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Earth System Science

Understanding how our planet works

Our goal is to understand, predict, and respond to human-caused and natural environmental change at local to global scales. Scientists in our Earth System Science department offer a strong graduate research program across a broad range of environmental and Earth science disciplines for students working toward a doctoral degree. Undergraduate and coterminal master's degrees are offered through the closely related and popular Earth Systems Program.

Research groups in Earth system science

Learn more about our faculty labs and research groups ranging from ocean biogeochemistry to soil science and geohydrology.

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Shared analytical facilities

Students and faculty start their examination of specimens in our comprehensive Earth Materials Preparation lab. Our shared labs offer everything from gas, liquid, and solid analyses to isotopic analysis for geochronology and deciphering (bio)geochemical processes.

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Stanford Geospatial Center

Housed in Branner library, the center offers workshops on Geographic Information Systems (GIS), data management, visualization tools, and spatial analysis.

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Earth system science news

Beavers will become a bigger boon to river water quality as U.S. West warms

American beaver populations are booming in the western United States as conditions grow hotter and drier. New research shows their prolific dam building benefits river water quality so much, it outweighs the damaging influence of climate-driven droughts.

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Plant processes may be key to predicting drought development

Based on new analyses of satellite data, scientists have found that hydrologic conditions that increase flash drought risk occur more often than current models predict. The research also shows that incorporating how plants change soil structures can improve Earth system models.

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Coastal cathedrals

Years after Hurricane Katrina altered his life’s course, Elliott White Jr. set out to understand what drives coastal wetland loss as a way to help lessen harm from future climate impacts for vulnerable coastal communities. (Source: Stanford News)

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Food security in a warming world

Heat waves, drought, and floods driven by climate change are already impacting access to food and driving food insecurity in many parts of the world. Stanford professor David Lobell explains how food production and access are impacted by climate change. (Source: Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health)

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