Icebergs (c) Rachel Terry

Global Climate & Environmental Change (GCEC)


Field-Based Research in a Pristine Natural Laboratory

Global climate change is one of the most pressing scientific issues of our time, and has created an acute need for well-trained scientists versed in the complexity of the Earth's climate system. The Global Climate and Environmental Change program at University of California, Riverside, offers a two-year, field-based, graduate program that is radical in its conception and new in its kind. GCEC immerses students in the first principles of studying and interpreting the actual record of climate change using the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California as its laboratory. From the modern glaciers to ancient bristle cone pine trees, the oldest living organisms on Earth, the high Sierra contains one of the best records of continental climate in North America.

Keeping the Science in the Global Climate Debate

The decisions about climate change society makes in the next decade will determine the habitability of our planet. Those decisions can only be as good as the scientific understanding of climate change that they are based on. Society needs more scientists to undertake this work.

The Global Climate and Environmental Change Graduate Program at UCR was created to meet this need by providing a unique immersion in the record, techniques of analyzing and theory of climate change leading to a Masters degree. This program provides the scientific skill and understanding necessary to begin a career in this important field.

UCR, in the Sierras

The GCEC Program has direct and convenient access to the Sierras. The broad diversity of environments and climatological history in a small region provides the best and most diverse record of continental climate in North America. The GCEC program utilizes this readily accessible natural laboratory for its teaching program with field camps, research projects and field seminars.


Program Structure

This program is designed as a 2 year Master of Science Degree with the following components:

  • Field Component

    A team of faculty teach GCEC students how to collect, analyze, and interpret, climate records from glaciers, lakes, trees and sediments in the Sierra Nevada Mountains based out of the University of California. This affords students an extended period of time in the high Sierras to gain the strategies and skills necessary for obtaining paleoclimate data. This is the core class for the program.

    Class & Class-Oriented Field Training - A range of seminars and classes in the first year, both at UC Riverside and at White Mountain Research Station, provide the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to study the complexity of the climate system.

    Individual Research Project written up as a Thesis - In the second year, GCEC students under the mentorship of a chosen faculty member embark on their own research project, drawing on the skills gained in the first year to conduct field studies, analyze samples in the laboratory, and write these results up as thesis toward and award of Masters of Science.

  • State of the Art Laboratory Facilities

    The Earth and Planetary Sciences Department houses a variety of analytical equipment in state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. Facilities provide opportunities to integrate field studies in the Sierras and elsewhere with a laboratory component using any of six brand new mass spectrometers, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and x-ray diffraction. This provides the opportunity for a variety of studies, including: isotopic studies of carbonates, organic materials and waters, elemental analysis of organics and sediments, and optical, geochemical and diffraction-based studies of sediments and rocks.

Funding Opportunities

The Moscarello Family Fellowship in Climate Change Research offers graduate student support to outstanding applicants to the GCEC program who's research will focus on the controls and rates of climate change.

In addition to private fellowships, most Students in the GCEC program receive support from UCR Graduate Fellowships, Teaching Assistantships or work as Graduate Student Researchers. For the best chance of receiving support, application to the program should occur by January 10 for fall admission.

How to Apply

Although the Department accepts applications on an on-going basis throughout the year, students are encouraged to complete their application early to insure consideration for fellowship support. A variety of fellowships are available on a competitive basis through the UCR gradute division to augment the stipends of outstanding applicants.

Please visit our Graduate Program for more information or contact us:

  • Robert Allen, Director
  • John Herring, Graduate Student Services Advisor

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