The undergraduate major in Earth Systems Science prepares students to understand and solve critical challenges facing our environment, including:
- climate change
- water and soil pollution
- conservation of biological diversity
- management of natural resources.
The major is highly interdisciplinary, integrating the study of fundamental physical, chemical, and biological processes that shape our environment with practical applications to real-world problems. Core courses within the major provide students with a firm foundation in the fundamentals of chemistry, biology, hydrology, ecology and Earth sciences, while upper division elective courses allow students the flexibility to pursue a variety of topics related to Earth and environmental systems. This major emphasizes an integrated approach to Earth Systems Science, incorporating field studies, laboratory experiments and computations. Coursework in the social sciences exposes students to the political, economic and societal implications of human interactions with the environment.
Graduates of this major will have a strong background in the theory and application of Earth Systems Science. They will be well prepared for either graduate studies or jobs in the areas of environmental conservation and consulting, ecosystem and natural resource management and science, and many aspects of agricultural sciences. Additionally, Earth Systems Science is an excellent foundation for professional careers in law, policy and administration that increasingly involve the environmental sciences.
The location of UC Merced in the San Joaquin Valley near the Sierra Nevada offers an excellent and diverse real-world laboratory for studying the natural environment and how it is affected by human activity. Additionally, the UC Merced Sierra Nevada Research Institute provides a rich milieu of faculty expertise, research seminars and other activities, and provides opportunities for undergraduate internships.
A hallmark of the Earth Systems Science major is its breadth and flexibility. Lower division coursework emphasizes foundation courses in physical, chemical and biological sciences, and mathematics, with a choice of a lower division elective science course. Upper division requirements consist of five core courses that provide students with a balance of key concepts in Earth Systems Science, and exposure to environmental science and policy. In the upper division, students choose three elective courses to tailor their program to their individual interests. An upper division seminar highlights the latest research in interdisciplinary Earth Systems Science. General education coursework in communications and economics prepares majors to apply their quantitative science skills in the job market or in further studies at the graduate level. Students participate in research, internship, or service learning activities with faculty as part of their undergraduate studies.
Earth Systems Science Program Learning Outcomes
Students in the Earth Systems Science major will achieve the following:
- Foundational knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics related to Earth systems that supports a working knowledge of basic research methodologies, data analysis, and interpretation for a variety of Earth-related data.
- Knowledge of major concepts, theoretical principles, experimental findings, and areas of study related to Earth systems science, and comprehension of the interactions between natural Earth systems and human economic, political, and social systems.
- An ability to employ critical thinking, quantitative and numerical analyses, and hypothesis-driven methods of scientific inquiry in the formulation of research questions, experimental design, application and use of laboratory and field instrumentation, and analysis and interpretation of data related to Earth systems.
- Effective written and oral communication skills, especially the ability to transmit complex technical information.
- An ability to work effectively individually and in teams in classroom, laboratory, and field settings.
Sample plans of study for the Earth Systems Science degree may be found in the School of Natural Sciences website naturalsciences.ucmerced.edu.