by: Shannon Wallace

I’m usually a very indecisive person so it was shocking when choosing a path in Earth system science (ESS) came so easily for me. There were a few reasons for this, some were practical and others appealed to my curiosity.

I was first introduced to ESS a few years ago when I took a course on it in college. The teacher was very quirky and enthusiastic, which always helps pique a student’s interest. She had us look at Earth as a whole, which was a first for me. My favourite concept that she taught us was feedbacks loops. A good example is the albedo feedback, which explains the warming of the Arctic. Increasing temperatures melt the ice, exposing more water, which absorbs more radiation, warming the air even more. I loved that every component of the Earth is connected and was excited to learn more.

The stressful time for applying to universities came and the decisions I had to make were daunting. Since the course ended, ESS had always stayed in the back of my mind as a possible option. I liked that it’s a very broad field of study, incorporating so many other sub-disciplines (e.g. meteorology, geology, oceanography, etc.). I knew that if I chose ESS I would have the opportunity to explore these different areas of the field, my early favourites being climatology and geography, so I applied.

ESS is extremely relevant to today’s changing climate and its accompanying challenges. Whether our goal is to avoid these issues or just to be prepared, I really believe that ESS is the key to figuring it out. I think that understanding how the planet works as a whole is a great way to prepare ourselves. I’m glad I’m in a position to hopefully add to this knowledge in the future and I don’t regret my decision.