Earth and Environmental Sciences

Master of Science (MSc), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Collaborate with colleagues and top professors in the study of Earth dynamics, including its surface, interior, and human impacts.

Earth and Environmental Graduate Students at UBC Okanagan

Graduate Program Overview

 

Program Components Duration
MSc Coursework and thesis 24 months
PhD Dissertation 48 months

The earth and environmental sciences graduate program offers high-calibre research-based degrees to inquisitive and highly motivated students in a collegial, close-knit campus setting that is welcoming and stimulating.

Students conduct research with faculty and peers on a variety of issues and research projects, many in collaboration with partners in government, non-profit agencies, or industry. Our collective aspiration is to generate new knowledge and understanding that is regionally relevant and of global impact.

Both the MSc and PhD degrees provide students with theoretical, practical, and analytical expertise, as well as experience in the application of scientific results to real-world problems.

Students enrolled in the MSc program will learn useful skills and methods as well as undertake practical research on real-world problems in earth and environmental sciences. Graduates of the program are prepared for employment opportunities in government, management, industry, education, and consulting, or for PhD research.

PROGRAM MILESTONES

  • establishing a faculty supervisory committee
  • preparing, presenting, and defending a thesis research proposal
  • completing coursework
  • researching, writing, and defending a thesis
  • ideally, publishing research results

COURSEWORK & THESIS REQUIREMENTS

  • minimum of 12 credits of coursework
  • 18-credit MSc thesis

Most MSc students become Teaching Assistants for at least one semester in order to gain valuable experience and to learn effective communications strategies.

Exceptional MSc students can transfer to the PhD program after one year if they meet program requirements and are approved by the Graduate Program Coordinating Committee.

The PhD is an advanced research degree that requires original and substantive contributions to the advancement of our understanding of earth and environmental systems. Graduates of the PhD program are prepared for careers that involve conducting independent research and teaching in academia, government, and industry.

PROGRAM MILESTONES

  • establishing a faculty supervisory committee
  • preparing, presenting, and defending a dissertation research proposal
  • passing a candidacy examination that demonstrates breadth and depth of knowledge in one’s chosen field and specialization
  • undertaking advanced data collection and sophisticated analytical methods
  • completing dissertation research and writing, and defending the work
  • communicating research results via conference presentations and publications in scientific journals

Most PhD students complete Teaching Assistantships for at least two semesters in order to gain valuable teaching experience and to enhance their communication skills.

coursework

At the PhD level, coursework is required only at the discretion of the student’s supervisory committee, depending on previous course credits from the prior MSc degree as well as the nature of their research objectives.


Research & Supervisors

Graduate students can pursue these and other faculty research and teaching interests:

  • Biodiversity and landscape ecology
  • Complex social-ecological systems
  • Environmental change
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Forest ecohydrological processes
  • Geochemistry & geochemical fingerprinting
  • Geomorphology
  • Hydrology
  • Landscape & land-use modelling
  • Limnology
  • Mantle dynamics
  • Mineral exploration
  • Mineralogy & petrology
  • Natural resource studies
  • Paleoecology
  • Sediment transport dynamics
  • Structural geology & tectonics
  • Trace element analysis & stable isotopes
  • Watershed processes & forest management
  • Wetland dynamics & greenhouse gases

The success of the earth and environmental sciences graduate program depends on exceptional students undertaking cutting-edge research in collaboration with participating faculty in areas of mutual interest.

Students are strongly encouraged to reach out to a potential faculty supervisor before beginning the application process. We invite you to discuss your research interests and career goals with us. We are happy to share our excitement about what we study and teach.


