Earth System Science Certificate

Certificate Curriculum

An Overview of the Earth System Science Certificate

EOAS offers graduate students a certificate in Earth System Science (ESS), designed to stimulate new collaborations between students and faculty from different disciplines that can lead to ground-breaking research and discoveries.

The ESS Certificate program provides students a transdisciplinary capstone upon their disciplinary training, paving the way to careers that integrate a variety of scientific perspectives on the Earth system. The ESS Certificate curriculum allows the student to custom design their curriculum according to their personal needs and interests. Courses in Rutgers’s graduate programs in Earth and Planetary Science, Oceanography, Atmospheric Science, Ecology and Evolution, and Geography, as well as courses in other related graduate programs, cover intersecting components of the Earth’s System. Two overview seminars required of all students completing the ESS Certificate provide a cross-section of transdisciplinary research across campus, links to graduate students in other EOAS disciplines, and education about the specific skills that are required of all researchers. Students completing the ESS certificate are required to earn at least 9 course credits in three different subjects outside their core area of study.

ESS Curriculum by the Numbers

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Five Graduate Programs

Five Graduate Programs are available for students to custom design their own curriculum.

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Two Overview Seminars

Two Overview Seminars provide students with a cross-section of trans-disciplinary research, exposes students to other EOAS disciplines, and educates them about required research skills.

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Nine Course Credits

Nine Course Credits are spent studying subjects outside a student’s core area of study.

What Should I Know About the ESS Certificate?

It’s available to graduate students.

Both M.S. and Ph.D. students, conducting research involving the Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

It requires study outside the core curriculum.

The ESS Certificate curriculum includes two joint seminar courses (a one-credit New Frontiers in Earth System Science Course and a three-credit Research Communications Course) and nine credits of graduate course work in an area other than their home discipline.

Course Options

Nine Credits Outside the Core Area of Study

This list contains courses that a student may consider as part of their Earth System Science Certificate curriculum. This is not a comprehensive list because there are many other courses across Rutgers that could also be selected that are not listed here. For example, courses in Policy, Engineering, Economics or a myriad of other subject areas could be proposed by the student to the Graduate Program Committee.


Atmospheric Physics (3)

The atmospheric physics of clouds and aerosols, precipitation, energy and momentum transfer, solar and terrestrial radiation. Miller. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.


Modeling of Climatic Change (3)

Climate models, including energy-balance, radiative-convective, and general circulation models. Actual practice running climate models and analyzing output. Robock. Prerequisites: At least one graduate course in meteorology, oceanography, or physical geography. Knowledge of a high-level programming language, such as FORTRAN or C.


Physical Climatology (3)

The climate system, surface-energy balance, past climate variations, climate-feedback mechanisms, climate modeling, causes of climate change, detection and attribution of anthropogenic climate change. Robock. Prerequisite: A basic course in meteorology or climatology.


Mechanisms of Past Climate Change (3)

Mechanisms responsible for changes in climate during Earth’s distant past, including orbital forcing of climate change, millennial-scale climate variability, and past changes in tropical atmosphere-ocean interaction. Broccoli. Prerequisite: Graduate-level coursework in meteorology, oceanography, geology, or physical geography.

16:375:540 (Cross-listed 11:375:346)

Atmospheric Chemistry (3)

Air pollutants, trace gases, and aerosols discussed in terms of their observed distribution in time and space; sources and sinks in the atmosphere and its boundaries; budgets and cycles. Emphasis on tropospheric chemical reactions.  Carlton. Prerequisite: 11:375:421 or permission of instructor 

16:460:503 (F)

Studies in Paleontology (3)

Topics include methods and case studies in systematics, evolution and extinction, paleogeography, paleoclimate, and other topics of current interest. Emphasis on the relationship between geological and biological processes. McGhee. Prerequisite: 01:460:303 or equivalent.

16:460:505 (F)

Sedimentary Geology (3)

Topics of current interdisciplinary research in sedimentary geology. Sequence stratigraphy, facies models, sea-level change, unconformities/hiatuses, tectonics, climate change, cyclicity, evolution, mass extinctions. Ashley, Feibel. Prerequisite: 01:460:341.

