Global Environmental Change

*The GEC concentration is currently under review. For prospective students interested in a focus area related to climate change, contact

The Global Environmental Change (GEC) program trains students to analyze environmental changes that occur on a variety of temporal and spatial scales and to anticipate and respond to management and policy issues that arise from these changes. Global environmental change includes global climate change as well as widespread changes in the world’s terrestrial environments, oceans, and coastlines. These changes, in turn, are affecting the well-being of human populations and of biological components of the global system.

The GEC program provides an integrated package of fundamental environmental science, analytical skills, and management and policy training. Graduates of the program will be well equipped to serve as environmental analysts and managers bridging the gap between advances in the science of global change and the policy initiatives needed to manage the consequences of global change. The program is designed to provide the necessary background for students to develop careers in public, private, or nonprofit sectors, or to pursue further studies in environmental science and policy.

The program has particular strengths in global climate change, biodiversity, coastal environmental change, and earth surface processes, with faculty participating in a wide range of activities in these areas. Students in the GEC program have close interactions with a number of Duke centers, including the Center for Global Change, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and the Duke University Marine Laboratory.

The GEC program seeks to educate students in:

  1. Analysis of environmental changes that occur on a variety of temporal and spatial scales and understanding of the scientific principles underlying these changes;
  2. Quantitative and analytical skills of geospatial analysis and remote sensing, applied mathematics and statistics, and quantitative modeling that are required to understand complex environmental problems and to formulate their solutions;
  3. Basic principles of economics, management, law, and policy that are necessary to properly inform decision making in a wide array of environmental issues;
  4. Oral and written skills needed to communicate decisions or to communicate with decision makers, including the ability to conduct research, write cogent research reports, and to deliver effective oral presentations.

The GEC program relies largely on faculty and courses taught at the Durham campus, but it is possible for a student to take appropriate classes for one semester (Fall) at the Duke University Marine Laboratory. This approach would be desirable if the student is interested in developing a project dealing with coastal environmental change.

Elements Specific to the Global Environmental Change Program:
For the GEC program, introductory courses in earth sciences/geology and biology are recommended as prerequisites. Deficiencies may be made up in the first semester of classes, but do not count towards degree requirements. Note that specific courses may require additional prerequisites.

The GEC program requires 15 credit hours selected from basic science of global change courses, 9 from analysis and tools courses, 9 from policy and management courses, and the remaining credit hours from elective courses and the Master’s Project. The lists of courses below are not intended to be exhaustive; courses may be (and commonly are) substituted in these categories, in consultation with the advisor and with permission from the program director. The student is encouraged to develop an area of specialization within the program (e.g., coastal processes, climate change, surface processes) and select core courses and analytical courses focused in that area.

A list of some of some courses fulfilling GEC requirements is available here >

Course Planning Worksheets

•  For students incoming Fall 2017 >
•  For students incoming Fall 2016 >
•  For students incoming Fall 2014 >

For more information, contact Program Chair Prasad Kasibhatla, (919) 613-8075.