Earth and Planetary Science

University of California, Berkeley


Research, education and service in EPS is driven by a fundamental human curiosity about the past, present and future of Earth and other planets. We underpin our intellectual mission with a comprehensive dedication to equity, accessibility and inclusion for all.


UC Berkeley's Department of Earth and Planetary Science (EPS) was the first major center of academic geology in the western United States. Berkeley geologists made the first detailed study of a major earthquake, developed potassium-argon dating, brought the rigor of thermodynamics into geology, and discovered the evidence that a comet impact killed the dinosaurs.

With growing concerns over environmental deterioration and depletion of resources, focus has broadened to include issues of urgent social relevance. Many departments at Berkeley are involved in environmental questions, ranging from policy, management, economics, and engineering to social concerns, but all have to base their conclusions upon a sound scientific understanding of Planet Earth. It is up to geologists, geochemists, and geophysicists to provide that background.

The interests of the faculty cover a broad range of earth sciences. The traditional fields of petrology, mineralogy, mineral resources, and structural geology are represented. A rapidly growing field is micro-biogeochemistry. Solid earth geophysics includes a unique combination of expertise in seismology, mineral physics, and geodynamics. The earthquake and tectonics programs benefit from the resources made available through the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory (BSL). A vigorous program in geomorphology and surface processes attracts many students. Recently, the department has added expertise in marine, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, with links to related programs in the Departments of Chemistry, Astronomy, Geography and Environmental Science, and Policy Management. Additional resources for research are available through the Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center (BASC) and the Center for Integrated Planetary Science (CIPS). Resources for Geochemists include the Center for Isotope Geochemistry and the Berkeley Geochronology Center. Some faculty members have strong collaborations with the Earth Science Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (ESD-LBNL) and make extensive use of the Advanced Light Source (ALS).

Research Facilities

Center for Isotope Geochemistry (CIG), directed by Professor Donald DePaolo, is a joint research center of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. CIG provides state-of-the-art analyses for measuring concentrations and isotopic compositions of elements in rocks, minerals, fluids, and gases in the earth's crust, oceans, and atmosphere. CIG has seven mass spectrometers that provide high-precision isotopic and isotope dilution analyses of Rb, Sr, Nd, Sm, Ca, K, Re, Os, Fe, U, Th, Pb, Ba, La, Ce; clean laboratories; and clean mineral separation and rock preparation laboratories. Materials analyzed are rock, ocean and ground waters, and naturally occurring noble gases.

The Center for Atmospheric Sciences is a new multidisciplinary academic group at Berkeley. It focuses on the processes that maintain and alter the atmosphere's chemical composition and circulation. It also examines the climatic effects of changes in these processes. A special emphasis is the interaction between the geosphere-biosphere and climate, with the atmosphere as the synthesizer of changes at its boundaries, and the communicator of these changes to the other spheres. Center members and associates are from the Departments of Earth and Planetary Science; Chemistry; Environmental Science, Policy and Management; Mechanical Engineering; as well as the Space Sciences Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, among others. Research approaches are multifaceted, and include global three-dimensional circulation models; satellite observations; high-precision instrumentation for atmospheric chemistry; aircraft measurements of stratospheric-tropospheric exchange; and measurements and simulations of atmosphere-biosphere exchange of trace gases. This diversity permits the center to pose and attack new questions about past and future climate change.

Berkeley Geomorphology Group prospers because of the diversity of strong research programs across the campus and because of a commitment to undergraduate teaching and graduate training. The core faculty consist of Kurt Cuffey (Geography), William Dietrich, Jim Kirchner, and Michael Manga (Earth and Planetary Science). Their research programs tackle a wide range of topics, including glacier mechanics; paleoclimate analysis; hydrology; environmental geochemistry; landscape evolution; hillslope erosion mechanics; fluvial processes; restoration geomorphology; and biologic extinctions and evolutionary processes. These faculty and their students interact and collaborate with many other related groups on campus.