16:460:506 (S)

Structure and Formation of the Earth (3)

Topics of current research on the internal structure of the earth: mantle structure, phase changes, seismic discontinuities, trace-element/isotopic properties, mineral physics, core formation, meteorites, moons, and asteroids. Feigenson, Herzberg. Prerequisites: 01:460:302, 307, 401, or permission of instructor.

16:460:507 (S)

Geodynamics (3)

Topics of current research in structural geology, geophysics, and tectonics. Deformation of the crust and mantle; convection in the mantle and core; the gravity and magnetic field of the earth; plate tectonics and the origin of earthquakes and volcanoes. Levin.  Prerequisites: 01:460:307, 16:460:512.

16:460:509 (F)

Meteoritics (3)

Petrology and geochemistry of meteorites, origin of solar system, thermal history of asteroids. Delaney. Prerequisite: 01:460:302.

16:460:519 (F)

Mesozoic-Cenozoic Stratigraphy (3)

Study of the Mesozoic-Cenozoic stratigraphic sequences in different basinal settings and their relationship to tectonic history. Miller. Prerequisite: 01:460:305.

16:460:525 (S)

Marine Sedimentology (3)

Examination of the physical processes of sedimentation on the continental shelf and continental slope environments. Interrelationship between organisms and sediment, as well as environmental problems. Ashley. Prerequisite: 01:460:340 or equivalent.

16:460:526 (F)

Paleoceanography (3)

Paleoecology, paleoclimatology, and paleogeography of marine microfossils; study of major paleoceanographic events and their relationships to stratigraphy and sedimentary facies. Miller, Rosenthal, Wright. Prerequisite: Paleontology.

16:460:528 (F)

Groundwater Modeling (3)

Modeling of groundwater flow and associated mass/energy transport. Real examples used to formulate correct mathematical statement of problem; numerical models applied for solution. Reinfelder. Prerequisite: 01:460:428 or equivalent.

16:460:538 (S)

Evolutionary Paleoecology (3)

Evolution of ecological systems in geologic time; application of evolutionary theory to paleoecological patterns and processes. McGhee. Prerequisite: 01:460:303 or equivalent.

16:460:541 (F)

Marine Geology (3)

Structure and evolution of ocean basins, continental margins, and marine sediments. Mountain, Wright. Prerequisite: 01:460:341 or equivalent or permission of instructor.

16:460:560 (S)

Numerical Methods in Paleoecology (3)

Digital computational methods for paleoecologists and paleontologists; measurement systems and data transformation; statistics; discrete association and gradient analytic techniques for paleoecological research. Emphasis on applied data analysis. McGhee. Prerequisites: Calculus and statistics, or permission of instructor.

16:460:561 (F)

Studies in Micropaleontology (3)

Paleoecology and biostratigraphy of foraminifera; identification and interpretation of microscopic organic remains in rocks and sediments. Aubry. Prerequisites: 01:460:303, 341.


Conservation Ecology (3)

Biological, social, and economic causes of the major threats to ecosystems and species. The role of universities and human communities. Changing worldviews and possibilities for constructive response. Ehrenfeld.


Landscape Ecology (3)

A comprehensive introduction and overview of the field of landscape ecology, coupling theory and concepts with illustrated applications in the computer lab to provide practical experience using state-of-the-art landscape analysis tools. Meixler.


Advanced Evolution (1)

Journal club in evolution. Major elements of organismal evolutionary theory: phylogenetics, genetic variation, natural selection, adaptation, and speciation. Demonstration of methodology and software programs. Struwe, Duffy.


Molecular Ecology (3)

Genomics applied to ecology and evolution. Topics will include population dynamics, dispersal, natural selection, and conservation genetics. Pinsky.


Wildlife Ecology and Conservation (3)

The ecology, management, and conservation of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. Topics include population viability analysis, sustainable harvesting, habitat fragmentation, and conservation genetics. Lockwood.


Community Dynamics (4)

Patterns and processes involving sets of two or more coexisting species. Theoretical and empirical studies. Morin.

16:215:571 (F)

Bayesian Analysis (3)

This course will prepare graduate students to perform Bayesian analyses. Topics covered will include likelihood functions, prior and posterior distributions, model choice, hierarchical modeling, and the OpenBUGS software package. Green.

