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Earth and Ecosystem Science, Ph.D.

College of Science and Engineering

Ms. Jessica Lapp

Brooks 219, 989-774-4401

Course Designator:

EES - Earth and Ecosystem Science

Minimum Totals for Graduation: 60 hours

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Earth and Ecosystem Science (EES) at Central Michigan University is an interdisciplinary program that provides advanced scientific training in an investigative field of study that employs a systems-level approach to evaluate the physical, chemical, and biological structure and function of various natural environments.

This research-intensive degree program trains students to understand, investigate and evaluate the multiple patterns and processes that regulate environmental variation across a range of temporal and spatial scales. EES students investigate the behavior of whole ecosystems in specific and unique geographic regions, with a particular focus on the interrelations between multiple factors that regulate variation in the environment. This subject is broad and inherently multidisciplinary, encompassing aspects of biology, chemistry, geology, geography, physics and mathematics. Research in EES explores patterns (biodiversity, reaction, physical architecture), processes (fate, transport, efficiency), regulation (complexity, stability, feedback) and management (sustainability, global change) of ecosystems and key ecosystem components. The EES program promotes research on a range of ecosystem types including terrestrial, aquatic (freshwater and saltwater) and global ecosystems in natural, managed, or disturbed states.

The Earth and Ecosystem Science (EES) doctoral degree program at CMU provides students with an opportunity to develop the ability and skills necessary to conduct independent, primary research of professional quality; their research focuses on identification, description, and interpretation of factors that regulate variation in the structure and function of ecosystems. The EES degree program offers a collegial forum for advanced students to explore hypothesis-driven, as well as discovery-driven, research topics in Earth and Ecosystems Science. Students develop advanced skills in areas including analytical approaches and methodologies, critical thinking, and the communication of research results. EES promotes academic excellence through the successful completion of graduate research that will inform professional and public shareholders so they can better understand and manage sustainable ecosystems.

Admission Requirements, Retention & Termination Standards

Admission Requirement Snapshot

GPA: 3.0

Application Deadline: February 1 for all materials

See Admission Requirement Details Below

The deadline for receipt of application materials for admission into the EES program is February 1. Materials received after this date will be reviewed at the discretion of the EES Council.

Application materials must be submitted to the Graduate Student Services office and must include:

  • official transcripts for undergraduate and graduate work,
  • a personal statement outlining interest in the EES program and identifying a faculty advisor,
  • a demonstrated potential for success in research as indicated by prior experience and presented in resume or cv format,
  • three letters of recommendation, using the EES template.

Candidates are expected to hold a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Master of Science (M.S.) degree in chemistry, biology, geology, geography, or other relevant areas of science. International students must meet the requirements for regular admission to Graduate Studies at CMU. For English proficiency, see the CMU English Language Standards in the current Graduate Studies Bulletin. Students admitted for a doctoral degree in EES must have a faculty mentor approved and financial support in the form of a teaching or research assistantship in place. Students may apply for a teaching assistantship through one of the participating academic departments (deadline February 1).

A formal evaluation of each student’s training will be carried out within the first semester of the student’s admission into the EES Ph.D. program by the student’s mentor. This evaluation will be used to identify each student’s strengths and limitations in academic training and background; the mentor will then determine the plan of study including recommending courses to be taken and identifying professional activities needed to bolster their academic background. Students must form a dissertation committee within their first year of graduate work. The student’s dissertation committee will be composed of the faculty mentor plus 3 faculty members, one of whom is outside the student’s immediate area of specialization.

Student progress will be assessed at mandatory annual meetings between each student and the dissertation committee. Each student will prepare a proposal describing the research to be done for the dissertation prior to the comprehensive exam, which will be administered through the doctoral committee within the first 2 years of admission to the program. Students will have two opportunities to pass the comprehensive exam; those who fail a second time will be terminated from the program and encouraged to complete the requirements for a related M.S. degree (such as biology or GIS). Finally, each student will defend the final dissertation in a public presentation summarizing research results, followed by an oral defense. The public presentation and defense of the dissertation will be judged and voted on by the committee and must be approved by the Office of Graduate Studies. All EES students will be encouraged to publish their results in reputable peer-reviewed journals and to present at professional conferences at local, regional and international venues. We anticipate full-time students will complete the program in a 4-5 year period.

Program Requirements

The EES Ph.D. is designed to be a research degree in which students are trained primarily by conducting research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The program will utilize a suite of core courses plus elective courses to augment the intensive research training. Core courses are designed to provide a range of students with universal skill-sets (analytical, conceptual, communication) needed to conduct primary systems-level research in complex environments. To ensure students receive training in a broad array of research tools, each student will complete elective graduate course work in related disciplines. Students will have the option to take up to 6 credits in a special topics course. Successful completion of the Ph.D. requires a minimum of 60 hours of graduate work beyond the bachelor’s degree. Up to 30 hours of relevant graduate work may be transferred for students entering with a master’s degree in a related field. Each student’s program of study will be developed in consultation with the faculty mentor and approved by the program director. Typically, students entering with a bachelor’s degree will take 12-30 hours of disciplinary elective courses and 12-30 hours of special topics and directed research credits (and students entering with a relevant master’s degree will take 3-9 hours of disciplinary elective courses and 3-9 hours of special topics and directed research, or more depending on transfer credits) in addition to the required core courses and the dissertation.

Required Courses (6 hours)

EES 701Earth and Ecosystem Science Colloquium


EES 703Advances in Earth and Ecosystem Science


Elective Courses I (3-30 hours)

At least 3 credits elected from the following with the consent of the mentor and program director:

  • Biology: 500-700 level BIO courses
  • Chemistry: 500-700 level CHM courses
  • Geology and Meteorology: 500-600 level GEL or MET courses
  • Geography: 500-700 level GEO courses
  • Mathematics and Statistics: 500-700 level MTH or STA courses

Elective Courses II (3-30 hours)

EES 790Special Topics in Earth and Ecosystem Science


EES 796Directed Research in Earth and Ecosystem Science


Dissertation (12 hours)

EES 899Dissertation


Total: 60 semester hours