PROGRAM 2022-03-18T16:36:51-07:00

Educating future leaders in the science and policy of coastal sustainability.

The Graduate Program in Coastal Science and Policy prepares future leaders to solve current and emerging challenges to coastal sustainability.

The program offers two programs of study, a masters of science and a Ph.D. designated emphasis for UCSC Ph.D. students. Coursework emphasizes interdisciplinary scholarship, project-based study, and developing practical solutions to real-world problems.

The program aims to develop competency in:

  • Identifying Needs, Solutions, and Priorities: Recognizing growing needs and problems within the context of coastal sustainability, identifying strategic, high impact solutions to address these needs, and prioritizing these solutions.
  • Systems Thinking and Interdisciplinary Scope: Understanding connections among diverse components of physical, ecological, and social systems, and integrating them to address diverse issues.
  • Process Integrity: Addressing how to protect and preserve the integrity of physical, ecological, evolutionary, social, and cultural processes.
  • Practical Skills and Real World Approaches: Gaining practical skills, including communication, quantitative and qualitative analysis, problem solving, interpersonal relations, critical thinking, teamwork, mediation and consensus building, conflict resolution, leadership, fund-raising and project management. Applying these practical skills with theoretical concepts to solve real coastal issues through engagement of business, governmental and non-governmental partners and practitioners.

Masters Program

The intensive academics, real-world experience, and engagement with institutional partners limits the capacity of the Masters program to small cohorts of exceptional students each year. Small cohorts, along with need-based financial aid, will allow for students to forge relationships with faculty, professionals, and practitioners in the field. The program focuses on practical training to provide integrated solutions to social and ecological challenges via four interconnected nodes that leverage UCSC’s existing leadership in coastal sustainability:

• Conserving biodiversity, sustaining ecosystem processes, and ensuring human well-being

• Mitigating hazards to nature and society; fostering societal adaptation

• Maintaining security of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial food and energy systems

• Advancing innovative economic and financial models in business and industry

The two-year program is comprised of a year of coursework, a summer placement, and a second year dedicated to a capstone project. For the first three quarters of the program (Fall, Winter, Spring), all students will undertake a suite of 8 fundamental and developmental core courses of 5 units each and one discussion of 0 units. Students take at least 1 elective for the purpose of bolstering identified gaps in disciplinary training during Spring quarter of their first year (eg, economics, politics, social science, natural science). In the summer of their first year, all students will participate in an applied summer placement. The second year students focus on the completion of their capstone project by working full-time with a practitioner partner and enrolling in two courses per quarter: a capstone seminar (2 units) and a capstone project (10 units). The unit requirement for the MS degree is 83 units (42 units of core courses, 5 units of elective courses, 30 units capstone project, 6 capstone seminar units).

Exceptional investment in CSP students includes:

• Small cohorts to facilitate ample time with mentors and professors

• Intensive co-mentoring by program faculty and institutional partners

• Career development staff and resources

• Need-based financial support for tuition and living stipend


Ph.D. Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science and Policy

To receive a designated emphasis in coastal science and policy, graduate students must complete the following requirements in addition to the degree requirements for the doctorate in their home department:

Committee Composition and Departmental Approvals

Students must have a designated emphasis advisor from the CSP core or affiliated faculty. The designated emphasis advisor commits to serving on the Ph.D. qualifying exam committee (typically as the outside member), and the dissertation reading committee.The DE advisor will work with the student to develop a coherent plan for meeting the requirements for the designated emphasis, preferably before the end of the student’s first year. This plan must be approved by the CSP program director.

In addition, the student must file the Application for Designated Emphasis in CSP with the CSP Assistant Director.

Course Requirements

Students are required to complete at least three CSP courses including two required courses (CSP 244 and CSP 245 [BIO 262]). Courses taken to fulfill program requirements within the home department will not count toward the designated emphasis program’s required coursework.

Writing, Research and/or Teaching Requirements

As part of the CSP DE, students must work closely with a non-academic practitioner (from a government, private industry, or non-profit entity) on one interdisciplinary dissertation chapter in order to gain direct training in linking their research to a practical, scalable solution on a coastal sustainability issue.

Students should involve the partner in the conceptual design and execution of the project.

The CSP program, via core courses, workshops, and mentoring by CSP faculty, provides substantial guidance on how to collaborate with partners in a manner that fits well with the dissertation research process. This requirement ensures that the student’s work will bring their knowledge to action that addresses real-world challenges and implements new cutting-edge solutions.

Other CSP DE Training

Students in the CSP DE also participate in workshops and seminars offered to the entire CSP program. To learn more about these opportunities, click here.

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