16:215:575 (F)

Quantitative Ecology and Evolution (3)

Application of differential equations and linear algebra to specific ecological phenomena (e.g., growth, competition, predator/prey). Dynamic modeling of simple (three- and four-component) ecosystems; students develop their own models. Morin. Prerequisite: Calculus.


Introduction to Ecological and Environmental Modeling (3)

Mathematical and statistical tools for ecological and environmental modeling. General model formulation, validation, hypothesis testing, nonlinear phenomena, and forecasting. Xu. Prerequisites: College-level calculus and basic statistics.


Ecosystem Modeling, Quantitative Analysis for Ecosystem Management (3)

Quantifying major ecosystem functions based on current knowledge and understanding of ecosystem processes and their interactions from cell to ecosystem scales; modeling photosynthesis, respiration, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, energy balance, stomatal conductance, and leaf area index; basic spatial modeling techniques and applications of remote sensing and GIS in ecosystem modeling. Application of models to ecosystem management and global environment change. Xu. Prerequisite: 16:215:585.

16:215:587 (S)

Urban Ecology (3)

Ecology in and of cities; responses of organisms to urbanization; socioecological linkages; urban planning and design as it relates to biodiversity. Aronson.

16:450:501 (F)

Introduction to Natural Resources Management (3)

Review of recent literature on natural resources management, with emphasis on identifying and analyzing research themes and methodologies employed by contemporary geographers.

16:450:504 (F)

Coastal Geomorphology (3)

Erosional and depositional processes in the coastal environment. Process-response models and problem-solving methods in coastal research. Prerequisite: 01:450:403 or 404 or equivalent.


Environment and Development (3)

Relationship between environmental change and economic development; political and cultural ecology; environmental justice; and social theory and the environment. Critical analysis of environmental conservation methods and development planning initiatives.


Uneven Development (3)

Political economy of development and underdevelopment. Historical geography of development interventions. Theories of agrarian and industrial transitions. Political, economic, and social geographic impacts of development.

16:450:511 (S)

Land Change Science (3)

Understanding land dynamics through an examination of coupled human-environment systems; the development of land change studies and the theoretical and methodological challenges to linking biophysical, socioeconomic, and remote sensing/GIS analyses.


Environment and Culture (3)

Interrelations of the environment and cultural practices, knowledge, and ideals. Concepts and methods for studying these interrelations.


The Climate System and Global Climate Change (3)

The earth’s energy balance, hydrologic cycle, and atmospheric circulation at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Present climate events and aspects of climate change.


Geography of Globalization (3)

Causes and consequences of economic globalization. Topics include the determinants of globalization, theoretical models of globalization, and implications of globalization for regional economies and the environment.


Natural Hazards Management (3)

Analysis of human and environmental contributions to the generation and management of natural hazards, including, among others, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Contemporary public policy issues at national and international levels of government. Theoretical emphasis on decision making in the face of uncertainty.

16:450:613 (F)

Seminar in Coastal Resources Geography (3)

Analysis of contemporary maritime management issues, including ecosystem preservation, siting of energy facilities, ocean dumping, storm-disaster mitigation, port development, waterfront revitalization, and beach recreation. Focus on U.S. and international public policy.

16:450:615 (S)

Seminar in Remote Sensing (3)

Remote sensors and their research capabilities. Research design for remote-sensing studies.


Seminar in Remote Sensing of the Biosphere (3)

Application of satellite remote sensing and geographic information system technology to monitor and model the earth’s biosphere, including terrestrial/aquatic primary production, biogeochemical cycling, and climate dynamics. Lathrop. Prerequisite: 16:450:615 or equivalent or permission of instructor.


Seminar in Geographic Information Systems (3)

Advanced topics in geographic information systems (GIS): raster/vector data structures, GIS modeling. Requires literature review and hands-on computer analysis. Prerequisite: 01:450:420 or 11:372:462.

16:712:501 (F)

Physical Oceanography (3)

Chant, Miller, Haidvogel. Prerequisites: One year of college calculus and college physics.

