Research & Projects: PhD Program


PhD Research at the Bren School

Current PhD Research
Past PhD Research
PhD Job Placements

Students in the mentored Bren School PhD program develop broad and specialized knowledge, analytical powers, technicalskills, and creative thinking– all indispensable to leaders in environmental science and management.

The Bren School's interdisciplinary foundation percolates through the PhD program, reflecting the fact that environmental problem solving frequently requires collaboration and innovation across multiple disciplines.

Outside bren hallWhile some students pursue research that necessarily falls largely within a single discipline, an increasing number pursue an applied PhD that integrates ideas and techniques from several fields. These students recognize the importance conducting research that is especially meaningful because it contributes to addressing the increasing number and magnitude of 21st-century environmental challenges. A few examples:

  • An environmental economist may work with natural scientists, policy makers, political scientists and local stakeholders, such as landowners and NGOs, to inform her work in developing market-based approaches to solving resource challenges.
  • A computer scientist may collaborate with ecologists, climate scientists, resource managers and hydrologists to create a model for optimizing decision-making related to developing alternative water supply systems under climate change.
  • An ecologist may engage with economists, agricultural organizations, local government officials, and communication specialists to quantify bumblebee pollination services for blueberry farms, identify bumblebee habit, educate local farmers, and provide incentives for them to protect it.
  • A fisheries biologist can find himself engaging with sociologists, economists, oceanographers, population ecologists, fishermen, and local non-profits to develop and innovative approach to conserving indispensable fish stocks.
  • A policy maker in an environmental government agency in Mexico may come to the Bren School to acquire knowledge and learn rigorous methodologies that will enable him more effectively to infuse science into environmental policy-making.

Whether focused on natural science, economics, policy, digital data and modeling, communication, or, more likely, some combination, Bren PhD students seek and embody a new balance between research and application. In doing so, they enhance the richness of our academic community and have a greater impact on solving environmental problems. With the knowledge and skills acquired here, Bren PhD graduates are pursuing careers in academia, research, government, non-governmental organizations (non-profits), and business.

Beginning in 2007, the faculty developed a core curriculum required for Bren PhD students. It consists of three seminar courses on interdisciplinary research conducted by Bren faculty; a course on writing grants and proposals; and a course on and preparing manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Another important element of the Bren School PhD program is that students are not limited to taking classes offered only at Bren and may enroll in any class offered in any department at UCSB. This greatly facilitates the acquisition of knowledge in areas of interest that may not be a core strength at the Bren School. Students who pursue the PhD of Environmental Science and Management may add an emphasis in Economics and Environmental Science.