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Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology

Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

Hawaii Natural Energy Institute

Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory

International Pacific Research Center

Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Pacific Mapping Program

Sea Grant College Program

Hawaii Space Grant Consortium

Global Environmental Science


Global Environmental Science

Marine Science Building 205D, 226/230
1000 Pope Road
Honolulu, HI 96822

Tel: (808) 956-9937
Fax: (808) 956-9225
E-mail: ges@soest.hawaii.edu
Web: www.soest.hawaii.edu/oceanography/GES/


*Graduate Faculty

J. E. Schoonmaker, PhD (Undergraduate Chair)—sedimentary geochemistry and diagenesis
J. M. Becker, PhD—geophysical fluid dynamics, nonlinear waves and stability, coastal processes, general ocean circulation
R. R. Bidigare, PhD—bio-optical oceanography, pigment biochemistry, plankton metabolism
S. Businger, PhD—mesoscale and synoptic meteorology
A. D. Clarke, PhD—physical and chemical properties of aerosol in remote troposphere, aircraft studies of aerosol in free troposphere
J. P. Cowen, PhD—microbial geochemistry, particle aggregation dynamics, hydrothermal systems
E. H. DeCarlo, PhD—aquatic chemistry; metals and their anthropogenic inputs, transformations, fate and transport
S. Dollar, PhD—biogeochemistry, nearshore processes and effects of human activity on the coastal zone
J. C. Drazen, PhD—physiological ecology of marine fishes, energetics and tropodynamics, deep-sea biology, adaptations of fishes to the deep-sea
A. El-Kadi, PhD—hydrogeology, modeling groundwater systems
R. C. Ertekin, PhD—hydrodynamics, computational methods, offshore and coastal engineering, oil-spill spreading, fishpond circulation
E. Firing, PhD—ocean circulation and currents on all scales, with emphasis on observation sand dynamics
P. J. Flament, PhD—surface ocean layer dynamics, mesoscale circulation structures of the ocean, remote sensing of the sea surface
C. H. Fletcher, PhD—quaternary and coastal marine geology, sea-level history, coastal sedimentary processes
P. Fryer, PhD—marine geology, petrology, tectonics
E. Gaidos, PhD—molecular evolution; microbiology of extreme environments; biosphere-climate feedbacks; critical intervals in Earth history; exobiology; biological networks
M. O. Garcia, PhD—volcanology, igneous petrology, geochemistry
T. W. Giambelluca, PhD—interactions between the atmosphere and the land surface, including influences of land use and land cover change on climate and surface hydrology and effects of global climate change on hydrologic processes and terrestrial ecology
C. R. Glenn, PhD—paleoceanography, marine geology, sedimentology, sediment diagenesis
E. G. Grau, PhD—environmental physiology and comparative endocrinology of fish
M. P. Hamnet, PhD—coastal zone management; fisheries economics; disaster preparedness and mitigation
B. J. Huebert, PhD—air pollution, climate change, atmospheric aerosols, global elemental cycles
M. C. Jarman, LLM—environmental law, administrative law, ocean and coastal law, legal writing; the public trust doctrine, land use, the intersection of indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental law, and community empowerment through the law
D. E. Konan, PhD—international trade, microeconomics, computational economics
E. A. Laws, PhD—phytoplankton ecology, aquatic pollution, aquaculture
Y. H. Li, PhD—marine geochemistry, environmental pollution
K. Lowry, PhD—design, planning and evaluation of ocean and coastal management programs. Experience in Hawai‘i, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Thailand
R. Lukas, PhD—physical oceanography, interannual and decadal climate variability
F. T. Mackenzie, PhD—geochemistry, biogeochemical cycling, global environmental change
L. Magaard, PhD—climate and society
J. J. Mahoney, PhD—isotope geochemistry of oceanic and continental crust and mantle
A. Malahoff, PhD—submarine volcanic processes and the geophysical monitoring of submarine volcanoes, processes of formation of ocean floor minerals