16:712:502 (F)

Large-Scale Ocean and Atmosphere Dynamics (3)

Observational basis for large-scale ocean circulation; derivation of oceanic equations of motion; Kelvin, planetary, and topographic waves; wind-driven ocean circulation; simple models of abyssal circulation and thermocline; and instabilities and mesoscale eddies. Haidvogel. Prerequisite: 16:712:501 or permission of instructor. Offered in alternate years.

16:712:503 (S)

Coastal Ocean Dynamics (3)

Observation basis and theoretical foundation of coastal ocean dynamics; tides; rotation; Kelvin and vorticity waves; fronts and plumes; upwelling; estuaries and buoyancy forcing; effects of boundaries and topography; and biogeochemical implications. Chant, Wilkin. Prerequisite: 16:712:501 or 502. Offered in alternate years.

16:712:521 (S)

Marine Benthic Ecology (3)

Emphasis on fauna living in soft sediments: roles in nutrient cycling and marine food webs; feeding biology, reproduction, and recruitment; and community structure as influenced by physical and chemical properties of the environment. Taghon. Prerequisites: One year of college calculus and invertebrate zoology. Offered in alternate years.

16:712:522 (S)

Biological Oceanography (3)

Interactions among biological, physical, and chemical components of the marine environment, including primary production and secondary production, biogeochemical cycles, food web interactions, and ecosystem analysis of selected marine ecosystems. Habitats considered include the open ocean, coastal waters, kelp beds, coral reefs, estuaries, the deep sea, and hydrothermal vent environments. Taghon. Prerequisite: One year of college biology.

16:712:525 (S)

Molecular Oceanography (3)

The application of molecular tools to study biological processes in the oceans with emphasis on phylogenetics, genomics, population genetics, phylogeography, and molecular ecology. Bidle. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

16:712:526 (F)

Estuarine Ecology (4)

Focus on current scientific questions in the ecology of estuarine organisms, with an emphasis on student-based examination of data collection, techniques, analysis, and synthesis relative to the relevant literature. Able, Taghon. Prerequisite: Permission of instructors. Offered every fourth year; next offered fall 2014.

16:712:540 (S)

Chemical Oceanography (3)

Chemical description of the ocean and its major chemical cycles; salinity and the elements of seawater; nutrients; the carbonate system; marine organic matter; radioisotopes; hydrothermal processes and ocean evolution. Rosenthal, Severmann, Sherrell, Sikes. Prerequisites: One year of college chemistry; 16:712:501.

16:712:545 (S)

Dynamics of Waves, Currents, and Sediment Transport on the Continental Shelf (3)

Equations of motion; linear theory for surface waves; wave boundary layers; current Ekman layers; coastal current circulation patterns; sediment transport in steady flow, oscillatory flow, and combined waves and currents. Glenn. Prerequisite: 16:712:501. Offered in alternate years.

16:712:552 (F)

Remote Sensing of the Ocean and Atmosphere (3)

Miller, Wilkin. Prerequisite: One year of physics.

16:712:560 (F)

History of the Earth System (3)

Introduction to major processes that have shaped Earth’s environment, including climatic processes on geological time scales, the evolution of organisms, the cycling of elements, and the feedback between these processes. Falkowski. Prerequisites: Introductory chemistry, biology, and physics, or permission of instructor.

16:712:603 (F)

Numerical Modeling of the Atmosphere and Ocean I (3)

Governing equations of atmospheric/oceanic motion; simplification and scaling; parameterization issues; numerical solution of the equations; Fourier and spectral methods; and evaluation of atmospheric and oceanic models. Haidvogel. Prerequisites: 16:375:547, 16:712:502 or equivalent; proficiency in a high-level programming language. Offered in alternate years.

16:712:604 (S)

Numerical Modeling of the Atmosphere and Ocean II (3)

Laboratory course for practical application of numerical approaches taught in 16:712:603, including literature review, problem formulation, model development, and synthesis and presentation of results. Haidvogel. Offered in alternate years.

16:712:615 (S)

Geophysical Data Analysis (3)

Quantitative analysis and display of spatial and time-series data; filters; spectral analysis; covariance; coherence; confidence intervals; goodness-of-fit; optimal interpolation of unequally spaced data; empirical orthogonal functions; and harmonic analysis. Practical exercises using Matlab to analyze data from marine and environmental instruments, satellites, and climatologies. Communicating quantitative results to an audience. Chant, Wilkin. Prerequisites: Calculus, differential equations, linear algebra. Offered in alternate years.

