Program Overview

Earth and Climate Sciences (ECS) at the Nicholas School offers a PhD in four broad research areas of geoscience:

  • Earth-surface sciences focus on processes that shape and change landscapes and environments--the interactions between life, water, and landscapes, including coastal geomorphology and ecomorphodynamics, and the evolution of coupled human-landscape systems as climate and societal forcings change.
  • Ocean, atmosphere and climate sciences include ocean circulation, atmospheric dynamics, marine biogeochemistry, and ocean/atmosphere interactions, particularly as they relate to global climate change.
  • Earth resources addresses the geologic formation and human use of mineral, energy, water, and land resources including mineral formation, life-cycle analysis, energy consumption/emissions, water quality as it relates to human health, and the role of technology in the Anthropocene. This area also includes evaluation of the health and economic impacts of changes in air quality and climate associated with policy choices.
  • The history of Earth and life encompasses the temporal evolution of our planet through its lifetime including aspects of paleoclimate, paleoceanography, and paleoenvironment. It asks the fundamental question: how did the geologic history of Earth affect its biotic evolution and biodiversity.

The ECS PhD program has minimal formal coursework requirement, in additional to individual needs and preferences determined by student, advisor, and committee.



List of Current ECS Students

Student name (matriculation year)

  • Aaliya Aaliya (2021)

  • Ariana de Souza (2020)

  • Perrin Hagge (2021)

  • Keqi He (2019)

  • Bryan Higgins (2022)

  • Robert Hill (2021)

  • Ningjie Hu (2019)

  • Conner Lester (2020)

  • Louis Lu (2023)

  • Dani Meyer-Arrivillaga (2022)

  • Alexandria Niebergall (2018)

  • Katryna Niva (2022)

  • Yan Pan (2022)

  • Ryan Parks (2023)

  • Yiqun Tian (2021)

  • Gordon Williams (2020)

  • Tian Xu (2022)

List updated 10/2023



How to Apply

  • Before applying to the ECS doctoral program it is critical to identify one or a few professors you would like to work with who can discuss program options. For further information, contact Brad Murray, Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), or one of the professors who mentor in the ECS program.
  • Applications are handled entirely through Duke’s Graduate School. See the Duke Graduate School Admissions page for details about admission and degree requirements.