About ESSA Scholars

The ESSA Vision

The Earth System Science for the Anthropocene (ESSA) initiative is motivated by the understanding that transdisciplinary scholarship embedded in partnerships with real-world practitioners, communities, and publics in meaningful ways is absolutely essential to inform actionable science that advances societal impact and social justice.

A Change in Earth…

Earth has entered a new geological epoch, termed the Anthropocene, characterized by the indelible imprint of human impact on the Earth system (Steffen et al. 2018). Changes in human activities in recent decades—such as exploding growth in urban populations, encroaching development, ocean refuse and fresh water degradation, fossil fuel dependency, and increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere—are matched in scale and acceleration by troublesome environmental trends: the Earth is getting hotter, extreme events are increasing in frequency and magnitude, water security is increasingly threatened, and species are being lost at astonishing rates.

A Change in Science…

The Anthropocene requires a convergent, multi-scaled (local- to planetary-scale), and societally embedded science and engineering to understand the dynamics of a human-dominated planet and to help find solutions to the wicked challenges that accelerating human activity has imposed. Put simply, complex societal problems require a new approach that questions the “who, what, where, and how” of science if we are to find creative new solutions together.

A Change in Graduate Education—ESSA Graduate Scholars Network…

Not just a new science but a new way of training the next generation of scholars and action-oriented researchers is required to solve the urgent problems we face. Scientists must “escape the ivory tower” (Baron 2010) and work together with decision-makers and community leaders locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. The Earth System Science for the Anthropocene (ESSA) Graduate Scholars Network provides transdisciplinary, solutions-based, student-centered educational pathways to fill this gap.

Nancy Grimm

We need to bring together the domains of social, ecological and technological expertise that don’t often talk to each other because preparing for—and transforming—in the face of the big challenges of the Anthropocene requires input from all of these perspectives.agenda. To push this knowledge frontier, we must transform graduate training and include more diverse voices, identities, and perspectives.

Nancy B. Grimm, Regents Professor, ESSA Co-Director Regents Professor, Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Ecology, School of Life Sciences
Abigail York

Arguably the Anthropocene’s most significant challenges are societal, necessitating advances in the social sciences and the humanities and a transdisciplinary scientific agenda. To push this knowledge frontier, we must transform graduate training and include more diverse voices, identities, and perspectives.

Abigail York, ESSA Co-Director Professor of Governance and Public Policy, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

A Change in Society…

Making change in today’s world requires not just a change in knowledge and skills but a change in systems—social systems, governance systems, technological systems, educational systems. While this begins with ASU’s strong commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusiveness, it doesn’t end there. Through a supportive community, networks of mentorship, a student-designed plan for learning, and strong professional and career-building events, the ESSA Graduate Scholars Network helps students prepare their own pathways forward toward careers they envision, to be the scientists and engineers they want to be.