Supporting Syllabi

New Frontiers in Earth System Science (1-credit required)

This course consists of guest lecturers from EOAS faculty representing each of the five graduate programs currently offering the ESS option. It exposes students to a diverse cross-section of EOAS research with the end goal of promoting research connects across the disciplines.

Research Communications (3-credits required)

This course is about developing and honing the oral, visual, and written communication skills you need for success in graduate school and beyond. This course is about effectively communicating your research to others. This course is not about “doing science” (that is, it is not about collecting data, for example). We will cover writing proposals, writing papers for publication in the primary scientific literature, giving oral presentations, preparing and presenting posters, effective design of professional web pages, and writing a job application, including a research statement.

This course is hands-on and highly interactive. It is recommended especially for advanced graduate students and postdocs who will soon enter the job market. You will write and revise a proposal related to your thesis topic, prepare and revise a poster, give an original and revised oral presentation, and make and respond to constructive suggestions from instructors and fellow students.

If you do not already use bibliographic software, you should set up a free account for EndNote Basic, or consider purchasing the program through the Rutgers University Software site.

All necessary material and readings will be posted on the course website. There is no assigned textbook, but you may wish to purchase one or more of these for your personal library:

  • Alley, M. 2003. The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid. Springer, New York. ISBN 0387955550Uses examples from contemporary, as well as historical, scientific presentations to show what does and doesn’t work. Lots of good advice on layout and design of visual material.
  • Day, R. A. and B. Gastel. 2006. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, 6th edition. Greenwood Press, Westport.This is the latest edition and costs about $24 on Amazon. Earlier editions, with the essential basics but without some more recent topics such as electronic publication, can be found for considerably less.
  • Strunk, W., Jr. and E. B. White. 1999. The Elements of Style, 4th edition. Allyn and Bacon, Boston.Known as the “little” book – only 95 pages excluding the index – it is a classic and a bargain at about $10 on Amazon. It should be read once a year to keep your writing simple, clear, and concise.

Here are some other resources we will refer to regularly:

  • Cleveland, W. S. 1985. The Elements of Graphing Data. Wadsworth, Monterey.
  • Moriarty, M. F. 1997. Writing Science Through Critical Thinking. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury.
  • Sand-Jensen, K. 2007. How to write consistently boring scientific literature. Oikos 116: 723-727. (PDF available on course website.)
  • Tufte, E. R. 2001. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition. Graphics Press, Cheshire.
General Writing Assignments:
  1. Your curriculum vitae.
  2. A short (maximum one page) description of your scientific interests, written in language that is understandable by the general public.
  3. A Nature News and Views or Science Perspectives-style review of a recently published paper in your area of interest that highlights recent exciting research.
  4. “Reverse engineering” of a published paper that is, in your opinion, not so great. Write an outline for the paper and discuss how it could be better organized and presented.
  5. A review of one of your fellow student’s research proposal.
Research Proposal:

A proposal that could be submitted to your thesis or dissertation committee, or to a funding agency to support your dissertation research, such as:

There are three parts to this assignment:

  1. A one-paragraph description of your proposal topic for approval by the instructors;
  2. A draft of the proposal which will be reviewed by the instructors;
  3. The final version of the proposal, incorporating comments from the instructors, which will be reviewed by a fellow student in the class.

Create a poster in the format of those presented at science conferences. The topic of the poster can either be original data from your own research, or an outline of the research you are proposing to do and the approach you will take (that is, the poster could be based on your Research Proposal). The posters will be printed and presented during a poster session during class time, followed by feedback from the instructors and students. You will then revise your poster incorporating feedback.

Oral Presentation:

Prepare and deliver an oral presentation in the format of those presented at science conferences. This can either be based on your Poster, or a new topic of your choice.