S. J. Martel, PhD—engineering and structural geology
G. M. McMurtry, PhD—geochemistry, geology and geophysics
M. A. McManus, PhD—descriptive physical oceanography, coupled physical-biological numerical models; development of ocean observing systems
C. Measures, PhD—trace element geochemistry, hydrothermal systems, elemental mass balances
P. Menon, PhD—environmental and occupational health standards
M. Merlin, PhD—biogeography, natural history of the Pacific
M. A. Merrifield, PhD—physical oceanography; coastal circulation; sea level variability; current flows and mixing in the vicinity of coral reefs, islands and seamounts
J. N. Miller, MS—marine and land environmental management, environmental assessment
T. Miura, PhD—remote sensing of terrestrial vegetation, GIS
G. F. Moore, PhD—marine geophysics, structural geology
M. J. Mottl, PhD—hydrothermal processes, geochemical cycles
P. Mouginis-Mark, PhD—volcanology from space, remote sensing of natural hazards
P. K. Muller, PhD—ocean circulation, waves and turbulence
B. N. Popp, PhD—isotope biogeochemistry, organic geochemistry
J. N. Porter, PhD—atmospheric science, use of satellites to study aerosol and cloud forcing, ship measurements of aerosol and cloud optical properties
G. Ravizza, PhD—paleoceanography and environmental chemistry; geologic history of chemical weathering; geochemistry of recent and ancient metalliferous sediments; anthropogenic influences on the geochemical cycles of the platinum group elements; chemical signatures of extraterrestrial matter in marine sediments; biogeochemistry of molybdenum in the marine environment
K. J. Richards, PhD—observations and modeling of ocean processes, ocean dynamics, ocean atmosphere interaction, ecosystem dynamics
M. A. Ridgley, PhD—resource management and human-environment system analysis
J. Roumasset, PhD—environmental economics and sustainable growth
K. Rubin, PhD—isotope geochemistry, chronology
K. Ruttenberg, PhD—biogeochemistry of phosphorus and phosphorus cycling in the ocean, rivers, and lakes; nutrient limitation of aquatic primary productivity; effects of redox chemistry on nutrient cycling; early diagenesis in marine sediments with focus on authigenic mineral formation and organic matter mineralization
F. J. Sansone, PhD—suboxic/anoxic diagenesis in sediments, hydrothermal geochemistry, lava-seawater interactions, trace gas geochemistry
N. Schneider, PhD—decadal climate variability, tropical air-sea interaction, coupled modeling
T. Schroeder, PhD—mesometeorology, tropical meteorology
S. K. Sharma, PhD—atmospheric instrumentation and remote sensing; Lidar, Raman, and infrared spectrometry and fiber-optic environmental sensors
C. R. Smith, PhD—seafloor ecology, deep-ocean food webs, sediment geochemistry
K. J. Spencer, PhD—isotope geochemistry, petrology, environmental geochemistry
G. Steward, PhD—aquatic microbial ecology, molecular ecology and diversity of viruses and bacteria
M. E. Tiles, PhD—logic, history, and philosophy of mathematics, science, and technology
A. Timmermann, PhD—coral bleaching, stability of the thermohaline circulation, stochastic climate modeling, nonlinear statistics, detection of greenhouse warming
B. Wang, PhD—atmospheric and climate dynamics
G. Wang, PhD—microbial diversity, ecology and biotechnological potential of marine sponges, synthetic biology and ecological approach of marine microbes for pharmaceuticals and renewable energy, marine biosensing for environmental biotechnology and ecology
B. Wilcox, PhD—population biology; human-ecosystem interaction; ecological and human health linkages
J. C. Wiltshire, PhD—marine minerals, mine tailings and disposal, remediation and submersible engineering and operations
D. W. Woodcock, PhD—vegetation and climate, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, use of fossil wood as a paleoenvironmental indicator, and the terrestrial carbon cycle
R. E. Zeebe, PhD—global biogeochemical cycles, carbon dioxide system in seawater and interrelations with marine plankton, paleoceanography, stable isotope geochemistry

