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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Jackson School of Geosciences unveils climate system science major for fall 2024

Jonathan Sherchand

The Jackson School of Geosciences announced on March 27 the introduction of a climate system science bachelor’s degree this fall.

The program is the first of its kind in Texas and one of the only undergraduate degree programs focusing on climate science in the country, according to the School. Current students can register for climate system science-specific courses for fall 2024. 

“Geosciences are the core of many of these challenges that humanity faces today,” said Danny Stockli, chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, which will house the major. “We are trying to prepare students in terms of skills and knowledge to actually help us tackle some of these global challenges.” 

The climate system science major is more narrow than environmental science or sustainability studies because it focuses on the climate as a whole rather than specific environmental factors such as hydrology or geology, Stockli said. 

Geeta Persad, an assistant professor in the department and an architect of the new major, said computational skills were a big priority when building the major’s curriculum. Since climate science deals with large datasets in weather observation and satellite data, Persad said the major includes a required “computational core” of data science classes. 

“It really trains them in programming skills and big data analysis, even in topics like machine learning, that are going to equip them to be the next generation of climate scientists,” Persad said. 

Hydrogeology junior Benjamin Kern said he plans to go into water resource management and preservation. The climate-specific courses in the new major allow him to explore the overlap between hydrology and climate science, he said. 

“My job is going to be very attached to climate science because water resources are highly attached to heat, weather and drought cycles,” Kern said. “I’m really excited that I can take these courses so I can better understand all the intricate and important aspects of climate science.” 

Stockli said every sector will need people trained in climate sciences who understand the intersection of earth science and social issues. Since a wide range of industries will need more climate scientists in the near future, Stockli said, the new major prepares students for careers in research, consulting, government and more.

“Science that has an impact on society cannot be successful if it’s simply viewed as a science in a vacuum,” Stockli said.

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