There are two parts to this assignment:

  1. An oral presentation to the class which will be video recorded, followed by feedback from the instructors and students;
  2. Presentation of a revised talk based on your viewing of the recording and incorporating feedback from the class and instructors.
  • General Writing Assignments – 40% of grade
  • Research Proposal – 20% of grade
  • Poster – 20% of grade
  • Oral Presentation – 20% of grade
Week 1:
  • Introduction, course objectives
  • Oral biographies of instructors and students
  • How to prepare a curriculum vita
  • Basics of scientific writing
  • Scientific ethics
    • What is, and isn’t, plagiarism
    • Scientific misconduct
    • Intellectual property ownership
    • Data documentation in the digital age
    • Case studies of responsible conduct of research
Assignment Due:
Week 2:

Writing scientific papers.

  • When should you begin writing a paper?
  • When should you stop writing?
  • The elements of a typical paper
  • Responsibilities and obligations of authors
  • Reviewing manuscripts and proposals
  • Responding to reviewers
  • Writing a review paper – is it for you?
Assignment Due:

Curriculum Vitae.

Description of research interests for non-scientists.

Week 3:

Critical evaluation of published literature.

  • What is the main message of the paper?
  • Is the title adequate?
  • Is the abstract well written?
  • Is the paper well structured?
  • Are the figures appropriate?
Assignment Due:

Outline and critical evaluation of a published manuscript.

Week 4:
  • Broader Impacts and Outreach: What is it?
  • The new NSF criteria for Broader Impacts
  • Effective science communication: know your audience
  • Communicating science to non-scientists
Assignment Due:

Paragraph on topic of Research Proposal.

Week 5:
  • Funding sources for grad students and postdocs
  • Writing proposals
    • The thesis proposal vs. the proposal to a funding agency
    • Your goal: make it easy for the reviewers to like your proposal
    • Setting up the road map
    • Introduction and background
    • Objectives and goals – do you need an explicit hypothesis?
    • The approach – how much detail is needed on methods?
    • Tracking and evaluating progress
    • Roles of the Principal Investigator and co-Investigators
    • Writing by committee – pitfalls and benefits
    • Budget and budget justification
    • The Broader Impacts section of proposals
    • Miscellaneous boilerplate required by most funding agencies
    • Submitting the proposal
    • The review process
    • What to do when the proposal is funded
  • What to do if rejected – responding to reviewers and revising the proposal
Assignment Due:

News & Views/Perspectives-style short review paper.

Week 6:

Preparing oral presentations.

  • The 15-minute talk vs. the 60-minute talk
  • Rules for a successful talk
  • Rules for an unsuccessful talk
  • PowerPoint presentations – benefits and evils
  • Do’s and don’ts of visual materials
  • How many slides to use?
  • Demeanor and appearance
  • How to respond to questions from the audience
  • How to lead a discussion
Assignment Due:
Week 7 & 8:

Initial oral presentations.

Assignment Due:

Initial oral presentation.

Week 9:

Presentation of data.

  • Tables: when to use a table; design of effective tables
  • Figures: effective techniques for visualizing data
  • Preparing legends and figure captions
  • Suitable software
Assignment Due:

First draft of Research Proposal.

Week 10:

Preparing poster presentations.

  • When is a poster better than a podium presentation?
  • Physical layout
  • Balancing text and graphics
  • Supplementary materials for interested viewers
Assignment Due:
Week 11:

Revised poster presentations.

Assignment Due:

Revised Posters.

Week 12:

Revised oral presentations.

Assignment Due:

Revised Talk.

Week 13:
Assignment Due:

Final draft of Research Proposal.

Week 14:

Job applications and the job interview (also invite postdocs and other interested parties).

Assignment Due:

Peer review of fellow student’s proposal (last submissions accepted 12/13/2015).

If you have a question, need clarification, disagree about something, or have a penetrating insight to offer, do it with the class as a whole rather than starting a side conversation.

Some people find it necessary to be in constant telephone contact. The ringing, beeping, chiming, or singing of cell phones, however, is disruptive during class. Please make sure to disable audible alarms on cell phones during class.

Plagiarism, cheating, or other manner of academic fraud will not be tolerated. It is your responsibility to read the Rutgers University Policy on Academic Integrity. Note that we will devote part of the class (meeting on TBA) to this topic. If you have questions, ask any of the instructors.