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Steering Partners

Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)


As the University's oldest institute, INSTAAR has a long history of responding to pressing environmental issues. Our traditional focus has been on polar and alpine regions, where effects of global change are especially pronounced. In recent decades, our research has broadened to include environmental challenges that span local, regional, and global scales. Research topics vary widely and include Quaternary and modern environments, human and ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, landscape evolution, hydrology, oceanography, and climate.

INSTAAR’s research activities integrate field studies, state-of- the-art laboratory experiments, sample analysis, and numerical and laboratory modeling. Our field sites are located across all seven continents and the world's oceans.

Our expertise across disciplines helps us generate influential science that can inform policy decisions and move us toward a more sustainable society. INSTAAR's national and international research leadership is augmented by exceptional strength in graduate education and bringing undergraduates into the research process.



INSTAAR develops scientific knowledge of physical and biogeochemical environmental processes at local, regional and global scales, and applies this knowledge to improve society's awareness and understanding of natural and anthropogenic environmental change.


INSTAAR supports the University of Colorado's educational mission, providing interdisciplinary research opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students that foster appreciation and understanding of the biological, chemical, and physical processes operating in continental and ocean environments. The Mountain Research Station and other field study sites aid the educational efforts of the Institute. INSTAAR has led education efforts that integrate students across multiple departments and colleges and connect students with international educational experiences.


INSTAAR conducts activities in research, education, and science leadership, designed to address critical concerns such as ecosystem resilience, biodiversity, water resources, agriculture, national security, and resources in sites ranging from the alpine areas of the Rocky Mountains to the remote regions of the world. Our expertise is applied to predictive understanding of environmental processes, including the maintenance of water quality and anticipating and responding to long-term environmental alterations. Changes and disturbance in high-latitude regions not only affect the lives of indigenous residents but also, through global teleconnections, have a bearing on the lives of people everywhere.

Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI)


RASEI (pronounced RAY-see) is a joint institute between the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) addressing important, complex problems in energy that require a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional approach. Its mission is to expedite solutions that transform energy by advancing renewable energy science, engineering, and analysis through research, education, and industry partnerships.


Create Integrated Energy Campus

Create a world-leading venue for energy research and education that benefits from the concentration of academic institutions, federal research laboratories, and businesses involved in the green economy along Colorado’s Front Range.

Perform Innovative Research

Develop a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to research that meets the scientific and institutional energy challenges of the 21st century.

Educate Energy Leaders and Workforce

Provide programs, lectures, and opportunities that prepare students to become the energy leaders of the future.

Develop Industry Partnerships

Engage industry partners in comprehensive programs involving energy research, education, policy, and technology development.

Environmental Engineering Program (EVEN)


Environmental engineers play a vital role in maintaining the quality of both human environmental systems and the natural environment. Environmental engineering encompasses the scientific assessment and development of engineering solutions to environmental problems impacting the biosphere, land, water and air quality. Environmental issues affect almost all commercial and industrial sectors, and are a central concern for the public, for all levels of government, and in international relations. These issues include safe drinking water, wastewater processing, solid and hazardous waste disposal, outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution and transfer of infectious diseases, human health and ecological risk management, and prevention of pollution through product or process design.


Hosted at SEEC, the CU Boulder graduate program in environmental engineering focuses on the fundamental and applied understanding of the processes which govern natural and engineered treatment systems and the effects that they have on human and ecosystem health. The program includes 22 primary faculty, and covers topics ranging from ecosystem processes, fate and transport of organic contaminants, alternative energy, air quality, sustainability, and water and waste water treatment. The program offers MS, Professional MS and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering.

The EVEN graduate program is administered by faculty from multiple CEAS departments, including Aerospace Engineering Science; Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering; and Mechanical Engineering. Courses required for the program are offered through the collaborating departments, with student credit hours assigned accordingly.

The Environmental Engineering M.S., Professional M.S., and Ph.D. program benefits from long-standing relationships of participating faculty with researchers in CU-Boulder institutes and federal laboratories in the area. Furthermore, the program benefits from the strong reputation already held by the environmental engineering groups within the participating departments. This reputation is evidenced by the fact that, for 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked our Graduate Program 21st in the country (13th among public schools) among "Best Engineering Schools for Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering."

Environmental Studies Program (ENVS)


The Environmental Studies program at CU Boulder is a hub for facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration in environment and sustainability. The program nurtures interdisciplinary academic training for undergraduate and graduate students, provides guidance for students with career aspirations in environment and sustainability venues, promotes diverse professional education experiences, fosters fundamental and applied research, forms meaningful connections with communities beyond the university, and integrates innovative, interdisciplinary programs unified by the themes of environment and sustainability.