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Bernard Bauer | Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | bernard.bauer@ubc.ca | 250.807.9595
Research Interests: Process geomorphology; hydrology; environmental science; understanding how wind systems, water currents, and ocean waves pick up and transport sediments, leading to problems of erosion and sedimentation on beaches, dunes, and river (levee) banks.
Yuan Chen | Associate Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | yuan.chen@ubc.ca | 250.807.9594
Research Interests: Mineralogy; petrology; geochemistry and geologic resources; the environment; research used to predict the solubility, transportation and potential bioavailability of trace elements through surface processes and to establish environmentally friendly operating procedures for the mining industry.
Jeff Curtis | Associate Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | jeff.curtis@ubc.ca | 250.807.9521
Research Interests: Biogeoclimatic control of water quality; inferring hydrologic flowpath from geochemical indicators; optical properties of natural waters; interaction of metals and natural organic ligands; scavenging of nutrients and trace elements in biogenic calcite; fate and transport of endocrine disrupters.
John Greenough | Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | john.greenough@ubc.ca | 250.807.9520
Research Interests: Mantle composition and evolution; diamond indicator minerals; lunar mantle composition; volatiles in lava flows; geochemical fingerprinting of gold; archaeological artefacts; and agrifood products; the concentrations of elements in lava flows to determine the composition of the interior of the Earth.
Kevin Hanna | Associate Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences, Geography | kevin.hanna@ubc.ca | 250.807.9265
Research Interests: Environmental impact assessment; integrated resource and environmental management; climate change adaptation policy; natural resources policy in Canada and Northern Europe; European Union environmental policy.
Ed Hornibrook | Department Head, Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | ed.hornibrook@ubc.ca | 250.807.8059
Research Interests: Biogeochemistry; stable isotopes; biosphere-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases; natural and restored wetlands; lakes; soil; groundwater; trace gas analysis; automation of monitoring equipment.
Kyle Larson | Associate Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | kyle.larson@ubc.ca | 250.807.8564
Research Interests: Structural geology; tectonics; petrology; microstructures; evolution of mountain belts; the geology of the Himalaya-Tibet-Karakorm system; tectonics of Southwestern British Columbia.
Craig Nichol | Associate Department Head, Senior Instructor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | craig.nichol@ubc.ca | 250.807.8087
Research Interests: Hydrogeology and vadose zone processes; regional groundwater resources; surface water and groundwater interactions; agricultural irrigation efficiency and nitrate leaching; agricultural greenhouse gas production; acid rock drainage and mine reclamation; soil physics. Geoscience education.
Michael Pidwirny | Associate Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | michael.pidwirny@ubc.ca | 250.807.8758
Research Interests: Anthropogenic climate change impact assessment and adaptation; use of climate databases in assessing climate change; historical climate change at North American ski resorts; forecasts of future climate change at North American ski resorts.
Jason Pither | Associate Professor | Biology, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | jason.pither@ubc.ca | 250.807.9629
Research Interests: Biogeography; landscape ecology; biodiversity conservation; community ecology; paleoecology; biodiversity patterns in space and time.
Ian Walker | Professor | Biology, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | ian.walker@ubc.ca | 250.807.9559
Research Interests: Environmental change; chironomid palaeoecology; quaternary palaeoecology and paleoclimatology; dynamics of arctic and alpine tree-line ecosystems; aquatic insect ecology; and biomonitoring; use of aquatic insects (living and fossil) as indicators of environmental change.
Adam Wei | Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | adam.wei@ubc.ca | 250.807.8750
Research Interests: Eco-hydrological processes; in-stream wood ecology and its relations with channel morphology, aquatic habitat and carbon budget; forest disturbance and watershed processes; application of GIS and remote sensing on watershed hydrology and management; surface water and groundwater integration; long-term soil productivity; and forest ecosystem modeling (FORECAST).
Robert Young | Associate Professor | Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | robert.young@ubc.ca | 250.807.9523
Research Interests: Glacial and fluvial processes; landforms and landscapes; environments of the quaternary, as determined by physical and biological systems.

Centre for Environmental Assessment Research (CEAR)

CEAR supports research about environmental assessment (EA) processes and methods, and helps integrate this information into practice. Research conducted and supported by CEAR contributes to resource development by furthering knowledge about the role that EA plays in helping to advance natural resource management practices that benefit Canadians.

Complex Environmental Systems Lab

The Complex Environmental Systems Lab is a new research facility at UBC Okanagan. We study the management and governance of natural resources from a complex systems perspective. We work at the scale of regional landscapes, acknowledging the intricate interdependency of human and environmental systems.

Fipke Lab for Trace Element Research (FiLTER)

The FiLTER Lab is a new research facility accessible to researchers across UBC’s Okanagan campus as well as external researchers. Made possible by investments from the Government of Canada and the generous donations of Charles Fipke, it specializes in trace element analysis and electron microscope imaging. Services include inductively coupled plasma spectrometry, scanning electron microscopy, and electron probe micro analysis.

Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience and Ecosystem Services (BRAES)

BRAES is a group of over 30 faculty members and their graduate students working in ecology, biodiversity and conservation, and environmental sustainability on UBC’s Okanagan campus. BRAES’ special strength is its multidisciplinary focus, with members from disciplines of biology, mathematics and statistics, literary and cultural studies, earth and environmental sciences, physical geography, economics, and creative arts.

