Skip to content
Student looking at data on laptop

Examine Ecosystems, Landscapes, and Climate Change

Earth System Science (ESS) examines the structure and function of the parts of the Earth’s lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere, and how these systems interact with one another. This integrated science, which focuses on connections between these Earth system components, is at the heart of some of our most pressing physical science and nature-societal issues, including global climate change, water availability, and the loss of biological diversity.

Clark’s ESS program emphasizes the patterns and processes across the Earth’s surface (both land and ocean), serving as an introduction to earth sciences or geosciences. Intensive field study, satellite remote sensing analysis, geographical information science (GIS), and computer simulation all are used as tools for understanding, monitoring, and predicting Earth system behavior. The ESS track of the Environmental Science major trains graduates for a wide range of professional endeavors as well as for more advanced studies involving physical geography, including landscape ecology, land-atmosphere interactions, hydrology, biogeochemistry, remote sensing, and GISc.

Comparison with Geography and other Environmental Programs at Clark

Earth System Science differs from other geographic and environmental science majors and concentrations at Clark in that it emphasizes scales from ecosystems to landscapes and the globe, and examines relationships between biological and physical processes. In comparing ESS to the other ES tracks, keep the following in mind:

  • ESS examines biological and physical processes at scales from ecosystems to landscapes, all the way up to the planetary scale (e.g., climate). The Environmental and Conservation Biology (ECB) track of the major focuses on genetics to organismal scales and processes. The Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P) track concentrates on the technological, management, or policy solutions to problems of resources, health, and pollution.
  • Unlike Clark’s Global Environmental Studies (GES) major and the Human-Environment track of the Geography major, which are social science entries into environmental issues, the ESS track is a program of study focusing on the biological and physical processes regulating ecosystems and the broader Earth system.
  • ESS students not only develop strong biophysical training in Earth system science, but also in analytical remote sensing and GIScience tools that pervade this arena of science and prepare students for careers in the field.


Refer to the Environmental Science Major core courses and lists for each track to plan your course of study and also to keep track of your progress towards completing the major requirements.

Browse catalog

Meet our Earth System Science faculty

Contact Information

Environmental Science

Contact Us