee is elected annually. The Earth Sciences and Natural Resources Departments each elect one member, the Program Chair appoints one additional member and the NRESS faculty elects the remaining three at-large members. The responsibilities of this committee include:

  1. Reviewing graduate student applications, directing them to appropriate faculty members, and finalizing admissions and assistantship decisions;
  2. Arranging for consideration of new faculty members by the current membership;
  3. Insuring the integrity and rigor of the program by reviewing student research plans and exam schedules.

The program reports directly to the Dean of the Graduate School.