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Departments & Programs



Stanford's Earth Systems in Hawaii Program is an interdisciplinary program that investigates the Earth sciences, life sciences, and Hawaiian culture to address environmental issues that arise from the interaction between man and nature. The program is designed for students interested in Earth systems, biology, geological and environmental sciences, and cultural anthropology.

Led by Stanford faculty with extensive research and teaching experience in Hawaii, up to 20 students will spend 10 weeks working, studying, and living on the islands of Hawaii and Kauai. Students will explore the processes that formed the Hawaiian Islands (volcanoes!), study Hawaii's unique terrestrial and marine ecosystems (rain forests and coral reefs), and learn how humans have interacted with the natural world throughout history (pre- and post-contact).

Mission Statement 

The Stanford Earth Systems in Hawaii Program will provide undergraduate students with the skills to characterize Hawaii's natural environment and analyze the interface between humans and nature. The program will use an interdisciplinary Earth systems approach, the scientific method, and field-based inquiry to understand the Hawaiian Earth system and create potential solutions to pressing Hawaiian environmental issues.

What Are Students Saying? 

"Another aspect of the program that was really valuable for me was being immersed in the material we learned about. Although we had occasional lectures, the focus of the program was on the field trips and 'doing it yourself,' putting what we learned into practice. For me the experience of learning out in the field was so much richer than learning in the traditional classroom setting, and because of this, the things I learned in Hawaii I have remembered for longer and with much more clarity than the things I have learned from classes in a typical Stanford quarter." -Palani Akana, '15

"This was more than just an opportunity to study in a beautiful place. Yes, we have many pretty pictures of the beaches and the canyons, waterfalls and forests. Here I not only had a chance to 'play,' it created an atmosphere for me to rediscover my love for learning. I had the opportunity to be out in nature almost constantly; the environment is the source of my academic curiosity and motivation behind my career aspirations. Learning in the field this fall gave me exactly the setting I needed to continue molding my ideas for the future." -Elise DeBuysser, '13

"Arguably the most powerful component of the course was the cultural immersion and interaction with locals. Kama'aina, residents of Hawai'i, strongly believe in cultural, spiritual, and intellectual exchange...Whenever my classmates and I were fortunate enough to speak with a community member or group, we greeted them in an oli expressing our gratitude for sharing their understanding and insight with us...When they shared their lives with us, it was out of a mutual appreciation for the time and energy we put into the exchange of knowledge."  -Alexis Wood, '15