Degree Offered: BS in global environmental science

The Academic Program

Global environmental science is a holistic, scientific approach to the study of the Earth system and its physical, chemical, biological, and human processes. It is a bold new academic program designed to educate leaders and citizenry to become wise stewards of our planet. Global environmental science focuses on the global reservoirs of hydrosphere (water, primarily oceans), biosphere (life and organic matter), atmosphere (air), lithosphere (land, sediments, and rocks), and cryosphere (ice); their interfaces; and the processes acting upon and within this interactive system, including human activities. In the course of their scientific studies, global environmental science students are able to investigate natural as well as economic, policy, and social systems and their response and interaction with the Earth system. Global environmental science has important ties to the more classical sciences of geology and geophysics, meteorology and climatology, oceanography, and ecology as well as to the social sciences. Thus, the scope of global environmental science is extremely broad. This breadth is reflected in the interdisciplinary nature of the faculty, which is primarily drawn from numerous departments and research institutions within the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

Global environmental science has much to offer the student who is interested in the environment and the effect of humans on the environment. The skills developed in global environmental science can be brought to bear on local, regional, and global environmental issues. Many of the critical environmental problems confronting humankind involve large-scale processes and interactions among the atmosphere, oceans, biosphere, cryosphere, shallow lithosphere, and people. Some of the problems derive from natural causes; others are a result of human activities. Some of the issues that global environmental science students deal with are: climatic changes from anthropogenic inputs to the atmosphere of CO2 and other greenhouse gases; human interventions and disruptions in the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, trace metals, and other substances; emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxide gases and volatile organic compounds to the atmosphere and the issues of acid deposition and photochemical smog; depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer and associated increase in the flux of ultraviolet radiation to Earth’s surface; increasing rates of tropical deforestation and other large-scale destruction of habitat, with potential effects on climate and the hydrologic cycle; disappearance of biotic diversity through explosive rates of species extinction; global consequences of the distribution and application of potentially toxic chemicals in the environment and biotechnology; interannual and interdecadal climate variability, e.g., El Niño/Southern Oscillation; eutrophication; water and air quality; exploitation of natural resources with consequent problems of waste disposal; earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural hazards and prediction; and waste disposal: municipal, toxic chemical, and radioactive. In all cases, the student is encouraged to understand and appreciate the social, economic, and ultimately the policy decisions associated with these and other environmental issues.

Specifically with respect to learning objectives, the students develop competency in understanding how the physical, biological, and chemical worlds are interconnected in the Earth system. They obtain skills in basic mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology that enable them to deal with courses in the derivative geological, oceanographic, and atmospheric sciences at a level higher than that of qualitative description. In turn, these skills enable the students to learn the subject matter of global environmental science within a rigorous context. The students develop an awareness of the complexity of the Earth system and how it has changed during geologic time and how human activities have modified the system and led to a number of local, regional, and global environmental issues. They become competent in using computers and dealing with environmental databases and with more standard sources of information in the field. They are exposed to experimental, observational, and theoretical methodologies of research and complete a senior research paper in environmental studies using one or more of these methodologies. Field work is encouraged for the senior thesis and, depending on the topic chosen by the student, can be carried out at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology’s Coconut Island facility, E. W. Pauley Laboratory, associated He‘eia ahupua‘a, or elsewhere.

The ultimate objective of the global environmental science program is to produce a student informed in the environmental sciences at a rigorous level who is able to go on to graduate or professional school; enter the work force in environmental science positions in industry, business, or government; enter or return to teaching with knowledge of how the Earth system works; or enter the work force in another field as an educated person with the knowledge required to become a wise environmental steward of the planet.


Students contemplating a major in global environmental science should visit the program coordinator at the earliest opportunity. Inquire at the global environmental science office, Marine Science 205D, 226 and 230; tel. (808) 956-9937, fax (808) 956-9225; e-mail: ges@soest.hawaii.edu.

BS in Global Environmental Science

University Core and Graduation Requirements

Of the 31 credits of UH Core Requirements, 10 are in math and science and are fulfilled through the GES degree. UH Graduation Requirements include 8 Focus courses, 7 of which can currently be taken through the GES program (Contemporary Ethical Issues (OCN 310), Oral Communications (OCN 490), and 5 Writing Intensive courses (BIOL 172L, OCN 315, OCN 320, OCN 401, OCN 499)). The University Graduation Requirement of 2 years of Hawaiian/Second Language has been waived for SOEST. GES majors are required to complete one year of Hawaiian/Second Language.

Global Environmental Science Requirements

Aside from UH Core and Graduation requirements, the global environmental science program has core requirements of two basic types: basic sciences and derivative sciences. The former provides the foundation to understand and appreciate the latter in the context of basic skills and mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics. Both global environmental science core requirements provide the necessary cognitive skills to deal with the higher academic level courses within the global environmental science curriculum. These include 7 required foundation courses in global environmental science and a minimum of 3 coupled systems courses. It is within this latter category of course work that the formal course program will be tailored to the individual student’s needs. For example, we anticipate that most students will follow closely a natural science track of study, perhaps concentrating on the terrestrial, marine, or atmospheric environment. However, because of the human dimensions issues involved in the subject matter of environmental change, some students may wish to expand their academic program into the social sciences that bear on the issues of global change.

A minimum grade of C- must be obtained in all GES required courses.