PALEO Lab

The PALEO LAB specialises in the use of midge fossils for the reconstruction of past environmental changes, particularly glacial and postglacial climates, and recent human impacts on lake ecosystems. We collaborate extensively with researchers at universities across Canada, as well as Parks Canada and the Royal British Columbia Museum.

Structural Geology and Tectonics Group

Our research is aimed at examining displacement and distortion in convergent margins. We are currently conducting research programs in the Tama Kosi area of east-central Nepal, the Kanchenjuga region of far east Nepal, the Hindu Kush of northwestern Pakistan, and the cratonic rocks of Northern Saskatchewan. These study areas provide the opportunity to examine well-exposed sections of exhumed middle to  lower crust within the youthful Himalayan orogen and contrast that with similar rocks involved with ancient orogensis. This type of research enables us to identify and track common processes across different orogens through time.


Students & Theses

Meet Our Students

See what our students are up to—find them in our Contact page for their research interests, supervisors, alma maters, and info.

Earth and Environmental Sciences Graduate Society

The Earth and Environmental Sciences Graduate Society is a student union dedicated to connecting students with each other, the university, and the community in order to enhance students’ research, learning, and overall experience at UBC Okanagan.

Theses & Dissertations

Search all earth and environmental sciences student publications at cIRcle, the University’s digital repository for research and teaching materials.


Admission Requirements

Admission to UBC graduate programs is competitive. Applicants must meet the following criteria.

MASTER OF SCIENCE (MSc) APPLICANTS 

Applicants to the earth and environmental sciences MSc program are expected to have:

  • the academic equivalent of a four-year BSc from UBC in earth and environmental sciences or a related field, with a minimum average of B+ (76%) or better in their third- or fourth-year classes, or
  • at least 12 credits in third- and fourth-year classes in their intended field of study, with an A- (80%) grade or better, or
  • significant formal training and relevant professional experience

Your background training must be sufficient for advanced work in your chosen field.


DOCTORAL APPLICANTS (PhD)

PhD applicants are expected to:

  • hold the academic equivalent of a two-year master’s degree from UBC in earth and environmental sciences or a related field, with a B+ (76%) average or better,
  • demonstrate clear evidence of research ability or potential

Your background training must be sufficient for advanced work in your chosen field.


EXCEPTIONAL CASES

Exceptional students who do not meet the requirements stated above, but who have had significant formal training and relevant professional experience, may be admitted to the program on the recommendation of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Graduate Program Committee and approval of the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

MORE INFORMATION

Visit the UBC Okanagan Academic Calendar for full admission and program requirements information. The calendar is a comprehensive guide to all programs, courses, services, and academic policies at the University of British Columbia.

Note: In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct. 

The College of Graduate Studies defines additional requirements and degree equivalencies.

MASTER OF SCIENCE (MSc) APPLICANTS 

International applicants to the earth and environmental sciences MSc program are expected to:

  • have the academic equivalent of a four-year BSc from UBC in earth and environmental sciences or a related field, with a minimum average of B+ (76%) or better in their third- or fourth-year classes, or
  • have at least 12 credits in third- and fourth-year classes in their intended field of study, with an A- (80%) grade or better
  • present evidence of competency to pursue studies in the English language (please see details below)

ENGLISH LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS 

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): minimum score of 550 (paper version); 90 overall with a minimum score of 22 in Reading & Listening and a minimum score of 21 in Writing & Speaking (Internet version), or
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service): minimum overall band score of 6.5, with no individual component score less than 6.0, or
  • MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery): minimum overall score of 85, with a final score of 3 in the speaking test

DOCTORAL APPLICANTS (PhD)

International PhD applicants are expected to:

  • hold the academic equivalent of a two-year master’s degree from UBC in earth and environmental sciences or a related field, with a B+ (76%) average or better
  • demonstrate clear evidence of research ability or potential
  • present evidence of competency to pursue studies in the English language (please see details below)

Your background training must be sufficient for advanced work in your chosen field.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): minimum score of 550 (paper version); 90 overall with a minimum score of 22 in Reading & Listening and a minimum score of 21 in Writing & Speaking (Internet version), or
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service): minimum overall band score of 6.5, with no individual component score less than 6.0, or
  • MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery): minimum overall score of 85, with a final score of 3 in the speaking test

MORE INFORMATION

Visit the UBC Okanagan Academic Calendar for full admission and program requirements information. The calendar is a comprehensive guide to all programs, courses, services, and academic policies at the University of British Columbia.

