PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability
Department of Environment and Resource Studies
University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
519-888-4567, ext. 32784
Application Deadline: March 15, 2009
The new PhD program in ERS is devoted to understanding and pursuing sustainability in a dynamic and complex world.
It is broadly committed to three core themes:
- assessing the theoretical foundations and practical implications of progress towards sustainable societies, and application of this analysis as a broad context for specific work in particular situations;
- understanding socio-ecological interrelations as dynamic complex systems vulnerable to being over-stressed by human activities; and
- examining conventional and alternative social arrangements, including institutions and tools of governance, as means of improving human wellbeing and environmental responsibility.
Within this general orientation, faculty and student research can be focused on quite specific topics but always with attention to the larger context of social and ecological systems and normative sustainability objectives within which the topics are embedded.
Fields of study
The program is transdisciplinary, integrating perspectives and insights from the natural and social sciences and the humanities. ERS does not divide itself into distinct specializations. Our teaching and research does, however, emphasize work in three overlapping fields:
- Resource Analysis and Stewardship. This field concerns an analysis of existing resource systems as well as creative and innovative ways of utilizing the earth’s resources in a sustainable fashion.
- Socio-Ecosystem Function and Renewal. This field concerns ways to apply our knowledge of ecological systems towards renewing human relationships with the land.
- Sustainability Policy and Governance. This field concerns existing and new forms of governance and policy with respect to sustaining healthy and resilient human and biophysical communities.While the ERS PhD program helps to develop specialist understanding of particular considerations in the social and physical sciences within the three fields outlined above, the students will also be encouraged to think more deeply about why they are conducting specific research and how it fits in the broader realm of human life and decision making.
Admission information can be found here.
While our graduates will have specialized knowledge, they will leave here not chiefly as biologists, ecologists, sociologists, or political scientists, but as scholars with access to a variety of intellectual and practical tools to approach environmental issues and problems. This reflects our faculty commitment to the need for novel and advanced approaches to environmental research that mirror the transdisciplinary nature of environmental issues.
ERS has a long tradition of open collegiality. Students are welcome to discuss their work and their experience of the program with faculty members in informal, as-needed meetings. They also have representation in monthly departmental meetings, and are invited to participate in all discussions about the department and its graduate program.
The department is devoted to being a supportive community for transdisciplinary excellence, helping students with a diversity of backgrounds to expand their individual capacities and collective strengths.
The two core PhD seminar courses
ERS 701 Sustainability in Socio-Ecological Systems
This course will use a transdisciplinary theoretical and methodological framework to discuss how to analyze issues that arise from the complex interactions between human decision making and ecosystems. The course will provide students with an understanding of how issues of sustainability are approached by researchers from different academic fields and by practitioners from varied public sectors. A core outcome will be basic literacy in the vocabulary of these different approaches to sustainability. Accordingly, these courses will provide students with the tools to think broadly about sustainability beyond the confines of particular disciplines in which they may have prior training. The frameworks chosen are applicable to broader environment and resource issues as well as more specific topics that may include political ecology, environmental philosophy, environmental decision making, ecological economics, water, waste or energy policy analysis, ecotoxicology, restoration ecology, agroecosystem management, and food policy. Specific topics will normally reflect the interest of the doctoral students. Guest speakers will provide additional applied examples using the course framework. Students will be expected to deliver a paper and a seminar that critically assesses some aspect of the literature in the field of environmental studies.
ERS 702 Critical Analysis and Advanced Research in Environmental Studies
This course builds on ERS 701 and is geared to the critical analysis and writing of scholarly articles. Students will explore and undertake a comparative analysis of diverse sources of academic literature in environmental studies. Specific attention will be paid to assessing the peer-reviewed literature in academic journals and monographs. The course will be enhanced by academic guest speakers who will present their own research methodologies and approaches for class discussion. The course will specifically address the practical and career challenges of publishing interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary articles. Each student is expected to produce, present and defend a paper of publishable quality directed towards a peer-reviewed journal in their own specific area of interest.
More detailed information on ERS and its faculty members is accessible at http://www.env.uwaterloo.ca/ers
For more information on the new doctoral program, contact Prof. Robert B. Gibson, Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, ERS at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on application requirements, see the University of Waterloo Graduate Studies website at http://www.grad.uwaterloo.ca/