About Earth Science

Our Mission Statement

HelenThomas Layered Quartzite at Henry's CreekThe Department of Earth Science at UCSB conducts field studies in diverse regions ranging from the tallest mountain peaks of the Himalayas, the wilderness of Antarctica, to the vast undiscovered depths of the ocean floor. Our graduate and undergraduate students participate directly in the excitement of exploring terra incognita. Taught by a distinguished and dedicated faculty (including several members of the National Academy of Sciences, and winners of the UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award), students discover the unfolding planetary drama of which they are part.

Our Earth is a water-rich rocky planet that has given rise to abundant and diverse life. We study the whole Earth system, focusing on interactions between the solid earth, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere, and on the historical evolution of the Earth system throughout geologic time. We explore ongoing terrestrial, marine, and interior Earth processes that are taking place today, and we examine the geologic record to illuminate the past behavior and changing properties of our planet over timescales ranging from centuries to billions of years. We use knowledge about active processes to read the rocky record of the past and seek clues to the origins of Earth's features and life. From the record of the past, we extrapolate to predict global changes that will affect people in the future. We discover the marvels of our home planet at spatial scales ranging from the atomic to the interplanetary through observations, measurements, experiments and models.





Layered Quartzite at Hendrys Creek (photo credit: Helen Thomas)

Educational Outreach

The Department of Earth Science believes earth science is an important part of a student's education. An appreciation of the Earth and its systems is vital to understanding everyday problems such as pollution, limited energy resources, and geologic hazards. Our outreach program to local schools includes classroom visits, department tours and the development of educational materials based on local geology.

The Department of Earth Science is committed to enriching geoscience education in our local community. We conduct department tours, present talks to visiting students and travel to local schools if visiting UCSB is not possible.

We are pleased to bring you a variety of computer software available as freeware for use by teachers in their classrooms. Plate motion animations by Professor Tanya Atwater are available via Tanya's website.

For information pertaining to scheduling a Department visit or for questions concerning the Atwater animations, please telephone 893-3329 or email UCSB Earth Science Outreach.


Bancroft Mineral Collection (link to website)

The internationally prized collection of minerals and gem crystals featured on this web site and displayed in the Department of Earth Science at UC Santa Barbara, was a generous gift from the Bancroft family. Edward R. Bancroft, a teacher and gem cutter, offered the collection to the department, and Ed's parents—Peter Bancroft, class of '41, and his wife, Virginia—had a case especially designed and built to display the specimens.

For more than 50 years, the Bancroft family has had a close friendship with UCSB, contributing valuable minerals, gems, and fossils to geology, and a variety of other unique educational collections.

“Edward chose UCSB as the home for the collection because of our great affection for the university and its faculty, which developed while I was a student at the Riviera campus where Virginia worked,” said Peter Bancroft, who holds an undergraduate degree in education from UCSB when it was a state college.

Peter Bancroft's most memorable professor was the late geologist Charles Douglas Woodhouse, a mineralogist who was deeply committed to his students.

“When there was no money to pay his salary, Woodhouse taught for free," said Bancroft, a retired educator and an author of books about minerals. "His dedication to students so impressed us.”

Job Openings

None at this time


Visiting the Department

We encourage you to visit the Department of Earth Science. To enhance the productivity of your visit, it is best to arrange your visit through a faculty member. To do so, please contact a member of our faculty by email or phone. If you are visting UCSB, there are campus tours available. You can also plan your visit at SantaBarbaraCA.com.

Our World and National Rankings

Our University


#5 Public University
UCSB ranks number 5 among all public universities in U.S. News and World Report's 2019 “Best Colleges” guide, the most widely read college guide in the country.

#1 Green school
Princeton Review ranked UC Santa Barbara as the No. 1 Green School among public universities in their 2015 Guide to 353 Green Colleges. Bren Hall, which houses the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, is among the “greenest” buildings in the nation, earning triple LEED Platinum certification — the highest sustainability rating possible — from the U.S. Green Building Council. In fact, our campus has the largest portfolio of LEED-certified buildings in the UC system.

6 Nobel Laureates
34 American Academy of the Arts and Sciences Members
29 National Academy of Engineering Members

Our Department


In their most recent report on the Best Graduate Schools, US News and World Report ranked UC Santa Barbara #11 in Geology and #19 in Earth Science nationally. Worldwide, They ranked our program #39.

The UK Times Higher Education "World University Rankings" ranked UC Santa Barbara's Program # 20 in the world in physical sciences.

Times Higher Education - World Ranking Logo