Note: In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct. 

REQUIRED GRADES AND CREDENTIAL GUIDE

Grades and degree credentials required by UBC vary by country. Search the Required Grades and Credential Guide — a guide to assist international students in estimating their eligibility.

INTERNATIONAL ADVISORS

An international student advisor can answer questions about immigration, medical insurance and the transition to UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, BC. Visit the International Programs and Services website to meet the team.


Tuition & Funding

Tuition

Tuition amounts presented here are estimates only and all fees are subject to change. For official tuition and fee information, visit the UBC Okanagan Academic Calendar, a comprehensive guide to all programs, courses, services, and academic policies at the University of British Columbia.

Program Schedule Domestic (per year) International (per year)
MSc Full-time $4,995.78 $8,776.74
MSc Part-time $2,855.22 $5,046.63
PhD Full-time $4,995.78 $8,776.74

Tuition is paid three times a year, on the first day of each term: Winter Term 1 (September), Winter Term 2 (January), and Summer Term (May).

Funding Opportunities

Graduate student stipends are funded through a combination of internal and external funding awards, Teaching Assistantships, and Research Assistantships.

Although funding and stipend amounts are not guaranteed, the earth and environmental sciences graduate program has a number of assistantships available for qualified students. Talk to your potential supervisor about funding opportunities.

Students are expected whenever possible to apply for relevant scholarships and fellowships. These include principally, but are not limited to, Canadian Tri-Council scholarships, University Graduate Fellowships, and Graduate Dean’s Entrance Scholarships.

If students wish to hold off-campus (external) employment, they should discuss with their supervisor, particularly if the student is a grant-holder, as restrictions on hours of work may apply.

GRADUATE ENTRANCE AWARD

The Irving K. Barber School of Arts & Sciences offers a $15,000 merit-based entrance scholarship to six exceptional individuals entering their first year of thesis-based graduate studies under a supervisor from the IKBSAS faculty.

All applicants to IKBSAS graduate programs who have submitted an application by January 31 will be automatically considered for the award. No additional application is required. Successful applicants will be notified by March 15.

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences has funding opportunities and assistantships available for qualified students.

Program Recommended funding Duration
MSc $17,500 per year 2 years
PhD $18,000 per year 4 years

TEACHING ASSISTANTSHIPS (TA)

Paid TA positions are provided through the department and allow graduate students to develop skills in teaching, supervision, facilitation, and student assessment. Teaching assistants may lead seminars, help teach undergraduate courses, or assist in student evaluations and marking.

  • MA students are eligible for paid TA positions for up to two years.
  • PhD students are eligible for paid TA positions for up to four years.
  • TA positions usually occur September to April. TA hours and wages are governed by the British Columbia Government Employees Union (BCGEU).

Teaching assistants are mentored by their supervisor and via the Centre for Teaching and Learning. To learn more or apply for a position, see our Careers page.

Research Assistantships (RA)

As paid research assistants, graduate students assist their supervisor or other researchers in conducting high-level research. RAs are typically funded by a supervisor’s external grants, contracts or other sources of funding, and, therefore, are not guaranteed.

Research Assistantships are wholly dependent upon individual research supervisor’s funding. RA positions may take place at any time during the school year and wages and hours will vary. RA positions are not guaranteed. Talk to your potential supervisor about RA opportunities.

UBC Awards

The College of Graduate Studies administers merit-based graduate awards at the Okanagan campus. The College manages a number of award competitions each year and administers payment of all internal awards and selected external awards.

External Awards

All prospective graduate students (Domestic and International) should explore and apply for external awards and fellowships, including awards offered by Canada’s three research councils: CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC.

Graduate scholarships and awards may also be available from foundations, private organizations or foreign governments (check with your country’s education authority).


How to Apply

Find a Supervisor

Please contact our faculty supervisors before starting your application. Admission to the program requires the confirmed availability and mentor-match with a faculty supervisor as well as meeting program-specific criteria and requirements.

A complete application package will contain:

  • Online application and application fee
  • Unofficial transcripts for all post-secondary institutions attended are required for the application package. However, if admitted, the student must submit official transcripts to the College of Graduate Studies
  • English language test (for non-native speakers of English)
  • CV or resumé
  • Three reference forms or letters

Applying takes time. We recommend you start your application two months in advance.

