Ph.D. in Earth, Environment and Society

Professor and student kneeling on ground, gathering data. Deer in background


Become immersed in the field as you conduct research in partnership with Portland-area governmental and nonprofit organizations. Graduates of our program go on to work in hydrology, climate science, geology, urban sustainability, and forest ecology, among many other fields.


Work alongside faculty who are leading researchers in their fields and will prepare you for careers as professional scientists. Our faculty come primarily from the Departments of Environmental Science and Management, Geography, and Geology, but we also have affiliated faculty from Anthropology, Biology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Economics, International and Global Studies, Physics, and Systems Science.

Woman digging in sand for oysters


The State of Oregon and the City of Portland have long been leaders in innovative environmental and social policy, inspired by the region's natural abundance — and PSU's Environmental Science and Management (ESM) Department provides the scientific foundation for these emphases. As a doctoral student in the department, you'll examine the interactions between society and the physical, chemical, ecological and biological processes that structure and maintain ecosystems, and have opportunities to partner with outside organizations.

Group of people standing by Clackamas River listening to tour guide


With a mix of physical and social scientists, PSU's Geography Department offers students access to the full breadth of topics covered by modern geographical and spatial sciences. You can work with partner organizations including the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, the City of Portland and Metro. Many dissertation topics directly relate to issues of critical importance both locally and globally, including sustainable development, stewardship of water resources, biogeographic assessments, urbanization, land cover and land use change, climate analyses, and K-12 science education.

Three students taking measurements with mountains in background


PSU's Geology Department takes advantage of its location in the geologically-dynamic Pacific Northwest, as well as the on-campus presence of the U.S. Geological Survey's Oregon Water Science Center. Many dissertation topics emphasize environmental and policy applications, including mapping of geologic hazards and responsible development of natural resources. You can choose field-, laboratory-, or theoretically-based problems that leverage partnerships with the USGS, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bonneville Power Administration, and Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

Our Partnerships