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Environment and Resource Studies

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Environment and Resource Studies (ERS) offers two options for the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program: the Thesis Option and the Major Research Paper (MRP) Option and a PhD program in Social and Ecological Sustainability.

Like our undergraduate program, the graduate programs in ERS is unique in its mix of transdisciplinary understanding and problem-solving combined with the ability to focus your thesis research on a narrower problem or issue.

We emphasize that students should choose their graduate research topic based on their own interests and background. Our graduate students are valued in the job market and recognized for their academic excellence with major scholarships.

Application requirements are the same for both options and the deadline to apply to the program (either option) is February 1st, 2013 for Fall 2013 admission.

Thesis Option and the Major Research Paper (MRP) Option

PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability

More information

MES Thesis Option and the Major Research Paper (MRP) Option

Degree requirements

The degree requirements for each of these options are outlined in the table below.

The minimum period of full-time enrolment is three terms (one year) or its equivalent. Normally degree requirements are to be completed within a maximum of four terms. Most full-time students complete their course requirements within their first two terms and are prepared to begin Major Research Paper research in their third term. Continuous enrolment is required.

Degree Option

MES Thesis Option

MES Major Research Paper (MRP) Option

Required Courses

Total 3 required courses.

ERS 680: Sustainability Foundations (Fall)

ERS 670: MES Research Development (Winter)

ERS 681: Sustainability Applications (Winter)

Total 4 required courses.

ERS 669: Team Research Project (Fall)

ERS 680: Sustainability Foundations (Fall)

ERS 670: MES Research Development (Winter)

ERS 681: Sustainability Applications (Winter)

Elective Courses

Total 2 elective courses.

ERS 669(Fall) is recommended as one of the 2 electives.

Total 3 elective courses.

At least one of the electives must be an ERS course.

Other Required Elements

Milestone

October 15, First Semester:

Thesis research agenda statement (submitted to Advisor).

Additional milestones are incorporated as course requirements in ERS 670, for Thesis students.

Milestone

15 October, First Semester:

Major Research Paper agenda statement (submitted to Advisor).

Additional milestones are incorporated as course requirements in ERS 670, for MRP students.

Completion and successful defence of a Master’s Thesis.

Completion and acceptance of a Major Research Paper by advisory committee.

Time for Completion

Normally: 5-6 terms full-time

Most full-time students complete their course requirements within their first two terms and are prepared for thesis research in their third term.

Normally: 3-4 terms full-time

Most students complete their course requirements within their first two terms and are prepared to write the research paper in their third term.

Admission requirements

Applicants must possess an honours bachelors degree or its equivalent in some environmentally-related field (broadly defined), with at least a 75% average in the last two years.

Acceptance into the program will depend on academic standing, letters of reference (2), the student's subject area of interest in relation to expertise which can be offered through the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program, and the availability of financial assistance if such is needed.  The deadline for submission of an application is February 1st of the same year for Fall admission.  Later applications may be considered if openings remain.                                                                                                

Application process

Before you apply online through the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC), please ensure you are eligible by reviewing our admission requirements and deadlines.

If you were educated outside of Canada, please see our international admission guide.

Read our frequently asked questions thoroughly before applying.

Once your application has been forwarded to the University of Waterloo's Graduate Studies Office, you will receive an email explaining how to access Applicant Quest for uploading the remainder of your application.

Application deadline for Fall 2013 admission is February 1st, 2013.

Applying to a graduate program at Waterloo is a two step process:

  1. Apply online and pay the application fee of $100.00 per program.

  2. Submit your application materials (see the instructions outlining our required documents):

    • Transcripts: from each post secondary institution that you have attended.

    • Supplementary Information Form: complete on Quest outlining:

      • main areas of academic and other expertise, experience and curiosity; and

      • the main area(s) of research that you hope to emphasize in course and thesis work

  • References: two academic references are required, the university will contact them directly by email based on information provided in your application.
  • Resume/curriculum vitæ (CV)

  • English Language Test Scores, if applicable(see Frequently Asked Questions)

  • Permanent Resident/Landed Immigrant card or form (if applicable)

  • Sponsorship letter (if applicable)

Scholarship information can be found at Graduate Studies Office's Online Scholarship Database Search Engine.         

Questions about the master's and PhD programs can be directed to Jennifer Nicholson.

Financial Information

www.grad.uwaterloo.ca/Scholarships/index.asp


PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability

The PhD program in Environment and Resource Studies (ERS) is devoted to understanding and pursuing sustainability in a dynamic and complex world, and to considering and integrating understanding across disciplines and scales from the organism to the planet.

Three broad conceptual themes guide the design and delivery of the ERS PhD program:

  • 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 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 to the normative sustainability objectives within which the topics are embedded. Students pursue topics of particular interest to them, with guidance from faculty members and other people with appropriate experience.

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 broader environment.

  • Sustainability Policy and Governance: this field concerns existing and new forms of governance and policy with respect to sustaining healthy and resilient human communities and biophysical systems.

