Coastal Science and Policy M.S.


Students in the University of California, Santa Cruz's Coastal Science and Policy Program (CSP) will develop a range of skills, interdisciplinary knowledge, and transdisciplinary approaches pertinent to creating real-world solutions to current and emerging concerns for coastal sustainability. At the core of the program, students will take courses focused on understanding and applying concepts of sustainability that include environmental, social, economic and legal dimensions. In addition, students will participate in communication, technical, and leadership skill development workshops and seminars. With this backbone, students will participate in solutions-based courses, a summer placement, and a capstone project executed in one-on-one collaboration with partners in business, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations. With this combination of focused courses, skill set development, and practical experience, graduates will be well prepared and highly competitive for the diverse job opportunities in the growing fields of coastal science and policy. Although the focus of most material will be coastal or marine, the principles and practices learned by the students will be applicable in any geographical location or sector.

The program will focus on practical training to provide integrated solutions to social and ecological challenges via three interconnected nodes that leverage UCSC’s existing leadership in coastal sustainability:

  • Conserving biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and human well-being,
  • Mitigating hazards to nature and society, and fostering societal adaptation, and
  • Maintaining security of marine, terrestrial, and freshwater food, water, and energy systems.

Preparation for Graduate Work in Coastal Science and Policy

Students admitted to the Master of Science (M.S.) in Coastal Science and Policy program will have completed a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university in a field relevant to coastal sustainability. Relevant fields are diverse and include the natural sciences (e.g., biology, earth sciences, chemistry, oceanography), social sciences (e.g., economics or business, human ecology, political science, sociology), interdisciplinary programs (e.g., environmental studies and sciences) and engineering. Specific additional requirements prior to admission, regardless of undergraduate major and/or minors, include at least one course each in writing, and statistics, as well as at least one course each in at least two of three emphasis areas: biological sciences, physical sciences, and the social sciences, including policy and economics. We anticipate that competitive applicants to the program will have additional experience, through some combination of coursework, internships, jobs and research, in the environmental field.


Course Requirements

The master's degree in coastal science and policy is a Plan II (capstone project) degree.

Core Courses

The M.S. program will include a core set of three foundational and six developmental courses.

Foundational Courses
CSP200Natural Sciences for Coastal Sustainability


CSP210Social Sciences for Coastal Sustainability


CSP220Economics for Coastal Sustainability


Developmental Courses

These courses cut across multiple disciplines and will be taught by core faculty, partner practitioner-scientists, and specialist trainers.

CSP230Integrated Problem-Based Discussion


/CSP 241
Experimental Design and Data Analysis


/CSP 242
Public Policy and Conservation


/CSP 243
Coastal Governance


CSP244Adaptation and Planning


/CSP 245
Facilitating Change in Coastal Science Policy


The core sequence serves many objectives, including creating and maintaining a strong program community, teaching core skills and topics, preparing for and building on the summer internship training, linking new and returning trainees, and generating a lively, ongoing set of intellectual conversations to explore, define, and pursue transformative contributions to conservation and sustainability science. In order to assure a strong interdisciplinary approach, courses will be taught by natural and social science faculty. In addition, all coursework will be solutions-based.

Elective Course

M.S. students will also take one additional elective course their first year. The elective will be drawn from courses currently offered across the UCSC campus. The selection of an elective course will be made in consultation with the student’s faculty adviser, with the goal of broadening disciplinary knowledge. For example, incoming students with an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences (e.g., ecology) may be expected to take a graduate or upper-division undergraduate social sciences course (e.g., politics, economics).

Other Requirements

Summer Placement

During the summer at the end of their first year, M.S. students will be required to participate in an intensive summer placement program. This placement will consist of working within a partner agency, nongovernmental organization, or industry to provide trainees with practical awareness in the conservation and sustainability science field and give them firsthand immersion in the processes involved in implementing scientific knowledge and innovations as components of solutions to the complex challenge of domestic or international coastal sustainability. Placement projects will be required to include:

  1. A real concern of the institutional partner,
  2. Research, solutions development, and implementation, and
  3. Strong interdisciplinary elements.

A faculty adviser will oversee the placement. It is the intention that, in collaboration with institutional partners and CSP advisers, students’ capstone projects will emerge from, or be heavily informed by this summer placement experience.

Capstone Project

In the second year students will develop and implement a capstone project by enrolling in and fulfilling the requirements for CSP 290, Coastal Science and Policy Capstone Project (10 credits/quarter). This project will be developed in collaboration with institutional partners and CSP faculty and is intended to: a) address a real concern of the institutional partner, and b) include research, solutions development, and implementation, and be strongly interdisciplinary in nature. A faculty adviser team consisting of a socio-economic faculty and natural science faculty will oversee the capstone project. In the final quarter (spring, year 2) students will provide a written and oral presentation of the project to CSP students, faculty and institutional partners. The final presentations will be required to address both the socio-economic and natural science elements of the selected project.

CSP290ACoastal Science and Policy Capstone Project


CSP290BCoastal Science and Policy Capstone Project


CSP290CCoastal Science and Policy Capstone Project


Capstone Project Seminar

Each quarter of the second year, students will enroll in CSP 291, Coastal Science and Policy Capstone Seminar (2 credits/quarter). This seminar will serve as a forum, led by an interdisciplinary team of social/natural science faculty, for students to discuss current topics and approaches in sustainability science as well as an opportunity for students to present issues, topics, and proposals relevant to their capstone projects. Students enrolled in this course will provide oral and written peer review of other students’ projects and presentations.


  Fall Winter Spring
1st Year CSP 200 BIOE 286 & BIOE 286L (7 credits) CSP 244
 CSP 210  ENVS 240
BIOE 262
 CSP 220  ENVS 250
 CSP 230    
2nd Year CSP 290A (10 credits) CSP 290B (10 credits) CSP 290C (10 credits)
 CSP 291 (2 credits)  CSP 291 (2 credits)  CSP 291 (2 credits)