Bridging sustainability science, earth science, and data science through interdisciplinary education

  • Deana PenningtonEmail author
  • Imme Ebert-Uphoff
  • Natalie Freed
  • Jo Martin
  • Suzanne A. Pierce
Overview Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sustainability Science Innovation and Capacity Development


Given the rapid emergence of data science techniques in the sustainability sciences and the societal importance of many of these applications, there is an urgent need to prepare future scientists to be knowledgeable in both their chosen science domain and in data science. This article provides an overview of required competencies, educational programs and courses that are beginning to emerge, the challenges these pioneering programs face, and lessons learned by participating instructors, in the broader context of sustainability science competencies. In addition to data science competencies, competencies collaborating across disciplines are essential to enable sustainability scientists to work with data scientists. Programs and courses that target both sets of competencies—data science and interdisciplinary collaboration—will improve our workforce capacity to apply innovative new approaches to yield solutions to complex sustainability problems. Yet developing these competencies is difficult and most instructors are choosing instructional approaches through intuition or trial and error. Research is needed to develop effective pedagogies for these specific competencies.


Education Interdisciplinary studies Competencies Data science applications 



This work was supported in part through NSF grant #1632211 EarthCube RCN IS-GEO: Intelligent Systems Research to Support Geosciences (S. Pierce). Support was also provided by NSF awards DGE-1545404 and DBI-1356707 (Pennington), and AGS-3891445978 (Ebert-Uphoff).

Supplementary material

11625_2019_735_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA
  2. 2.Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Curriculum and InstructionUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  4. 4.Mathematics and Statistics, University of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  5. 5.Texas Advanced Computing Center, University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  6. 6.Electrical and Computer EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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