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. Each of the fields includes a normative element that demands attention to purposes and underlying positions on how we ought to live on this planet.

Requirements

Successful applicants must hold a master’s degree with distinction (typically an overall average of at least A-), or the equivalent. 

We are interested in applicants from a broad array of fields and combinations of fields, including but not limited to the following: anthropology, biology, business, economics, communications, English, ecology, environmental studies, geography, planning, political science, engineering, sociology, and earth science. Beyond specialized training, most incoming students will have experience in a variety of fields of study and application.

The program aims to provide the greatest possible flexibility for students to pursue a PhD that reflects both their previous training and their long-term intellectual vision.

Graduates

While our graduates will have specialized knowledge, they will leave here not chiefly as biologists, ecologists, sociologists, geographers or political scientists, but as scholars with access to a variety of intellectual and practical tools needed to address complex environmental issues and problems. This reflects the commitment of ERS faculty to the need for novel and advanced approaches to environmental research that mirror the transdisciplinary nature of environmental issues. 

Read the list of our current PhD students' research projects.

Community

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.

Application process

Before you apply online through the Ontario Universities Application Centre, please ensure you are eligible by reviewing our admission requirements and deadlines.

If you were educated outside of Canada, please see our international admission guide.

Please read our frequently asked questions and check potential supervisor's profiles, research projects and websites thoroughly before applying.

Fall 2013 Application deadline is February 1st, 2013.

Once your application has been forwarded to the University of Waterloo's Graduate Studies Office, you will receive an email explaining how to access applicant Quest for uploading the remainder of your application.

Applying to a graduate program at Waterloo is a two step process:

  1. Apply online and pay the application fee of $100.00 per program.

  2. Submit your application materials (see the instructions outlining our required documents):

    • Transcripts: from each post secondary institution that you have attended.

    • Supplementary Information Form: complete on Quest outlining:

      • main areas of academic and other expertise, experience and curiosity;

      • the main area(s) of research the student hopes to emphasize in course and thesis work; and

      • information on prior education, training, practical experience, field work, publications, or other accomplishments pertinent to areas of interest.

    • References: 3 references are required, minimum two must be academic; the university will contact them directly by email based on information provided in your application.

    • Resume/curriculum vitæ (CV)

    • English Language Test Scores, if applicable (see Frequently Asked Questions)

    • Permanent Resident/Landed Immigrant card or form (if applicable)

    • Sponsorship letter (if applicable)

Attention to the areas of particular expertise available among faculty members (potential doctoral advisors) in ERS is highly recommended. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact prospective doctoral advisors to discuss their research interests.

Applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate command of the English language before being admitted, for example by obtaining a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score greater than 100/250/600. The University of Waterloo Graduate Student Calendar's admission regulations provides further details on acceptable English Language Proficiency Examination (ELPE) tests and scores.

Scholarship information can be found at scholarships and financial aid web page at the Graduate Studies Office website.

Admission of students currently in the ERS master's program

In exceptional cases, particularly excellent students from the ERS Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program may be admitted into the PhD program. A potential candidate will be considered for admission only after completion of all MES coursework requirements with a minimum A- average and clear evidence of exceptional research productivity and promise. The formal application from the candidate must be accompanied by detailed letters with unqualified support from the master's advisor, the master's committee member and (if a different person is involved) the proposed doctoral advisor. The proposed doctoral advisor must confirm that adequate funding is in place or reasonably anticipated.

Applications will be reviewed by the ERS Graduate Affairs Committee, whose recommendations will be passed to the departmental chair for decision on whether to propose the transfer to the University’s Graduate Studies Office. The ERS Graduate Affairs Committee will make its decision based on careful review of the student’s formal application and supporting letters; the student’s record, thesis proposal and progress, and research promise; and the adequacy of funding commitments and prospects for doctoral work.

Applications for transfer from the MES to doctoral program will normally be considered only during the candidate's third term in the MES program.

Part-time studies

The ERS doctoral program will not normally be offered on a part-time basis. In exceptional circumstances, students may apply for part-time status but regardless of registration status, all students are expected to complete their core course work in their first two terms in the program.

More information

More detailed information on ERS and its faculty members is accessible at the Environment and Resource Studies website.

For more information on the doctoral program, contact Jennifer Nicholson, Graduate Program Administrator or Prof. Robert Gibson, Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, ERS.

For more information on application requirements, see the University of Waterloo Graduate Studies Office website.

All students must begin their program in September because of the sequence of required courses.

Applicants to the ERS doctoral program must use the University of Waterloo's online admission application process. The application materials must demonstrate that the applicant has the necessary background to pursue further graduate studies at the PhD level in ERS, and has a research agenda that fits with the department’s capabilities.

Questions about the Master's and PhD programs can be directed to Jennifer Nicholson.

Contact us!

Faculty of Environment
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
N2L 3G1. Dean's Office located on the third floor of Environment 1 (EV1 on map).

519-888-4567 ext. 33463

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