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Prospective Students

Environmental Systems faculty members are affiliated with the schools of Engineering, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. A diverse group, our faculty members, graduate students and research scholars share interests in trans-disciplinary research of natural and human-impacted environmental systems involving:

  • water resources and climate
  • ecology, ecosystems and biodiversity
  • sustainable energy
  • conservation and resource management
  • biogeochemistry and environmental chemistry
  • environmental and ecological engineering
Degree programs integrate scientific principles underlying the function and sustainability of natural and engineered environmental systems, as well as the policies affecting them.

View the ES digital brochure

Contact a faculty member to find out more about areas of research.

Application Deadlines

  • For fall semester enrollment: Jan. 15 

  • To submit application materials, visit the Graduate Division application page.

Environmental Systems Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

The overarching goal of the Environmental Systems program is that its graduates be knowledgeable and professionally competent in one or more areas of environmental systems. The following program learning outcomes are being used to attain this goal:

Core Knowledge - Graduates will be knowledgeable, skillful and self-directed in the observation and analysis of environmental systems in terms of their capacity to independently identify important research questions, develop experimental plans, analyze data, and formulate conclusions in the context of a doctoral dissertation

Communication Skills - Graduates will be conversant in at least two areas of environmental systems, and be adept at oral, written and visual communication of research results to peers and non-technical decision makers

Ethics, Community, and Life-long Learning - Graduates will understand the importance of research and professional ethics, engagement in the needs of their community and life-long learning 

Career Placement and Advancement - Graduates will find suitable career placement and achieve advancement in government agencies, non-government organizations, private industry, and/or academic teaching and research institutions

Ph.D. Degree

The doctor of philosophy degree emphasizes original research and generation of new knowledge at its core. Students are prepared for a range of career paths in academia, government or industry involving research and research applications. The Ph.D. requires completion of a written dissertation and a minimum residency requirement of four semesters. A Ph.D. degree in the Environmental Systems program typically takes four to five years to complete.

Summary of requirements for the Ph.D. degree:

  • Complete at least four semesters of full-time academic residence at UC Merced (12 units minimum per semester)

  • For each student with an appropriate master's of science degree: Complete a minimum of 12 units of graded Environmental Systems (ES) courses, including ES 200 (with letter grade B or better)

  • For students without appropriate master's degrees: Complete the coursework requirement for the Environmental Systems master's plus a minimum of 12 units of graded Environmental Systems (ES) courses

  • Enroll in the Environmental Systems seminar (ES 291) twice for credit (S/U)

  • Pass the oral Ph.D. qualifying examination

  • Approval of a written proposal on the proposed dissertation research topic 

  • Give a public oral presentation and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation containing an original contribution to knowledge in the field

Upon admission to the Ph.D. program, the student's major professor in consultation with the Admissions Committee will determine whether a prior master's degree fulfills the Environmental Systems coursework requirement. 


The requirements for advancement to candidacy are:
  • A minimum of two semesters of full-time residence (total of 24 units)
  • Completion of all other requirements listed above with the exception of the final dissertation defense
Advancement to candidacy must occur no later than the sixth semester of residence in the Ph.D. program. For a complete list of requirements, click here.

Master's of Science Degree

The master's of science degree is designed to educate students for careers across a broad range of environmental fields, both by coursework preparation and completion of an independent research project. The program is designed to take two years to complete and has a minimum residency requirement of two semesters.

Requirements Summary for the Master's Degree (Thesis)

  • Complete at least two semesters of full-time academic residence at UC Merced (12 units minimum per semester)
  • Complete a minimum of 24 units of courses at the upper division and graduate levels, with at least 20 units of graded graduate (200-level) courses in the major subject, including Environmental Systems (ES 200) (with letter grade B or better)
  • Enroll in the Environmental Systems seminar (ES 291) twice for credit (S/U)
  • Give a public oral presentation and successfully defend a master's thesis containing original research

For Advancement To Candidacy

The requirements for advancement to candidacy are:
  • A minimum of one semester of full-time residence (a total of 12 units)
  • Completion of at least 12 units of graded graduate (200-level) courses
Advancement to candidacy must be filed at least one semester before completion of all degree requirements. For a complete list of requirements, click here.


The minimum requirement for graduate admission to UC Merced is a bachelor's degree with grade-point average of 3.0 or greater on a 4.0 scale. Performance on the GRE, distribution of undergraduate grades, accomplishments in undergraduate research and letters of recommendation will be evaluated as important determinants of each applicant's potential for success in graduate education. 
Students with undergraduate degrees in areas of engineering, natural sciences and physical sciences normally have backgrounds that are well suited to the doctoral and master's programs in Environmental Systems. Applicants with other degrees will be examined on a case-by-case basis. Students are expected to have proficiency in undergraduate chemistry, physics and calculus.

Financial Support

Students in the Environmental Systems Ph.D. program are typically supported through a combination of university fellowships, graduate student researcher (GSR) awards from individual faculty grants and teaching assistantships (TA). Most of these awards include tuition and student fees in addition to monthly stipend support. Students in the master's program may apply for financial support, but Ph.D. students receive priority. Applicants are encouraged to apply for university-wide fellowship programs for which they are eligible.

Contact Us

Martha Conklin, Environmental Systems Graduate Group Chair, email:
SoE Graduate Support Staff, email:

Graduate Division

Admissions: 209-228-4723 or

Funding: 209-228-4405 or

General Inquiries: 209-228-4723 or