For full consideration students should submit all application materials by the following deadlines:

INTAKE APPLICATION DEADLINE
September January 31
January June 1
May October 1

UBC’S Okanagan Campus

The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the 40 best universities in the world. In the earth and environmental sciences program at UBC’s Okanagan campus, you gain all the benefits of attending a globally respected university while studying in a close-knit learning community.

DYNAMIC CITY

UBC’s Okanagan campus borders the dynamic city of Kelowna, a hub of economic development with a population of about 150,000 people — the fourth fastest growing population in Canada. In fact, the Okanagan Valley is rated one of the best communities in Canada to grow your business.

More than 160 buses travel daily from campus to key locations such as Kelowna’s cultural district and thriving downtown waterfront. The campus is two minutes from the Kelowna International Airport, one of the top 10 busiest airports in Canada.

UBC Okanagan is situated within the First Nations territory of the Okanagan Nation, whose spirit of stewardship for the land is reflected in the university’s respect for sustainability.

NATURAL BEAUTY

A diverse natural region with sandy beaches, beautiful farms, vineyards and orchards, and snow-capped mountains, the Okanagan Valley features sweeping stretches of lakeside and endless mountain trails for biking and hiking.

Check out this 360-degree video: Kelowna From Above.*

* Best viewed using desktop Chrome or Firefox (desktop) or YouTube app (mobile).

CAMPUS HOUSING

Full-time UBC Okanagan students can live in residence, which offers modern living with easy access to academic and personal support. Residences are surrounded by hiking and biking trails, plus panoramic views of the campus and valley.

OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING

* UBC does not verify or endorse information shared on this third-party website, which is offered here as a public resource only.

Join the club: Make friends with similar interests, and organize and participate in academic and recreational events in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Course Union.

College of Graduate Studies: CoGS offers orientation events to support you in your first steps as a graduate student at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Stay active: Take advantage of the many opportunities to get involved and play —from workout space in the new Hangar Fitness and Wellness Centre and our 1,561 square-metre gymnasium, to athletic courts, intramurals, fitness classes, and nationally ranked varsity athletics. Have a ball in Sports and Recreation.

Relax: The Graduate Collegium is a gathering place where grad students can hang out, eat lunch, spend time with their fellow students, and attend or host special events. The lounge-style room is open seven days and week and is outfitted with comfortable furniture, kitchen facilities, and individual and group-work spaces.

College of Graduate Studies: Your hub for administrative support and such things as graduate workshops for professional development and for assisting you from the admissions process through to your graduation.

Centre for Scholarly Communication: Supports graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and faculty in disseminating their research. The Library’s CSC provides one-on-one consultations and workshops, including writing support for theses, dissertations, journal articles, and grant proposals.

Centre for Teaching and Learning: Provides support related to teaching, TA training, and use of technology in educational programming.

Learn more about graduate student resources and support.

Careers and OccupationS

With an earth and environmental sciences MSc or PhD degree from the University of British Columbia, graduates are well-positioned to thrive in a variety of occupations, such as:

  • Antipollution measures inspector
  • Dangerous substances inspector
  • Development and production geophysicist
  • Environmental geologist
  • Environmental impact assessor
  • Environmental policy analyst
  • Environmental reporter/writer
  • Environmental standards enforcement officer
  • Environmental technician
  • Farm water coordinator
  • Geophysicist
  • Hydrologist
  • Hydrometric technologist
  • Junior environmentalist
  • Land use analyst
  • Park warden/naturalist
  • Pollution control technologist
  • Project planner/reclamation worker
  • Public health inspector
  • Regulatory analyst
  • Renewable energy consultant
  • Sanitarian
  • Soil use planner
  • Waste management specialist
  • Water resource manager
  • Wetlands ecologist
  • Wildlife conservationist
  • Wildlife manager
  • Zoning investigator

Career Services

Map out your future and prepare to hit the ground running with resources and services provided by the Advising & Involvement Centre.

Tell your story with resumé and cover-letter strategies, and search Work Study jobs for experience relevant to your degree and career goals. You can also book an appointment to meet one-on-one with our career advisor.

alumni UBC

alumni UBC is a member-driven association that offers a variety of lifetime programming and communications to enrich the lives of UBC graduates.

The ‘Your Next Step’ program offers webinars, speaker series and professional development sessions. It is designed to provide advice, tips and resources in areas of career development to graduates for life after university.

Realize the promise of a global community with shared ambition for a better world and an exceptional UBC.