Core Basic Sciences Requirement (38 hours)

  • BIOL 171/171L, 172/172L
  • CHEM 161/161L, 162/162L
  • MATH 241, 242
  • MATH 243, 244 or OCN/GG 312, ECON 321
  • PHYS 170/170L, 272/272L

Core Derivative Sciences Requirement (11 hours)

  • GG 101/101L or GG 170
  • MET 200
  • OCN 201/201L

Foundation Course Requirements (21 hours)

  • GEOG 411 Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change or GEOG 410 Human Role in Environmental Change
  • OCN 100 Global Environmental Science Seminar
  • OCN 310/310L Global Environmental Change
  • OCN 320 Aquatic Pollution
  • OCN 363 Earth System Sciences Databases
  • OCN 401 Biogeochemical Systems
  • PHIL 315 (OCN 315) Modeling Natural Systems

Coupled Systems Courses (Examples)

  • BIOC 241 Fundamentals of Biochemistry
  • BIOL 265 Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • BIOL 301 Biology of Marine Organisms
  • BIOL 360 Island Ecosystems
  • BIOL 398 Biology of Marine Mammals
  • BIOL 404 Advanced Topics in Marine Biology
  • BOT 480 Algal Diversity and Evolution
  • ECON 358 Environmental Economics
  • ECON 458 Project Evaluation and Resource Management
  • ECON 638 Environmental Resource Economics
  • GEOG 300 Climatology
  • GEOG 401 Climate Change
  • GEOG 402 Agricultural Climatology
  • GEOG 405 Water in the Environment
  • GEOG 488 Geographic Information Systems
  • GG 301 Mineralogy
  • GG 309 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
  • GG 420 Sea Levels, Ice Ages and Global Change
  • GG 421 Geologic Record of Climate Change
  • GG 425 Environmental Geochemistry
  • GG 455 Hydrogeology
  • GG 466 Planetary Geology
  • MET 302 Atmospheric Physics
  • MET 303 Introduction to Atmospheric Dynamics
  • MICR 401 Marine Microbiology
  • NREM 301/301L Natural Resource Management
  • NREM 302 Natural Resource and Environmental Policy
  • NREM 304 Fundamentals of Soil Science
  • NREM 432 Natural Resource Economics
  • NREM 461 Soil Erosion and Conservation
  • OCN 330 Mineral and Energy Resources of the Sea
  • OCN 331 Living Resources of the Sea
  • OCN 402 Solar Nebula to the Human Brain
  • OCN 403 Environmental Microbial Biotechnology
  • OCN 470 Air Pollution
  • OCN 480 Dynamics of Marine Ecosystems: Biological-Physical Interactions in the Oceans
  • OCN 620 Physical Oceanography
  • OCN 621 Biological Oceanography
  • OCN 622 Geological Oceanography
  • OCN 623 Chemical Oceanography
  • OCN 633 Chemical Oceanography Lab Methods
  • OCN 638 Earth System Science and Global Change
  • PHIL 316 Science, Technology, and Society
  • PLAN 310 Introduction to Planning
  • POLS 316 International Relations
  • SOC 412 Analysis in Population and Society
  • ZOOL 410 Corals and Coral Reefs
  • ZOOL 466 Fisheries Science

The student may also wish to take additional courses in fundamental physics, chemistry, biology, or mathematics. Global environmental science currently has three optional tracks (or combination of electives):

  1. Marine science and environment: In this track, the student concentrates his/her studies in marine/ocean science and the application of their work to environmental problems related to the ocean. The student is encouraged to take as many oceanography courses as practical and to have a senior thesis problem that is related to ocean studies. It is within this track that a student’s program can be designed so that the student is able to apply to graduate school in oceanography.
  2. Policy/economics and environment: this track enables the student, after satisfying the GES science core, to concentrate further course work and the senior thesis in environmental economics, policy, and law. This is probably the best route for a student to take who is going directly into the work place or is simply interested in becoming a wise environmental steward of the planet.
  3. Climate and environment: this track enables the student to concentrate academic studies and the senior thesis topic on the interactions between climate and the environment, on human impacts on climate, and the causes of climatic change. The student is encouraged to take coupled systems courses in meteorology and climatology.

Majors should consult with their adviser as early as possible to devise a curriculum suited to their particular goals.

Senior Research Paper (5-8 hours)

  • OCN 490 Communication of Research Results
  • OCN 499 Undergraduate Thesis

Each student is required to complete a senior thesis based on research conducted with one or more chosen advisers.