ARCHIVED CATALOG: Visit to view the 2023-2024 General Catalog.

UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Earth Science

Division of Mathematics, Life, and Physical Sciences
Webb Hall, Room 1006
Undergraduate e-mail:
Graduate e-mail:
Department Chair: Andy Wyss


Alone in the solar system, the Earth is a water-rich rocky planet that has given rise to abundant and diverse life. In the Department of Earth Science, we study the whole Earth system, focusing on interactions between the solid earth, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere, and on the historical evolution of the Earth system throughout geologic time. We explore ongoing terrestrial, marine, and interior Earth processes that are taking place today, and we examine the geologic record to illuminate the past behavior and changing properties of our planet over timescales ranging from centuries to billions of years. We use knowledge about active processes to read the rocky record of the past and seek clues to the origins of Earth’s features and life. From the record of the past, we extrapolate to predict global changes that will affect people in the future. We discover the marvels of our home planet at spatial scales ranging from the atomic scale to the global scale, through observations, measurements, experiments, and models.

The Department of Earth Science at UCSB conducts many field studies in geographic areas ranging from the tallest mountain peaks of the Himalayas, the wilderness of Antarctica, to the vast undiscovered depths of the ocean floor. Our graduate and undergraduate students participate directly in the excitement of exploring unknown terra incognita. Taught by a distinguished and dedicated faculty (including several members of the National Academy of Sciences and winners of the UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award), students in Earth Science experience the wonder of discovery and come to appreciate and connect to the unfolding planetary drama of which they are part. Because Earth Science students acquire such diverse tools and skills in mapping, analyzing, visualizing, computing, and problem-solving, they are well-prepared for a broad range of careers in the private sector, government, K-12 education, academia, and the industry.

Mission Statement

The faculty and facilities of the Department of Earth Science exist to support and further instruction and research in geological sciences. These endeavors involve the creation and dissemination of knowledge by involving students in conducting research both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Educational Objectives

The goal of the undergraduate program is to equip young scientists for their future roles as research scientists, teachers, scholars, and productive employees by teaching them to be engaged in lifelong learning and experience, as well as professional and public service. The goal of the undergraduate program is to produce graduates with a broad education in the sciences, a firm grasp of geologic principles and ideas, and an arsenal of intellectual and communication skills. Departmental requirements and goals are organized toward acquisition of basic fundamentals, skills of observation, techniques of data collection and analysis, and training in objective reasoning, writing, and computer literacy. The main vehicle for this training is a strong emphasis on field experience through three field courses and numerous trips attached to other courses.

Senior Honors Program

Senior standing students with outstanding academic records in geological sciences are encouraged to participate in the senior honors program. The honors program centers on an independent research project, which must represent a significant advanced undertaking in an area of academic or applied research. It must be approved by the department chair and by a faculty member who serves as the project supervisor. Program requirements include a 3.2 grade-point average in the major and overall, maintenance of the 3.2 grade-point average through the duration of the project, and completion of the senior research thesis course series, Geology 196HA-B-C. Distinction in the Major will be awarded at graduation to students whose projects are evaluated as acceptable. Proposal forms are available in the department office, and are due by the add deadline in the Fall quarter. Students whose projects require funding should contact the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) office in early October.

Five-Year Combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Program

The Department of Earth Science offers a program allowing students to earn combined bachelor of science and master of science degrees in Earth Science. See the description under “Graduate Program.”