PhD in Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability


Program Description

The interdisciplinary Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability Doctoral program will prepare you to be part of a growing industry of leaders, scientists, and engineers addressing issues of climate change, water scarcity, natural resource demand, and environmental sustainability in the Southwest, United States, and the global community.

You have a choice of three emphases:

  • Earth and Planetary Systems
  • Climate and Environmental Change
  • Engineering Sustainable Systems


Admissions requirements for this graduate program:

  • Preference is given to students with a graduate degree from an accredited college or university of recognized standing in geology, earth sciences, environmental sciences, environmental policy & sustainability, engineering, ecology, forestry, planetary sciences or a closely related field.
  • Minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is a 4.0 = A)
  • GRE General Test


Our program will reach across the applied and basic sciences and environmental policy and engineering solutions by focusing on three emphases, outlined below.

Earth and Planetary Systems

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

1) Advance knowledge in the critical areas of society of energy, natural resources and water, and natural hazards,

2) continue the cutting edge research currently being done on the Earth and Planets, and

3) apply this knowledge in areas that bridge between the geosciences and physics, chemistry, engineering, and biology.

The focus area in Earth and Planetary Systems will train and educate future leaders in areas of industry with growing demands (e.g., natural resources and energy), and in government agencies that require PhD-level researchers to inform policy decisions on some of the largest problems facing society.

Climate and Environmental Change

The Climate and Environmental Change emphasis is designed to develop research and educational skills that:

1) advance new understandings of the natural climate variability,

2) improve projections of climate change and its impacts on ecosystems and their hydrological and geological underpinnings (i.e. the landscape), and

3) apply this knowledge to informing policy decisions about how best to manage natural resources under changing the climate and related environmental stresses. It 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:

1) advanced engineering analysis and applications relevant to sustainable development,

2) improve the efficiency and effectiveness of engineering processes, products, and education, and

3) understand and apply their knowledge in the sustainability contexts of economic viability, environmental compatibility and sustainability, societal impacts and policy development and implications.

The Engineering Sustainable Systems emphasis is designed for the engineer interested in an understanding of the economic, societal and environmental implications of engineering systems. You will have a strong background in engineering enhanced by understanding the future sustainability of our environment and will be prepared for careers in academia, industry, and governmental organizations.

Last updated Aug 2020

About the School

Northern Arizona University is a public university offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees of high quality and societal value. As a student, you are at the center of the NAU experi ... Read More

Northern Arizona University is a public university offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees of high quality and societal value. As a student, you are at the center of the NAU experience, which is guided by a dedicated and distinguished faculty committed to teaching, individual engagement, and research excellence. Read less