People. Planet. Possibilities.

The Environmental Studies Brochure

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The environment—the natural and physical world that sustains life—is where many of our most pressing issues intersect. Population growth, consumption, rising inequality, and other political, economic, and demographic factors all have a profound impact on the environment. At UC Santa Cruz, we combine environmental science with social scientists’ insights into human behavior—whether political, cultural, or institutional—to find new and sustainable solutions to some of the biggest problems facing the world today.


Environmental studies incorporates multiple disciplines, including ecology, economics, political science, sociology, and other disciplines. Our work is solutions-based, and encompasses both dynamic, immersive learning opportunities for students and research that addresses key issues affecting the environment. 

Environmental Studies Department by the numbers

• 3,523 students enrolled in environmental studies classes
• 600 proposed and/or declared environmental studies majors
• 35% of majors are first-generation college students
• 45 Ph.D. candidates
• 21 full-time faculty
• 593 students enrolled in field study courses
• 667 internships offered yearly

Specific areas of strength include:

• Agroecology and sustainable food systems
• Conservation and restoration
• Global change (including climate change)
• Political ecology
• Social geography
• Natural history
• Experiential learning
• Geographic Information System/spatial analysis tools


To expand both our global impact and our academic relevance, we are focused on these specific goals:

• Facilitate interdisciplinary research
Through an endowment to provide staffing and seed grant support to faculty who initiate new, cross-disciplinary collaborations focusing on transformative environmental problem-solving.

• Recruit and retain outstanding faculty
By establishing endowed chairs in sustainable food systems, conservation science, and climate change ecology and policy.

• Enhance graduate training
Through interdisciplinary graduate and post-doctoral fellowships to recruit and retain the brightest minds.

• Ensure hands-on learning opportunities
By continuing to build our experiential learning endowment.

• Expand scholarship opportunities
To train a diverse group of future environmental leaders.


“We live in an amazing moment in human history. We have the knowledge to understand what’s happening to our planet and just enough time to do something about it.”
—M. Sanjayan, Ph.D. ‘97

We depend on private donations to fund the vital work happening in the Environmental Studies Department. If you share our passion for the planet, please help us provide outstanding learning opportunities for students and develop research outcomes that truly make a difference.
Thank you for your support!

Questions? Please contact the Social Sciences Philanthropy Team at or by phone at (831) 459-3857.