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Earth System Science (interdepartmental)

Earth System Science

Earth System Science (ESS) concentrates on the linkages between the biological, chemical, physical and human subsystems of the Earth. It focuses on the cycling of energy and matter through the biosphere, the atmosphere, the cryosphere, the hydrosphere and the solid earth, at time scales from days to billions of years.

This integrated and holistic approach is needed to tackle the complex and challenging global problems facing the Earth. It draws upon the expertise developed within disciplines such as Ecology, Environment, Geography, Geology, Meteorology and Oceanography.

The McGill program in ESS is designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge to address six grand challenges that are fundamental to our understanding of the way in which the Earth operates:

  • Global biogeochemical cycles
  • Climate variability and change
  • Land use and land cover change
  • Energy and resources
  • Earth hazards, such as volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes
  • Earth-atmosphere observation, analysis and prediction

Program options

The Earth System Science Major is offered jointly by the following departments:

  • Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPSC)
  • Geography (GEOG)

The B.Sc. Major in Earth System Science has a total requirement of 57 credits. Of these, 36 credits are from required courses in Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences, Biology, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Geography, the School of Environment and Mathematics & Statistics and include four integrating Earth System Science courses:

  • ESYS 200 Earth System Processes
  • ESYS 300 Investigating the Earth System
  • ESYS 301 Earth System Modelling
  • ESYS 500 Earth System Applications

Program highlights

In support the Earth System Science initiative at McGill, a faculty lecturer and six new professors have been appointed, two within each of the founding departments:

  • Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences - Atmospheric and Oceanic Global Hydrology and Climate Variability
  • Earth & Planetary Science - Biogeochemistry and Groundwater Hydrology
  • Geography - Global Terrestrial Hydrology and Land Use and Cover Change

As students progress through the program, they are offered the opportunity to gain deeper knowledge in specific earth systems and participate in hands-on research projects. This prepares them for a wide range of career opportunities, where scientific questions raised by local and global change in our physical environment must be tackled. Students graduating from the program will be well prepared for employment in various geoscience agencies, including Environment Canada, the oil and gas industries, hydro-electric utilities and environmental consulting companies. They will also be well equipped for postgraduate studies.

More information

ESS program web page

Calendar entry for Earth System Science Interdepartmental Major (ESYS) - see online calendar