CU Boulder is one of the nation's leaders in environmental research. U.S. News and World Report ranks CU Boulder at 32 for the Best Global Universities for work in the Environment and Ecology. In the National Science Foundation's latest rankings (2014), CU Boulder was ranked second in the country in research and development expenditures in environmental sciences. Much of this research involves collaboration amongst and between disciplines and provides a stimulating environment for students who wish to gain multi-faceted research experiences.

The ENVS program is committed to generating knowledge that in either the long or the short term is needed to improve the environment. Whether an international climate agreement negotiated through the United Nations, a local land use decision made by a municipality, an endangered species recovery plan, or a reinsurance contract purchased by a business, objective information and recognition of when and how information is used to make decisions permeates environmental problem-solving. The ENVS graduate program seeks to train students to have the depth of understanding in one or more fields, and also the breadth of perspectives, to contribute most productively to thorny problems in the environment and sustainability.

Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC)


The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC) at the University of Colorado Boulder provides a world-class, interdisciplinary research and educational environment to examine the dynamical, physical, and chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere and ocean. A major theme is the establishment of a physical basis for observing, modeling, and understanding climate and global change.


Although the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC) at the University of Colorado Boulder was founded only in 2005, we have jumped to top-ten rankings nationally in both atmospheric and oceanic sciences. We educate tomorrow’s workforce and leaders in climate science, renewable energy, and weather prediction.

ATOC's 15 core faculty members study Earth's weather and climate from the ocean floor to space, from the tropics to the polar ice sheets, to understand and respond to climate change and improve climate projections in the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere and in the oceans.

ATOC has extensive computer facilities and laboratories in remote sensing, chemistry, hydrodynamics, and numerical modeling. The presence of leading laboratories in the environmental sciences in Boulder, including the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), provides additional opportunities for a rich educational experience. Many opportunities also exist for involvement in field programs.

Cooperative Institute in Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)


At CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences, hundreds of environmental scientists work to understand the dynamic Earth system, including people's relationship with the planet. CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder, and our areas of expertise include weather and climate, changes at Earth's poles, air quality and atmospheric chemistry, water resources, and solid Earth sciences.


Our mission is to conduct innovative research that advances our understanding of the global, regional, and local environments and the human relationship with those environments, for the benefit of society.

Earth Lab


Earth Lab is a new initiative launched in September 2015 by the University of Colorado Boulder as part of the campus-wide Grand Challenge effort called "Our Space. Our Future."

Earth Lab will:

  • Capitalize on the data deluge from Space and other platforms to accelerate science;
  • Reduce environmental risk by using this wealth of data to better understand and predict Earth System change;
  • Train a new generation of data scientists who can address outstanding Earth Science questions.


Earth Lab's mission is to harness the wave of Earth observations from space and integrate them to answer outstanding questions about the pace and pattern of environmental change, from our backyards to our world. Earth Lab will: Capitalize on the data deluge from Space and other platforms to accelerate science; Reduce environmental risk by using this wealth of data to better understand and predict Earth System change; and Train a new generation of data scientists who can address outstanding Earth Science questions.

Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC)


The Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC) is a space at CU Boulder to co-design and develop the knowledge, capacity and technology to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable world. SILC provides both programming and a unique university co-working environment to bring together the private and not-for-profit sectors to solve problems in sustainability. SILC is founded on the premise that the most persistent and challenging global problems can be solved through education, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Global environmental and sustainability solutions require innovation, agility, and new partnerships. SILC will combine the educational and research strengths of a great university, the agility and creativity of the entrepreneurial community, and the networks and experience of practitioners to solve global problems.

Center of the American West


The Center of the American West was founded in 1986 by Patty Limerick and CU Law Professor Charles Wilkinson. The Center has published a number of books, including A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water, a history of water in Denver (2012), the influential Atlas of the New West (1997) and a series of lively, balanced, and to-the-point reports on compelling Western issues, including What Every Westerner Should Know About Energy (2003), Cleaning Up Abandoned Hardrock Mines in the West (2006), and What Every Westerner Should Know About Energy Efficiency and Conservation (2007). The Center's film, The Lover's Guide to the West, debuted on Rocky Mountain PBS in April 2010. Limerick and Center staff are currently working on several projects, including a book about the role of the Department of the Interior in the West, based on the "Inside Interior" series of interviews hosted by the Center between 2004 and 2006. The Center of the American West serves as a forum committed to the civil, respectful, and problem-solving exploration of important and often contentious public issues. In an era of political polarization and contention, the Center strives to bring out "the better angels of our nature" by appealing to our common loyalties and hopes as Westerners.


The Center of the American West takes as its mission the creation of forums for the respectful exchange of ideas and perspectives in the pursuit of solutions to the region's difficulties. We at the Center believe that an understanding of the historical origins of the West's problems, an emphasis on the common interests of all parties, and a dose of good humor are essential to constructive public discussion.