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Program Overview

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are tools that combine cartography, statistical analysis, and database technologies for use in informing decisions.  The field of GIS involves learning software, computer hardware, dataset applications, and data collection.  The result is a broad-scale ability to conduct research and answer questions using geospatial data.  Satellite remote sensing (RS) is the continually growing field of geospatial observation that utilizes electromagnetic sensors on satellites and aircrafts to analyze phenomena on land, in the oceans, and in the atmosphere.  GIS and remote sensing are used in combination to address a virtually unlimited number of applications.

Areas where GIS & RS are applied in Earth System Science include disaster response, public health and disease mapping, geology, archaeology, ecological forecasting, forestry, green energy, coastal issues, biodiversity, weather, hydrology, climate change, and many others.  Because GIS and remote sensing are tools and not just a topical focus, graduates in this track can go on to pursue careers in a wide range of fields where they can apply the technology they have learned to many different research, decision-making, or public policy-related issues.  Earth System Science graduates who choose to specialize in GIS and Remote Sensing are in high demand, and pursue careers in State and Federal Government, the private sector, academia, and non-governmental organizations.

ESRI, the developers of the ArcGIS software package, publish a list and great case studies of how GIS & RS are used in different industries, as well as online resources for finding jobs.

Located in National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) - also known as Cramer Hall, UAHuntsville’s Earth System Science GIS and Remote Sensing Teaching Lab (CH 4085) and the SERVIR-UAH Research Computing Lab (CH 3104) are where students, faculty, and staff learn and apply geospatial technology to questions related to sustainability, climate change, disaster response, and ecological forecasting.  We encourage our students to take advantage of the diverse opportunities available in the NSSTC facility, and work hard to prepare them for jobs applying GIS & RS in government and industry when they graduate.

Bachelor's in Earth System Science

The two primary objectives of the Earth System Science program are: 1) to meet important national, regional and statewide needs for highly technically-educated professionals who understand the Earth as a system, and 2) to produce graduates who will be able to perform a variety of functions in research centers and industry centered in our impact on the Earth system. Specifically, that means that students will be trained with 1) the ability to deal quantitatively with real-world problems, 2) the ability to integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines to scientifically address Earth system issues quantitatively, and 3) the ability to work in interdisciplinary teams.

This curriculum offers maximum flexibility to students while meeting the requirements of a rigorous B.S. degree

** Master's in Earth System Science (new!)

We are excited to launch our new M.S. in Earth System Science Program. Students will learn how to transition research to decision making and policy. Students will take 3 core courses including Climate, GIS/Remote Sensing and Environmental Threats/Public Policy. Through the Professional Development series, students will learn how to write proposals, peer reviewed papers and navigate graduate school and beyond. Thesis topics will be selected by involving decision makers from around the world.

Students who have a background in Earth System Science, Environmental Science, Geography, GIS/Remote Sensing, Atmospheric Science, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology will greatly benefit from this program.