Based on a review of ESSE I, II and 21 annual reports, course descriptions, syllabi, etc., the Design Guide Management Team (DGMT) attempted to identify the 4-5 key common threads that characterize the earth system science classes/curriculums that have been taught/developed over the last 15 years.
In some respects, the nine section headings for the design guide (listed below) reflect the key areas where the ESSE programs have and will make a significant contribution to ESS education. Therefore, one of the main criteria for identifying common threads/cross-cutting themes is that they do not reside in any one section, but integrate across two or more sections of the design guide.
Our Five Cross Cutting Themes
Integrated interdisciplinary systemEarth System Science is focused on the study of Earth as an integrated system and is commonly described as the interdisciplinary study of often complex and dynamic interactions (e.g., energy balance, water cycle, biogeochemical cycles) among major components (hydrosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere)(references). While this may seem obvious, it makes sense to make this explicit in each and every section of the design guide as it is the underpinning of ESS.
Humanity is a part of the systemAnother foundation of ESS is the recognition that humans and human activities play a major role in the Earth System. We are drivers of change in the system and we are affected by that change.
Temporal and spatial scales of the systemOne of the key scientific approaches to address ESS questions deals with scales, such as extrapolating place based measurements to global scales, or investigating change over time. This is especially relevant as ESS deals with multiple levels of scaling to key applications such as climate change, ecosystem degradation, and biodiversity.
ESS as a source of information for moving towards a more sustainable systemOver the next several decades, humans will necessarily be working towards becoming more sustainable in relation to our ecosystems, climate system, social systems and how their interactions affect human health. The systems approach to Earth System Science provides a foundation for informing societies efforts to become more sustainable. To date this has not been an explicit part of the ESSE program, but it is one that should be made explicit.
Relevance and inspirational value of Earth System ScienceESS provides the opportunity for students to pursue their desires to make a difference in the world and to make the world a better place and to do this with data analysis and interpretation using new technologies (e.g., remote sensing, visualization, etc.). This can be termed the WOW factor and can inspire students to get engaged in STEM disciplines and also raise the level of science literacy in the general public. This can also be linked to solar system exploration. Understanding Earth in the context of the solar system is an important theme.