Earth System Science

How are forest fires related to climate extremes? How is the rise in oceanic water levels related to the melting of glaciers? Knowledge in natural sciences and interconnected thinking enables students of Earth System Science (ESS) to understand events in different spheres of the Earth.

Humans are increasingly influencing the Earth’s natural system. The consequences are noticeable at multiple scales from a local, regional and global level. These interactions between the use of natural resources and environmental changes are at the heart of Earth System Science.

Earth System Science pays careful attention to the fourth dimension

Students of Earth System Science observe everything from the smallest elements to the whole planet. Starting with the Big Bang in the calculation of time, they make predictions for the future. To do so, they use a range of scientific methods such as observations, experiments, models and simulations. Recognizing different processes in all areas of the earth, from the high mountains to the depths of the oceans, forms the basis for new findings in Earth System Science. Computer simulations using innovative numerical methods are becoming increasingly important for integrating different data and interactions. With the knowledge of the global processes that control the internal dynamics of our Earth, scenarios for the future can be developed from the diagnosis of the past.

Earth System Science is interdisciplinary

This requires intensive cooperation between different scientific disciplines, such as paleontology, geochemistry, remote sensing, geography, environmental science, geology and biology. The Bachelor's program in Earth System Science brings together subject-specific knowledge and fosters interdisciplinarity. Participation in excursions, the implementation of small research projects, laboratory exercises and internships offer the opportunity to apply the acquired knowledge in practice throughout the study program.

Earth System Science at the University of Zurich (UZH)

The Earth System Sciences course is affiliated to the Department of Geography of the University of Zurich, which is located on the Irchel campus. In addition, lectures from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the UZH and the Department of Earth Sciences at ETH Zurich are also part of the course. The three institutes offer students courses at the highest international level with outstanding lecturers in current earth system science research.

The Bachelor's progam

The Bachelor's program in Earth System Science provides an understanding of basic concepts and current trends of development in the subject. It is characterized by a broad and fundamental education and offers opportunities for specialization in the final year of the study program. The program combines scientific fundamentals with advanced modules in Earth System Science. In teaching, well-founded knowledge from current research projects is presented and students are encouraged to critically examine socially relevant topics. Practical experience in measurement techniques, experimental methods and application-oriented data analysis complement the study program.

In order to complete a Bachelor's degree, students have to obtain 180 ECTS credits. The first two years of the study program mainly consist of compulsory modules in Earth System Science, Geography, Biology, Geology, Mathematics and Chemistry, with applications in field courses and excursions. The third year of the study program includes a Bachelor’s thesis as well as core elective modules within the thematic subject areas of Earth System Science:

  • the Geo-Biosphere System
  • the Hydro-Atmosphere System
  • the Human-Environment System

Mandatory courses will mainly be thought in German. A combination with a minor study program is not possible within the Bachelor’s program in Earth System Science.

What next?

The following links will provide you with general information on the study programs at the Department of Geography, which should enable you to have a smooth start to your studies: