View of Earth from international space station. Photo by NASA.

This course will introduce graduate and undergraduate students to major unanswered questions in Earth science and to the analytical tools necessary to undertake exploration of ‘big data’ from a suite of sensors. This course aligns with Earth Lab, a new initiative of the university’s Grand Challenge efforts to use our expertise in space-based observation and exploration to address our world’s most pressing problems. For 50 years, CU-Boulder has been a leader in Earth and Space sciences. We have sent instruments to every planet in our solar system and are among the world's leading public universities in producing astronauts. We explore our own planet from the depths of the ocean to the upper limits of the atmosphere. One new frontier is right at our fingertips, in the data we have already created about our planet and our species. 

The course will be structured by cutting-edge topics chosen as initial Earth Lab projects, including active research to better: Understand how fire is changing in the western U.S. over the past two decades (Project Fire); Predict drought for improved management of water resources (Project Drought); Improve risk management and decision-making in land use and hazards mitigation (Project Risk); Determine the sensitivity of permafrost to a warming Arctic (Project Permafrost); Identify how rapid and slow landscape evolution impacts our lives. (Project Erosion); Determine what is driving Colorado forest dieback. (Project Forest); and examine how data at varying resolutions represents Earth System phenomena (Project Data Harmonization). Earth Lab’s mission is to harmonize the wave of Earth observations from aerospace platforms to address scientific challenges in understanding the pace and pattern of global change to help society better manage and adapt. This course offers a unique opportunity to take part in this multi-disciplinary endeavor. Students will be trained to use analytical tools for data management, analysis, and visualization. Students will be expected to choose a topic area of interest to explore throughout the semester, producing a final paper or project that contributes to the analysis and/or theoretical underpinning of a selected Earth system science problem. This is an advanced course that is open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students with an interest in developing Earth Analytics expertise, including students from the natural and social science disciplines.