The Sustainability Science Team will work collaboratively to examine the linkages across global change, energy and sustainable resources, and review the scientific and human dimensions of sustainable actions.  The Team will define and propose solutions to specific environmental challenges that must be addressed to achieve a sustainable future in the region, the state, the nation, and the earth. Each year the cohort will define a specific problem in sustainability science and develop an approach to understanding the problem and moving toward solutions by working together and with their advisers and the affiliated faculty of the Environment Institute. The cohort will take an introductory course in sustainability science, as well as a graduate-level course selected from one of their colleagues’ departments, and also undertake independent research. The Team will organize seminar series in support of their selected topic and present a mini-conference for the campus and community that highlights their research and pragmatic solutions to the problem. This collaborative effort, working across disciplines, is expected to provide the team with skills and experience that will be needed in their post-doctoral careers.

Sustainability Defined

Since the 1980s sustainability has been used primarily to refer to human sustainability on planet Earth. One of the most widely quoted definitions of sustainability and sustainable development was developed by the United Nations in 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

As we move through our work as a team, we are increasingly seeing the interconnected nature of sectors including public health, education, transportation, energy, water, economic development, and others.  These interconnections make up the basis for placing a "sustainable" lens on any action.  With this recognition, future actions can both improve the quality of life now as well as for future generations.  We initially came together with each of our own disciplinary perspectives on what "sustainability" means in terms of: earth systems science, materials science, comparative literature, accounting, and planning.  However, we quickly realized that, by limiting our focus to these disciplinary perspectives, we lose the greater meaning of what sustainability is.  As a team, we are now working together to create a shared definition of sustainability as an cross-disciplinary team.  Therefore, we invite you to add to our working definition of sustainability:


A Conversation about Sustainability