Active Tectonics Group uses an interdisciplinary approach to investigate active tectonic processes and the rheology of the earth's lithosphere. This approach integrates geodetic, seismologic, geomorphic, and geologic observations with theoretical models to improve scientific understanding of fault-zone processes and crustal deformation. Of particular value in this endeavor are space geodetic observations employing the Global Positioning System and Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry to precisely measure deformation near active faults, volcanoes, and landslides. Members of the group, led by Roland Bürgmann, often interact closely with colleagues in the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and the Geomorphology Group.

The Berkeley Geochronology Center is a nonprofit research institution dedicated to establishing the evolution of the earth, its various inhabitants, and its interactions with the rest of our solar system, throughout the 4.6 billion years of the planet's existence. BGC scientists determine the ages of rocks and other materials to date important events in geological and biological history. Through understanding such information in geologic context, BGC research provides key insights into such processes as plate tectonics; volcanism; mountain building; mass extinctions; climate change; interactions between the earth and solar system; and the evolution of life, including humankind.

The Berkeley Seismological LaboratoryThe University operates several networks of geophysical instruments in Northern California to study earthquakes and tectonic processes at the regional scale; a network of 26 broadband seismometers, regionally distributed and linked by continuous telemetry to UC Berkeley, forms the core of the monitoring program. In addition, a network of permanent GPS stations and a network of borehole seismometers are maintained and operated by the lab as well as an online archive for earthquake-related data in Northern California. Research includes the study of earthquake wave-propagation through complex structures, the nature of earthquake sources, eigenvibrations of the earth, and global tomography.

Center for Computational GeoscienceWithin the Earth Sciences Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a facility for modern seismological research which relies heavily upon intensive computational analysis (e.g., acoustic imaging, 3D wave propagation, high-resolution inverse earthquake analyses) or large database manipulations. The center is used in a number of PhD and postdoctoral research studies.

The Engineering Geoscience Group teaches and researches Applied Geophysics. It is an integral part of the Geological Engineering Group within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Originally, the group formed in 1962 to study and encourage the use of geophysical methods in mineral and petroleum exploration programs. Recently attention has shifted to the more general topic of subsurface mapping and imaging. While research in resource exploration topics is still actively pursued, the group's activities now include work on methodology and instrument development for a variety of near surface applications related to the resolution of geotechnical and environmental problems. In this area, the group works jointly with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering on site remediation, near surface hydrology, and soil stability projects. Incidentally, geophysical technology developed for use in shallow subsurface regions can also be used as an aid to archaeological searches. The technology is also expected to play a key role in resolving contemporary problems associated with the detection and removal of buried explosive ordinance.

Center for Integrative Planetary Science (CIPS) is a new organized research unit at UC Berkeley. Their task is to unite scientists and students from many disciplines on a rapidly emerging scientific landscape characterized by striking developments. These discoveries, and others during the past decade, have revealed a remarkable set of connections among many separate traditional sciences: geophysics, astrophysics, meteorology, oceanography, organic chemistry, biology, and planetary science. These disciplines are well represented at Berkeley, where strong research programs with long records of accomplishment have existed for some time in diverse campus departments, the Space Science Laboratory, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. CIPS takes advantage of these strengths with the integrated study of the physical origin and geochemical evolution of planets and planetary systems. Much of the compelling research about the solar system and other planetary systems will require knowledge across traditional disciplinary boundaries. From the condensation of planets within protoplanetary discs to the geochemical history of planets and moons, future researchers will require frontier knowledge of all related disciplines.

Undergraduate Programs

Atmospheric Science: BA, Minor
Climate Science: Minor
Earth and Planetary Science: Minor
Environmental Earth Science: BA, Minor
Geology: BA, Minor
Geophysics: BA, Minor
Marine Science: BA, Minor
Planetary Science: BA, Minor

Graduate Program

Earth and Planetary Science: MA (the MA program is only open to students who majored in EPS at Berkeley), PhD 

Visit Department Website


Earth and Planetary Science

Contact Information

Department of Earth and Planetary Science

307 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-642-3993

Fax: 510-643-9980

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Professor Michael Manga

Director of Student Services, Graduate Student Advisor

Nadine Spingola-Hutton

Back to Top